FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Cleanup at an Arkansas nuclear reactor test site is expected to stop by the end of the month due to lack of funding.
Crews are expected to maintain a “periodic” presence at the shuttered Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor after April 1, according to Mike Johnson, associate vice chancellor for utilities at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. He said there’s also a plan allowing for a restart with 45 days’ notice to begin removal of the site’s radioactive reactor core, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The reactor, built in 1968, didn’t produce any electricity while operating because it was never hooked up to turbine machinery. The university took over ownership of the Washington County site for research purposes after it ceased operations in the 1970s. Fuel used in the reactor was removed from the site after the facility shuttered.
The university has long sought federal aid to clean up the site. The school was awarded a $1.9 million federal planning grant in 2009. The U.S. Department of Energy then announced a $10.5 million grant in October 2016 that helped jump-start remediation of the site, which is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Fayetteville. The university later received about $5 million in additional funds from a federal appropriation bill.
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Crews have since trucked away thousands of pounds of low-level radioactive waste to a specialized disposal facility in Utah.
University officials recently requested $8 million from the federal government that could allow for the project’s completion over the next year. Johnson said Wednesday there’s still a chance that request will come through, bringing the total project cost to $24 million.
Johnson said there are no available resources from the university to help fund the cleanup, and that the school “would not expect that to be a future consideration.”
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com