FORT GREELY, Alaska — The Baltimore District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin the decommissioning and dismantlement of the SM-1A Former Nuclear Power Plant on Fort Greely, Alaska, in 2024, just over 50 years after its final shutdown in 1972.
Designed as a first-of-its-kind power plant, SM-1A was part of the mid-century Army Nuclear Power Program and built to test the likelihood of engaging a nuclear power source in arctic conditions while providing power and heat for the utility systems of Fort Greely. In doing so, it allowed for the study of the economics behind such a power source, a significant departure from the typical oil-fired systems engaged in the remote areas of the region.
Now, after sitting in “safe storage” since shutdown, the decommissioning and dismantlement phase will begin following the completed contract award at an estimated value of $95.5M (over a 6-year ordering period) to APTIM-Amentum Alaska Decommissioning, LLC.
In October, Baltimore District teams were on site for a project kickoff week, joining Fort Greely Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Keith Marshall for a site tour and meeting with the contract awardees. Baltimore District health physicists also collected soil samples as part of preliminary tests before work begins.
These Baltimore District teams are part of the Radiological Health Physics Regional Center of Expertise (RCX), based at Baltimore District. RCX provides radiation safety and technical support to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies at home and abroad for projects involving all aspects of radiological work — always with a focus on health and safety.
“Safety is the number one priority for the Corps of Engineers,” said Brenda Barber, Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program manager, on an earlier tour of the site. “So, as we continue our planning and as we look forward to the decommissioning and dismantlement, safety will be at the forefront of all the processes and procedures.”
The SM-1A Nuclear Power Plant is located in central Alaska, approximately 6 miles south of Delta Junction on the Fort Greely Military Reservation. The construction of SM-1A was completed in 1962, and first criticality was achieved on 13 March 1962. The design was based on the concept of the SM-1 reactor at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a prototype for stationary medium-power plants (“SM”). The “1A” moniker designates it as the first field plant of its type. It was designed to be used as an “inservice” test facility for this type of equipment in an arctic environment with a primary mission to supply electrical power and heating steam for the utility systems at Fort Greely. The secondary mission was to study the economics of operating a nuclear-type electrical plant compared to conventional oil-fired systems in a remote area where fuel costs are high and supply lines unusually long.