Whittaker Corporation (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)
This site description was provided by the cognizant Agreement State, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) makes no claim regarding the validity of the information provided. See our Site Disclaimer for more information.
1.0 Site Identification
|Type of Site:||Complex Decommissioning Site|
|Project Manager:||Kim Conway (NRC Decommissioning Contact)|
2.0 Site Status Summary
Whittaker is located within an industrial park, approximately 6 km south of Greenville, PA. The site comprises a 5.9 acre strip of land located between the Greenville Metals Plant and the Shenango River. The site is divided into four sections: Section I comprises the southern end of the site and consists of a mixture of slag and gravel which sits above a tributary leading to the Shenango River. Metal scraps are observed within the slag and gravel mixture and the northern end of the section. No large pieces of slag or elevated readings have been observed in Section 1. Sections 2 and 4 are located in the center of the site. This area is comprised predominately of slag material. Two visually distinct types of slag are present. One slag is blue-green and the other is black. The blue-green slag has a glassy texture and the black slag is porous and rocklike. The black slag contains the radioactive material. Section 3 comprises the northern end of the site. A large part of Section 3 is covered by a concrete slab. Three sided bins containing slag material and piles of slag mixed with other debris are on top of the concrete pad. The bins contain low-level waste source materials and non-toxic industrial waste some of which is also contained in rusting drums. The eastern portion of the Section 3 is densely vegetated. Facility topography (prior to the initiation of decommissioning) had been built up through the repeated disposal of slag, scrap metal, debris, and foundry sand. The slag piles had reached elevations of twenty feet or more above the adjoining river flood plain. The slag piles in Section 2 have been excavated and screened to remove the radioactive material, which was shipped for disposal.
Mercer Alloys Corporation was founded in 1955 for the purpose of reclaiming valuable scrap metals from old jet engines and aircraft. The operations were later expanded to include processing ferro-columbium, ferro-nickel, and ferro-molybdenum alloys from ores, as well as accepting other forms of scrap metal. Some of the raw materials and feedstock used in these processes contained licensable quantities of natural thorium or uranium. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) issued License No. SUB-864 to Mercer Alloys in February 1966 for the possession of 250 pounds of uranium. The company was purchased by Whittaker Corporation in 1967, and the license was allowed to expire in February 1969, because no radioactive materials had been procured or used. However, the licensee began receiving columbium ore containing source material (thorium-232) in October 1969, prompting them to apply for a new license. AEC issued License No. SMA-1018 to Mercer Alloys (Whittaker) on December 15, 1969 for the possession of 16,000 pounds of source material. Processing of the columbium ores resulted in concentrating thorium, and some of the processed scrap metals contained natural and depleted uranium. Both of these contaminants were concentrated and retained in the resulting waste slag. Processing operations utilizing licensable materials ceased in 1974, and Whittaker sold the metal alloys division to another company (Exomet, Inc.). Under the terms of the sale, however, Whittaker maintained ownership and responsibility for the source material. In early 1975, Whittaker initiated decontamination of the equipment and plant areas that Exomet desired to begin using. Contaminated equipment, rubble, and slag resulting from these cleanup efforts were added to existing slag and waste piles located in the site's eastern section. The portion of the property housing the plant was released for unrestricted use following the performance of a confirmatory survey by the NRC in 1975. An additional plant building was decommissioned in 1983 and released for unrestricted use in 1985. This plant side of the property remains an active business, now operated by Greenville Metals, and is not associated with Whittaker or the remaining licensed area. The plant is separated from the slag and waste site by metal fencing. Thorium-and-uranium bearing wastes, raw materials, feed-metal scrap, and contaminated building materials that were generated from the facility decontamination activities are contained in the licensed and controlled waste and slag storage areas that comprise the Whittaker Site. In 2004, the site initiated decommissioning activities, starting in Section 2, where the highest activity slag was believed to be located.
3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues
During excavation of Secton 2, additional subsurface contamination was identified that extends beyond the fence separating the property from the Greenville Metals site. The material is below ground level, and may not be accessed from the uncontrolled side of the fence. There are no adverse safety consequences to the public or to workers at the Greenville Metals site due to this material. Its discovery, however, will require Whittaker to characterize how far onto the property the material extends. In addition to the subsurface material, in May 2006, surface pieces of contaminated slag were discovered on the Greenville Metals property, as well as subsurface slag in previously-unidenitifed locations. Pieces that could be carried by hand were removed and relocated to the Whittaker site. The plant owners were notified of the presence of the material and instructed to not remove it. The material does not represent a health or safety risk to the public. It does not meet the activity levels requiring posting or control. The Greenville Metals site is surrounded by a fence, which provides de facto control over the material. Whittaker and Greenville are developing an agreement to allow Whittaker to remediate any slag from this site. On the Whittaker property, contamination was identified at depths that are deeper than had been expected based on characterization data. The slag pile was expected to reach between 15 - 20 feet below grade. In one location, contamination reaches approximately 25 feet. The material is being excavated and removed in the same manner as the previously-removed material. Boreholes were drilled on the Grennville Metals property to characterize the sub surface material. The license for the site has been turned over to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania after it became an Agreement State.
4.0 Estimated Date For Closure