Separations Process Research Unit | Niskayuna, New York
United States Department of Energy
EM Marks Milestone At
Separations Process Research Unit

The Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) is an inactive facility located at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) in Niskayuna, New York. KAPL was created as a general-purpose laboratory for the former U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (a predecessor agency to DOE). Built in the late 1940s, the buildings supported the SPRU mission to research the chemical process to extract plutonium from irradiated materials. Although equipment was flushed and drained, and bulk waste was removed following the shutdown of the facilities in 1953, residual materials were left in the tanks, buildings H2 and G2, and interconnecting pipe tunnels. In 2010, cleanup of radioactivity and chemical contamination in the SPRU Lower Level Railroad Staging Area, Lower Level Parking Lot and SPRU North Field areas was completed. The KAPL site presently conducts research and provides support for the U.S. Navy's Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Currently, decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) of the following is taking place: the remaining two contaminated buildings (G2 and H2 buildings), remaining inactive waste storage tanks located within H2 tank vaults, a pipe tunnel between G2 and H2, and associated contaminated soil. By March, 2013, tent enclosures and ventilation systems using High Efficiency Particulate Air filters were constructed around the G2 and the H2 buildings. Performing D&D work within the enclosures with the ventilation systems provides an added measure of protection to human health and the environment. DOE's contractor is taking a methodical, deliberate approach in completing the remaining work. The contractor estimates field work completion in late 2016.

Research Unit (SPRU) Disposition Project
Removes High-Risk Radioactive Waste, Reaches Safety Milestone

Niskayuna NY (February 27, 2014) - The Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU) Disposition Project completed a significant waste-treatment campaign today that involved the solidification of approximately 9,700 gallons of contaminated sludge, and 14 shipments of the waste off-site for permanent disposal.  The shipment of this material removed the majority of the radioactivity at the SPRU facilities. The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is responsible for the decontamination, demolition, and cleanup of the 65-year-old Cold War facility, with work being performed under contract with DOE by the URS Corporation.  SPRU is collocated with DOE’s Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Niskayuna, NY.

"The radioactive sludge constituted one of the highest risks at SPRU," said Steven Feinberg, the EM manager of the project.  "The successful solidification of the sludge marks major progress in our environmental cleanup project, and enables us to put our full attention on moving ahead with the active decontamination and demolition of unused buildings at the site."

The sludge resulted from historic research into the chemical separation of plutonium, which was shut down in the early 1950s.  The solidified sludge, in 28 shielded liners, is being disposed at a licensed, commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Andrews, TX, which is owned and operated by Waste Control Specialists, LLC.

In addition to successfully completing the sludge solidification project, the SPRU Disposition Project achieved more than 2 ¾ years and more than 1.1 million safe work hours without a lost-time accident or injury.  "This record was accomplished while overcoming numerous obstacles associated with the high-hazard construction, decontamination and demolition work at the site," noted Bobby Smith, Project Manager for URS at SPRU.  "That included working at heights to construct the Sludge Processing Tent, install ventilation and sludge system components, decommission the old sludge processing system, and safely operate the waste solidification system."

ARRA Icon On March 31, 2009 Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $6 billion in new funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate environmental cleanup work and create thousands of jobs across 12 states. Projects identified for funding will focus on accelerating cleanup of soil and groundwater, transportation and disposal of waste, and cleaning and demolishing former weapons complex facilities.

Please visit the following web sites for additional information on the Office of Environmental Managementís projects and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:


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