Morning Briefing - April 09, 2019
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April 09, 2019

Southwest Experimental Reactor Zeroed Out of DOE 2020 Budget

By ExchangeMonitor

The Energy Department’s Office of Environmental Management is nearing completion of cleanup for one of its smaller projects.

After receiving $10 million to finish remediation of the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR) in fiscal 2019, DOE has zeroed out the project in its fiscal 2020 budget request.

In addition, the University of Arkansas and cleanup contractor EnergySolutions have scheduled a public meeting for April 18 to discuss where things stand regarding the project’s pending completion, university spokesman Steve Voorhies said by telephone Monday. The meeting will be held at a local fire hall in Strickler, Ark., near the SEFOR site.

The reactor vessel and last remaining components from the 20-megawatt, sodium-cooled test reactor were shipped by truck during November and December from Arkansas to the Nevada National Security Site, which takes certain low-level radioactive waste from DOE sites.

EnergySolutions will soon file its final report to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, which could certify in May that all infrastructure has been removed and remediation is complete. The company’s contract completion date is May 23.

Last May, EnergySolutions signed a $9.45 million contract to finish dismantling the facility and shipping away the debris. The company started decommissioning in 2016 through a $10.5 million DOE grant to the university. But final funding was not lined up until passage of the fiscal 2018 federal omnibus budget package. In total, cleanup costs have been funded through about $24 million in DOE grants.

The reactor was built in the 1960s and retired in the early 1970s by a DOE forerunner, the Atomic Energy Commission. A group of electric utilities used SEFOR to gather data on design and operation of commercial-size sodium-cooled nuclear reactors. The University of Arkansas subsquently used SEFOR for research for more than a decade and became its caretaker. The 2005 Energy Policy Act made DOE responsible for the reactor’s cleanup.