Historic Fort Belvoir SM-1 reactor to be decommissioned

September 1, 2020, 7:09AMRadwaste Solutions

Aerial view of the SM-1 nuclear power plant at Fort Belvoir in the 1960s. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a contract for the final decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of the facility.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced on August 28 that it has awarded a contract worth about $68 million to the joint venture APTIM AECOM Decommissioning, of Alexandria, Va., for the decommissioning, dismantling, and disposal of the deactivated SM-1 nuclear power plant.

SM-1, located at Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, Va., was the U.S. Army’s first nuclear reactor and the first facility in the United States to provide nuclear-generated power for a sustained period to the commercial grid.

Decommissioning crews are expected to begin mobilizing in early 2021, and the work is anticipated to take about five years to complete, according to the USACE.

Background: The 2-MW SM-1 reactor achieved first criticality in April 1957 and served as the Army’s primary training facility for reactor operations personnel from all branches of the military until the reactor was shut down for the last time in March 1973. From 1973 into 1974, SM-1 was partially decommissioned, which included the removal of nuclear fuel and control rods, minor decontamination, shipment of radioactive waste, sealing of the reactor pressure vessel, and installation of appropriate warning signs and monitoring devices.

The majority of SM-1’s remaining low-level radioactivity is within activated metals and components of the reactor system, which are all secured inside the facility’s containment vessel. During decommissioning, work will be completed within containment, and all material will be packaged before leaving the site, the USACE said. The SM-1 property will be restored for future use by Fort Belvoir.

Quote: “The Army Corps has worked diligently to award the contract for this very complex and challenging project,” said Col. John Litz, commander of the USACE Baltimore District. “Our radiological experts have safely executed projects like this in the past, and our team of trained professionals will use proven techniques, precautions, and engineering controls to prioritize and ensure the continued safety of our workers, installation community, and public.”

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