United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Starmet Corporation (State of Massachusetts)

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1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: Concord, MA
License No.: SM-0179, SU-1453
Docket No.:
License Status: Unknown

2.0 Site Status Summary

Since June 14, 2001, a 46.4 acres Superfund site located at 2229 Main Street in Concord, Massachusetts. The facility includes five interconnected buildings, a paved parking area, a sphagnum bog, a cooling water recharge pond, and a holding basin.

From about 1958 to the present, the site was engaged in specialty metals research and development and metal manufacturing using depleted uranium (DU), beryllium and other hazardous substances. From 1958 to 1985, the specialty metals were pickled and neutralized in a lime slurry, then discharged into an unlined holding basin. From the early 1970's to 1999, the principle product manufactured was Depleted Uranium munitions for the U.S. Army, hence, the basin main hazardous material constituents DU, copper, steel, stainless steel, beryllium, and titanium alloys. The discharge to the holding basin ceased in 1985 when NMI began using an acid closed-loop recycling process.

In March 1997, the company's license to handle source material (including depleted uranium, thorium, and thorium oxide) under the NRC was transferred to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Radiation Control Program (MRCP). In accordance with Massachusetts state license SM-0179, Starmet is allowed to store source material (including depleted uranium, thorium, and thorium oxide).

On October 1, 1997, NMI was renamed Starmet Corporation.

In 1998, Nuclear Metals, Inc. conducted a voluntary partial cleanup of contaminated soils under The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MADEP) oversight. The partial cleanup consisted of excavation and transportation off site of approximately 8,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with depleted uranium and copper. The cleanup halted in late 1998 when Nuclear Metals determined that the cleanup level set by MADEP could not be met without excavating significantly more material.

In 1999, Starmet ceased making munitions with DU, but other subsidiaries continued work on-site with beryllium-aluminum alloys, thorium, thorium oxide, and DU.

The Nuclear Metals Inc. site was added to the National Priority List (NPL) in June 2001, making it a Superfund site. In June 2003, the EPA reached an agreement with five parties responsible (PRPs) for contamination, entering into a Consent Order with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Energy, Whittaker Corp., MONY Life Insurance Co., and Textron Inc. to conduct extensive studies at the site to determine cleanup options.

In May 2001, Starmet transported 1700 drums containing depleted uranium from its South Carolina facility to the site, to facilitate its planned sale of that facility. Starmet also has approximately 2000 drums and other containers of depleted uranium wastes and approximately 100 drums of beryllium wastes stored at the Concord, MA site. Starmet is currently in violation of its MRCP radioactive materials license because it has failed to remove the stored drums of depleted uranium materials from the site and is therefore not allowed to process any radioactive material at the facility under their license. After Starmet indicated that it planned to cease operations or file for bankruptcy, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts obtained a preliminary injunction in state court in January 2002, requiring Starmet to continue to provide site security and necessary utilities. On March 15, 2002, the state court placed Starmet into temporary receivership. On or about March 18, 2002, Starmet abandoned the site property. The temporary receiver provided security and necessary utilities, with the assistance of MRCP, until March 25, 2002. Thereafter, MRCP began providing security at the site. Starmet filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on April 3, 2002, returned to the site, and continues to operate its non-DU work. Starmet failed to file a plan for reorganization, and, on December 16, 2002, Starmet's bankruptcy petition was dismissed.

In April 2004, the state reached an agreement with the U.S. Army to remove the more than 3000 drums of depleted uranium and other materials from within the facility. Between October 4, 2005 and February 27, 2006, Envirocare of Utah removed 3,800 barrels of low level radioactive material, and 317 tons of depleted uranium via truck to Clive, Utah.

In September 2004, EPA conditionally approved the RI/FS Work Plan submitted by de maximis, the project coordinator for the private PRPs. Field work associated with the remedial investigation began in October 2004 and is currently ongoing.

On April 25, 2007, Concord's 2007 Annual Town Meeting voted by an overwhelming majority to change the Concord Zoning Bylaw by permitting residential development on the 46 acre Nuclear Metals/Starmet Superfund Site. This change makes it more likely that the EPA will use residential standards in designing the cleanup of the property.

In January 2008, EPA began a second time-critical removal action to address the lab chemicals and various other flammable/hazardous materials inside the facility buildings - expected completion time of early summer 2008.

In February 2008, EPA issued an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) to evaluate alternatives to address the contaminated facility buildings. In April 2008, EPA issued a fact sheet seeking public comment on EPA's proposal to demolish the facility buildings on site. Public comment currently runs through June 12, 2008.

On 2/15/2008, the EPA recommend that all buildings on site be demolished because they are highly contaminated and could pose a safety threat. The buildings are contaminated inside and out with depleted uranium and other hazardous substances. Demolishing and disposing of the waste would cost an estimated $64 million.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

Uranium plume flowing downgradient toward the Assabet River.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Monday, November 25, 2013