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Westinghouse Electric Company (Hematite Facility)

1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: Festus Township, MO
License No.: SNM-33
Docket No.: 07000036
License Status: Active License
Project Manager: James Smith

2.0 Site Status Summary

Westinghouse Electric Company’s LLC (WEC) Hematite former fuel-cycle facility is located in eastern Missouri. It operated from 1956-2001. Mallinckrodt Chemical Works (MCW) bought the original parcel of farmland in 1956 and operated the Hematite facility until1961. United Nuclear Corporation owned the Hematite facility from 1961-1971, Gulf United Nuclear Fuels Corporation owned it from 1971-1974, General Atomic Company from January-May 1974, Combustion Engineering Inc. (CE) from 1974-1989, and Asea Brown Boveri Inc. (ABB) acquired CE in 1989 and sold the facility to WEC in 2000. From 1956-1974, the Hematite facility researched and produced high-enriched nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy nuclear submarine program and other reactor programs. From 1974-2001, the Hematite facility produced nuclear fuel assemblies of low-uranium enrichment for commercial nuclear power plants.

The Hematite site is situated on about 92 ha [228 ac] approximately 1.2 km [0.75 mi] northeast of the unincorporated town of Hematite, Missouri, 6.4 km [4 mi] southwest of Festus, Missouri, and 56 km [35 mi] south of St. Louis, Missouri. The site is predominantly grazing pasture or woodland except for the Central Tract, which is the portion of the site where operational activities historically were conducted. The area is bounded to the northwest by State Road P, to the northeast by Northeast Site Creek, to the southeast by the Union-Pacific railroad tracks, and to the southwest by the Site Pond. Two buildings existed on the site when MCW originally purchased it in 1956: the Tile Barn and the Wood Barn. The Tile Barn was a former dairy barn. Following the purchase by Mallinckrodt, a number of buildings were constructed to support operations. Most of those buildings were demolished and dismantled in preparation for decommissioning. Dismantlement and demolishing was completed by June 2011. Currently, the Central Tract has facility operational and administrative buildings, 2 evaporation ponds, the Site Pond, the Site Creek, the Northeast Site Creek, and legacy waste burial areas. The site buildings and structures are now used for office space and to house equipment and materials to support decommissioning.

The original Special Nuclear Material (SNM) License, SNM-33, for the Hematite facility was issued by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to MCW in 1956. In 2006, the license was extended indefinitely until decommissioning of the facility is completed. The first buildings constructed by MCW at the site were a process building, a utilities building and a material storage building in 1956. The pre-existing Tile Barn and Wood Barn at the Hematite facility were used to store both clean and radiologically-contaminated equipment during the facility’s operating period from 1956-2001.

From 1956-1974, the Hematite facility focused on uranium fuel research, production of research reactor fuels, and production of fuels for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines, ships, and test reactors, the U.S. Army’s power and experimental reactors, and General Atomic’s nuclear rocket projects. Operations typically involved manufacture of uranium compounds from natural and enriched uranium. From1974-2001, the Hematite facility concentrated on commercial operations. From 1974-1992, it manufactured fuel pellets from low-enriched uranium to ship to other facilities to be fabricated into fuel assemblies. In 1993, operations expanded to include the manufacturing of fuel assemblies. The Hematite facility also recovered uranium compounds from scrap.

In 2001, WEC notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who is the successor of the AEC, that it ceased operations. WEC requested modifying license SNM-33 to activities associated with decommissioning only and NRC approved the request. These activities included the SNM inventory removal and shipment of stored waste materials during 2001-2003, process equipment removal and disposal during 2003-2006, and the demolition of buildings at the site in 2011. Maintenance of buildings slated to remain, groundwater monitoring, decommissioning planning, and site characterization are ongoing. Currently, the Central Tract of the Hematite site is contaminated with licensed radioactive material in excess of natural background levels. The impacted area contains contaminated structures, systems and equipment, radioactive waste burial pits, and contaminated surface and subsurface soils, sediment, and surface water. Remediation is projected to take 3 years. Radioactivity will be reduced to a level that releases the site for unrestricted use and permits termination of the license. The land will be available for residential, agricultural, and light industrial use in the future.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

Onsite burial was used as a disposal method for contaminated materials and wastes at the Hematite facility from 1965-1970 until the AEC cited a violation in November 1970 for failure to adhere to revised regulations regarding the quantity of material that could be buried.

In 1974, radioactivity was found in buildings where high-enriched fuel was produced. These buildings were subsequently partially decontaminated. In 1993, radioactive contamination in the Red Room roof burial area was discovered, but only partly removed. In 1995, the Site Creek was remediated because silt in the creek bed was contaminated with insoluble uranium-bearing sludge. Radioactivity also was found in soil and trash in the Burial Pit area.

The Hematite facility has 2 evaporation ponds that were in use until 1978. In 1979 and again in 1985, sludge, rock and soil were removed from the primary pond. In 1987, soil and rock were removed from the secondary evaporation pond, and from 1995-1999 additional soil was removed from both ponds. Each time sampling determined the average total uranium contamination was below regulatory limits and spot contamination levels were in excess of the limit. Remediation efforts on the evaporation ponds were suspended in 1999 to evaluate alternative methods. WEC’s DP outlines the current remediation plan.

Localized chemical contamination at the site has sources that likely are products of fuel combustion, asphalt-paving materials, and an abandoned gas station. Currently both onsite and offsite groundwater samples are contaminated with chlorinated solvents and metals. Elevated metals concentrations were found in onsite sediments of the Site Pond, Site Creek and Northeast Site Creek.

4.0 Estimated Date For Closure


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, October 20, 2016