UB dismantles former nuclear research building

The Spectrum

UB is in the process of taking down its former nuclear reactor facility on South Campus.

The dismantling process, which is called decommissioning, began in early December and is expected to end in 2014, at a total cost of $20 million.

UB left the nuclear business in 1994 but didn't receive funding from the state to disassemble the former Buffalo Materials Research Center until recently, according to David Vasbinder, associate director of environment, health and safety.

Decommissioning is the process of removing contaminated materials from a nuclear power plant. It involves decontaminating the facility to reduce residual radioactivity and then releasing the property for unrestricted use, according to the UB News Center.

UB held a public meeting on Dec. 6 in Allen Hall for anyone on or around campus with any health or safety concerns regarding nuclear contamination.

"As we're taking it apart, we're going to make sure that material is contained," Vasbinder said. "The decommissioning process is very focused on making sure we control all that material and there's no exposure to the public or workers."

Decommissioning begins after nuclear fuel and radioactive waste is removed. This often includes dismantling the facility or dedicating it to other purposes.

The 25,000-square-foot white, circular building, located next to Kapoor Hall, opened in 1961 at a cost of $1.15 million. Though the Buffalo Materials Research Center - which was mainly used for isotope production and materials testing - was shut down in 1994, UB had to wait until 2006 to return the nuclear fuel to the Department of Energy because the federal department wasn't ready to take the fuel yet, Vasbinder said.

Vasbinder helped write the decommission plan, which started in 2006, after the nuclear fuel and loose radioactive waste were removed and submitted it to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulates the process in a precise manner to prevent harm from potential radiological contaminated material.

"Decommissioning is very focused on making sure we control all that material and there's no exposure to the public or workers," Vasbinder said.

After emptying the building and taking it down, workers will dig out the soil around the former nuclear building down to bedrock level due to requirements by the decommissioning plan.

The site will return to a green field, according to the UB News Center.

UB spokesman John Della Contrada said UB hasn't made any plans yet for the future vacant location.

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