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First the water was radioactive, and now the air

Dec 01, 2010 9:32 am
NISKAYUNA - Brian Nearing at the Times-Union has stayed on the cascading news coming out of the Knolls Atomic Power Labs since it was announced that cleanup of older buildings dating from the facility's use as a developer of nuclear power in the 1940s and 1950s resulted in radioactive water being spilled into the Mohawk River, which in turn feeds into the Hudson. First, he covered the cover-ups, or excuses used by various state and federal agencies as to why local towns, several of which use the Mohawk for drinking water, were not alerted to the October 25 spill for at least a week. Then he noted how clean-up workers had been pressured to finish their jobs quicker than originally planned, resulting in a lack of care, and near panic, at the sensitive site.

Now, Nearing writes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating a potential "air release of radioactive material during the botched demolition of a Cold War-era research building" at Knolls. "EPA was not releasing details but confirmed that the investigation centers around the Sept. 29 open-air demolition at the contaminated Separations Process Research Unit," Nearing quotes an agency spokesperson.

Work at the site has been halted since Nov. 19 as the U.S. Department of Energy considers changes to the 2-year-old project to remove the contaminated buildings, which were used in U.S. atomic weapons research and have been closed since 1953.

The partially demolished H2 building, where researchers developed a process known as PUREX to extract weapons-grade plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear reactor fuel, is now covered with tarps to prevent further contamination from escaping.

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