Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


The Fernald Closure Project, formerly the Fernald Environmental Project (FEMP), which was officially renamed the Fernald Preserve, encompasses 1,050 acres located in southwestern Ohio, approximately 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati in Hamilton County. It is now a wildlife sanctuary with a planned education center construction run by the DOE Office of Legacy Management. Fernald was established in 1951 as a uranium processing facility.

The DOE Ohio Field Office and FEMP Office comprised the responsible operations offices. The Environmental Restoration Management Contractor (ERMC) was Fluor Daniel Fernald Inc., (FDF). Subcontractors included IND-COM, Alliance, Fred DeBra Company, R.E. Staver Group, B&J Electric, and Langdon, Babcock and Wilcox. The Fluor corporation, which joined the project in 1992, was charged with the removal or dispositioning of all site nuclear materials, decommissioning and decontaminating all site buildings and facilities, and returning the site to public use.

The annual budget was $254.3 million for fiscal year 1996; $266.4 million for fiscal year 1997; and $264.5 million for fiscal year 1998. In 1996, FEMP employed 56 DOE personnel and 1,986 contractors. According to a May 1, 1996 inventory of fissile material, Fernald had uranium compounds and uranium metal: 0.5 million pounds of natural uranium (0.711 percent U-235); 8.7 million pounds of depleted uranium (less than 0.711 percent U-235); 6.8 million pounds of enriched uranium (up to 19.99 percent U-235). Of the enriched uranium, 90 percent is less than 2 percent U-235.

Fernald produced uranium metal during the Cold War era. When Fernald stopped producing uranium metal, it still stored nuclear materials once used at Fernald and at other DOE sites. Nearly 15,785,000 pounds of uranium, along with contaminated facilities, radioactive and mixed wastes, and thorium, were among the site's principal radioactive hazards. Restoration of the site began in 1991, after DOE officially closed the site as a production facility in June.

An extensive site waste management program for legacy wastes, components that are being deactivated and decontaminated, and newly generated secondary wastes (e.g. contaminated clothing) was created. During fiscal year 1995, Fernald shipped 722,061 cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste to an offsite disposal site, 4,500 cubic feet of solid mixed waste to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disposal facility, 41,000 gallons of liquid mixed waste to EPA-approved disposal facilities, and 591,737 pounds of surplus uranium product materials to other users for non-defense-related purposes. Also in fiscal year 1995, Fernald neutralized and repackaged 200,000 gallons of uranyl nitrate and 6,000 gallons of thorium nitrate. By November 5, 1996, 1,862 of the 5,600 deteriorated drums of thorium were overpacked, and 274 overpacked containers (approximately 1,600 drums) were shipped offsite for disposal.

FEMP waste management initiatives at that time included the thorium overpacking project, managed by the Waste Programs Management Division, to package degraded thorium waste containers for disposal at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). During the first four months of operation, 424 of the 5,600 deteriorated drums of thorium were overpacked, and 68 overpacked containers shipped offsite for disposal.

Other activities included blending stored liquid mixed wastes for offsite shipment by tanker truck to the K-25 Site incinerator for disposal; developing an onsite disposal cell to accept low-level radioactive wastes generated from a number of remedial actions, including building demolition; and the decontamination and decommissioning of Plant 1. In addition to such projects, FEMP had an extensive monitoring program addressing air, water, and soil environmental quality on and near the site. Safe shutdown was completed for Plants 1 and 4. Plants 7 and 4C, Plant 1 (ore silos), and the fire training facility were removed from the site. Plant 4 was demolished on August 24, 1996. Plant 7, dismantled in 1994, was the first of 125 major facilities scheduled for decontamination and dismantlement at FEMP.

Poor site management, unsafe practices, and improper financial conduct uncovered by the Cincinnati Enquirer prompted a GAO investigation, which resulted in GAO-RCED-97-63 Department of Energy: Management and Oversight of Cleanup Activities at Fernald released in March 1997.

In April 2004, the final uranium processing building, the Pilot Plant, was demolished. On October 29, 2006 Fluor Fernald announced their declaration of physical closure. 323 buildings, including 10 uranium production complexes, had been dismantled. Over 100,000 drums of waste and 31 million pounds of uranium product had been removed. The cost of the project was approximately $4.4 billion. On January 19, 2007, the DOE officially closed Fernald.

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