United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Jefferson Proving Ground

1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: Madison, IN
License No.: SUB-1435
Docket No.: 040-08838
License Status: Possession Only License
Project Manager: Bob Nelson

2.0 Site Status Summary

Update: Draft environmental assessment available for comment
On February 4, 2019, the NRC published a draft environmental assessment (EA) and draft finding of no significant impact for a 30-day public comment period. 

Comments on the draft EA may be submitted through one of these means:

  • Through the Federal Rulemaking Web Site (search for Docket ID NRC-2019-0027)
  • Through the U.S. mail to Office of Administration, Mail Stop TWFN-7-A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001 (include Docket ID NRC-2019-0027 in the subject line)
  • By e-mail

See the Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the draft EA

Jefferson Proving Ground (JPG) is located in southeastern Indiana and was established in 1940 by the U.S. War Department. It operated from 1941-1995. JPG's primary mission was to support research, tests, and operations of the U.S. Army. JPG tested production and post-production conventional ammunition components, other ordnance items, and propellant ammunition/weapons systems and components. In addition, it received, stored, and issued stocks of ammunition and calibrated ammunition components. Since 1977, the Indiana Air National Guard (INANG) used approximately 418 ha [1,033 ac] of the installation as an air-to-ground impact area for operational training requirements.

The JPG installation consists of 22,365 ha [55,265 ac] located approximately 23 km [14 mi] north of Madison, Indiana, 80 km [50 mi] northeast of Louisville, Kentucky, 80 km [50 mi] southwest of Cincinnati, Ohio, and 113 km [70 mi] southeast of Indianapolis. JPG is mostly surrounded by farmland and woodlands, with some small towns and rural housing nearby. More than 75 percent of the JPG site is forested, and there are 2428 ha [6,000 ac] of wetlands, 7 streams, and numerous ponds and lakes.

JPG is about 28 km [17.2 mi] in length (north-south) and ranges from 6-10 km [4-6 mi] in width (east-west). It is divided into an approximate 20,640 ha [51,000 ac] northern firing range area and a 1620 ha [4,000 ac] southern cantonment area. A firing line, consisting of 268 former gun positions used for testing ordnance until 1994, separates these areas. The JPG site contains 379 buildings. Most of the land north of the firing line is unimproved and was used as an impact area for ordnance testing. Nearly all of the land south of the firing line was used for maintenance and utilities, administration, ammunition assembly, the test ranges, training, and residential housing. Ample natural resources exist within the facility boundaries: 12,140 ha [30,000 ac] are available on a controlled-access basis for hunting, fishing, and camping.

JPG was established in 1940 for the purpose of production and specification testing of all types of ammunition, projectiles, propellants, cartridge cases, primers, fuses, boosters, bombs, and grenades. From 1941-1995, over 24 million rounds of conventional explosive ammunition were fired. Periods of high activity occurred during World War II, the Vietnam War, and peaked in 1953 in support of the Korean War with 175,000 rounds per month of production testing and 1,774 personnel. Following each of these periods, activities at the JPG significantly decreased. From 1984-1994, JPG test fired 100,000 kg [220,462 lbs] of tank penetrator rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) under Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) License SUB-1435. The DU impact area is approximately 518 ha [1280 ac] and north of the firing line. After several operations to recover DU, the impact area still contains about 70,000 kg [154,324 lbs] of DU and 1.5 million rounds of unexploded ordinance (UXO). Since 1984, the soil, groundwater, surface water, and sediment have been monitored for DU bi-annually.

As a result of the Base Closure and Realignment Act (BRAC) of 1988, the U.S. Army's mission at JPG terminated in September 1995 and has been relocated to the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Also in September 1995, the U.S. Army requested to transfer the NRC license from JPG to the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Buildings and areas in the southern cantonment area were then decommissioned, and some of the DU and other wastes were removed to appropriate licensed disposal sites. In 1996, the NRC approved the license transfer, amended the license to possession only of DU north of the firing line, and released the cantonment area for unrestricted use. The cantonment area is now used for housing, light industry, farming, and recreation. The U.S. Army proposes to terminate its NRC license with restricted use for the area north of the firing range. Restricted use means residual radioactive material exists in place and administrative controls are maintained to minimize exposure to the public and the environment.

Plans for the area north of the firing range have progressed through time. In 1997, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was established between TECOM and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop an ecosystem-based plan for the 20,640 ha [51,000 ac] northern firing range area. In 1998, a Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the Department of the Army (U.S. Army), the Air National Guard (ANG), and the INANG. The MOU states that in exchange for continued use of the 418 ha [1,033 ac] bombing range, the ANG would maintain and operate the northern firing range area. The 1998 MOU was superseded by a May 2000 MOA signed between the U.S. Army, the Department of Air Force (U.S. Air Force), and the FWS. The MOA authorized future use by FWS and continued use by the U.S. Air Force of the firing range for 25 years, with 10-year extensions thereafter. Due to UXO, DU and other environmental contamination from past U.S. Army activities, the firing range is not suitable for commercial or residential development, yet part of it contains wildlife habitat of regional and national significance. In June 2000, the FWS established the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge. Activities at the bombing range have had no known significant adverse impact on the wildlife at the firing range area and the U.S. Air Force will continue to use the bombing range as a training facility.

The presence of UXO, the associated risk of potential explosions, and the high cost for cleanup complicate remediation activities in the north area. A decommissioning plan (DP) was submitted by the U.S. Army in 1999 and later withdrawn in 2001 when a new DP was submitted. The NRC rejected the 2001 DP. A revised DP was submitted by the U.S. Army in 2002. Thereafter, the U.S. Army withdrew the revised 2002 DP and in 2003 requested that the possession-only license be issued for a 5-year renewable period indefinitely. Subsequently, the U.S. Army withdrew its request and began various studies aimed towards decommissioning the area. These studies include leachate/corrosion studies, groundwater age dating, aquifer parameters, electrical imaging, radiation monitoring, computer modeling, and soil, surface water, and sediment analyses. The U.S. Army submitted a revised DP and Environmental Report in September 2013, but later withdrew this revised DP in 2016. The staff continues to review a U.S. Army license amendment request to amend the Jefferson Proving Ground site license in Madison, Indiana to possession only, and its associated exemption to the decommissioning timeliness rule under 10 CFR 40.42, submitted in December 2016.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

The presence of unexploded ordnance, the associated risk, and cost for cleanup of this material, as well as potential contamination of groundwater, would complicate remediation.

The license has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense (Air Force) for long-term institutional control of the site.

4.0 Estimated Date for Closure


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Tuesday, February 05, 2019