Shallow Land Disposal Area (BWX Technologies, Inc.)

1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: Vandergrift, PA
License No.: SNM-2001
Docket No.: 07003085
License Status: Possession Only License
Project Manager: Doug Mandeville

2.0 Site Status Summary

The Shallow Land Disposal Area (SLDA) site is located in Parks Township, Pennsylvania. It is an 18-ha [44-ac] site in a largely undeveloped area approximately 5 km [3 mi] southeast of Leechburg and 37 km [23 mi] east-northeast of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. From 1961–1970, the site was used for disposal of wastes from a nuclear fuel fabrication facility in nearby Apollo, Pennsylvania. Both radioactive and non-radioactive wastes were placed in trenches. The site was operated by Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), which also operated the Apollo Nuclear Fuel Fabrication Facility that converted enriched uranium to naval reactor fuel. In 1967, Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) purchased all NUMEC stock and in 1971 sold it to Babcock and Wilcox (B&W), which later became BWX Technologies (BWXT). The current owner of the site is BWXT.

The SLDA was authorized to operate by the Atomic Energy Commission license SNM–145. AEC is the predecessor of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The SLDA site is now under NRC license SNM-2001, which BWXT currently holds. The 10 trenches at SLDA cover approximately 0.5 ha [1.2 ac]. Radioactive material in the trenches consists of natural uranium; enriched and depleted uranium; and smaller quantities of thorium, americium, and plutonium.

In 2002, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was directed to clean up the radioactive waste at the SLDA under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP), which AEC established in 1974 to clean up residual radioactivity from the early years of the nation's atomic energy program. USACE's cleanup of the SLDA will follow the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the July 5, 2001, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NRC and USACE for coordination of cleanup and decommissioning of FUSRAP sites with NRC-licensed facilities. While USACE is actively proceeding with SLDA cleanup, the NRC license that BWXT holds was placed in abeyance in August 2011. The NRC license will be reinstated after USACE cleans up the SLDA site to NRC's radiological criteria for unrestricted use.

The NRC assisted USACE with the development of a site-specific Supplemental MOU between USACE, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the NRC. The Supplemental MOU was signed by all parties in early 2014, and complements the existing MOU by incorporating the relevant requirements of 10 CFR Parts 70, 73, and 74. The Supplemental MOU also stipulates the specific roles of each Federal entity throughout the remainder of the remediation process.

The USACE is in the process of revising its work plans for remediation of the site. USACE anticipates resuming remediation activities in calendar year 2025.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

On August 5, 2011, the NRC executed a Confirmatory Order Modifying BWXT's License No. SNM-2001. After the NRC placed BWX Technologies Inc. license in abeyance for the SLDA site, the USACE assumed physical possession of the site on August 22, 2011, and began cleanup activities.

On September 30, 2011, USACE ceased excavation activities because their contractor deviated from accepted field procedures. The exhumed material was complex and beyond the scope of USACE's established procedures. In response, the NRC staff provided technical guidance and conducted several site visits. In early-2012, the SLDA site came under policy review due to growing concerns about the cost for management and disposal of exhumed material. In ensuing months, the SLDA site garnered public attention. The NRC, in a supportive role, attended public meetings in March and June 2012 which were coordinated by USACE. By mid-August 2012, all exhumed material was safely shipped off-site.

One challenging aspect of this cleanup effort is that the records and type of material disposed in the 10 burial trenches are incomplete.

4.0 Estimated Date For Closure


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, September 21, 2023