Part of NASA Plum Brook property might revert to wetlands

PERKINS TWP. NASA is studying whether 500 acres at NASA Plum Brook Station can be restored as wetlan
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

NASA is studying whether 500 acres at NASA Plum Brook Station can be restored as wetlands, says a NASA official directing the cleanup of an old nuclear reactor site.

The study will show whether land north of Pentolite Road can again become the wetlands area it was before settlers began farming it, said Keith Peecook, program manager for the decommissioning.

If the restoration is feasible, NASA officials will decide whether to move forward, he said.

Peecook said Tuesday that work to clean up the reactor site began in 2002 and is now about 80 percent done.

Removal of decontaminated soil should be mostly done by the end of 2009. By 2011, work on the site should be completed, and NASA will be ready to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for termination of the nuclear reactor's license. Approval by the NRC will end the process of restoring the reactor site to its natural state.

The cleanup of the site including demolition of all of the buildings is budgeted at $220 million.

"I'm shooting to get in a little lower than that," Peecook said.

He said $183 million has been spent so far.

There are about 80 people still working at the site, down from 180 when work was at its height. There will be about 40 at the beginning of 2010, Peecook said.

NASA shut down the reactor, which was used for scientific research, in January 1973.

The decontamination effort gained more attention in late 2005, when NASA announced small amounts of radiation has been detected in Plum Brook downstream of the NASA installation. Trace amounts of contamination were detected all the way to Sandusky Bay.

The amount of radiation proved so small that NASA has filed a report with the NRC asserting no remediation downstream is necessary, although spot cleanup is still planned using shovels and buckets, Peecook said.

NASA will host its final public briefing on the cleanup from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 21 at Sandusky High School, NASA spokeswoman Sally Harrington said.