18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio is the Fernald Preserve (1). Visitors to the preserve have 7.4 miles of walking trails, acres of forest, prairie land, savanna, wetlands and open waters to admire. This location was also home to the former Feeds Material Production Center (FMPC), also known as Fernald, a uranium processing site that operated from 1952 to 1989 for the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Energy. DOE formally shut down the facility on June 19, 1991.
Fernald’s part of the 1950’s nuclear buildup included nuclear material processing and machining, fuel fabrication, and radiochemical processing. It produced high-purity uranium metal products in the form of ingots, derbies, billets, and fuel cores for use in the reactors at the Savannah River Site, the Hanford Site, and Oak Ridge, as well as uranium products for other Atomic Energy Commission sites.
The following three examples give you an idea of how much product was produced at Fernald:
US Environmental Protection Agency
From 1952-1989, the facility produced more than 500 million pounds of uranium metal and approximately 1.5 billion pounds of waste material. During the facility’s operation, processing activities led to the contamination of site soil, surface water and ground water (underground water supplies).
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
The Fernald site delivered nearly 170,000 metric tons of uranium (MTU) metal products and 35,000 MTU of intermediate compounds, such as uranium trioxide and uranium tetrafluoride. From the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, metal production peaked at nearly 12,000 tons a year.
Fluor Fernald, Inc, (the contractor responsible for the cleanup of the site)
Fernald produced over 500 million pounds of high-purity uranium metal products for the U.S. defense program. During the Cold War, this 1,050-acre site generated over 6 million tons of liquid and solid wastes and emitted over 1 million pounds of uranium into the atmosphere from its production stacks.
Pages 5-8 from the link below is from the book At Work in the Fields of the Bomb, a 1987 book by Robert Del Tredici, and has some very insightful pictures from inside Fernald. You will notice in the pictures that none of the workers are wearing any form of respirator protection.
(1) Fernald Preserve-Google Map
View of the plant in September, 1999.
In 2004, The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability presented an in-depth report of water supplies for 13 sites involved in the Department of Energy’s nuclear complex, including Fernald.
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability-Danger Lurks Below
Danger Lurks Below-Fernald
The Feeds Material Production Center was located less than a mile west of the Great Miami River, and was built directly over the Great Miami Aquifer, which provides water throughout southwest Ohio.
The Great Miami Watershed
In 1981, uranium contamination was found to exist in wells one mile south of the Fernald site in what is referred to as the “south plume.” DOE provided bottled water for residents in the plume area from February 1991 until 1996 when a public drinking water system became operational.
Fernald Aquifer Restoration and Waste Water Project (EPA)
“The Aquifer Restoration and Wastewater treatment involved cleaning approximately 170-acres of the Great Miami Aquifer that became contaminated as a result of the uranium processing mission at Fernald. From 1993 through May, 2004, more than 14.9 billion gallons of water had been extracted and nearly 6,100 pounds of uranium removed from the aquifer.” There are currently 23 extraction wells in operation on the preserve. *(Page 23)
* Operations and Maintenance Master Plan for Aquifer Restorationand Wastewater Treatment, April, 2010
Aquifer Restoration and Wastewater
Great Miami Aquifer
(The Fernald Preserve is located in the lower left side of this map, in Hamilton County.)
Third Five-Year Review Report for the Fernald Preserve
Environmental cleanup began in 1992, and after 14 years and 4.4 billion dollars spent, Fluor Fernald, Inc. declared physical completion of the site on October 29, 2006
On the eastern part of the preserve is the On-Site Disposal Facility (OSDF), which consists of eight cells that contain approximately 85 percent soil and 15 percent demolition debris. The OSDF is an above-grade, double lined and capped facility measuring 100-acres, 65-foot high, 3,700-foot long and 1,000-foot wide. It is designed to hold approximately 2.9 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. The last cell was capped on September 25, 2006
Other facts from Fluor Fernald about the cleanup:
• Fluor safely treated and shipped 1.2 million tons of radioactive waste, equivalent to the weight of 18 battleships, from three concrete silos, six waste pits, a 12-acre concrete waste pad and a thorium warehouse.
• During a 10-year period (1995–2005), Fluor shipped 6.6 million cubic feet of low-level waste to the Nevada Test Site (NTS); 174,912 gallons of low-level liquid mixed waste offsite for incineration; and 59,147 cubic feet of low-level liquid mixed waste off site for treatment.
• Fluor expedited the shipment of 31 million net pounds of nuclear material through transfer to other DOE sites, sale to the private sector or off-site burial. This downgraded Fernald’s nuclear hazard rating status, reducing S&M cost by $1.7 million per year and freeing $69 million to expedite cleanup.
• Fluor executed the largest low-level waste shipping campaign in DOE’s history by shipping 9,100 railcars containing 979,000 tons of material from Fernald’s six waste pits to Envirocare—more than 41 million miles without a safety incident. The project involved treating 350,000 tons of waste pit material to meet Envirocare’s waste acceptance criteria. Fluor also shipped waste by truck an additional 31 million miles without safety incident.
Fluor Government Group, Fluor Fernald, Inc.
Taxpayers bilked in Fernald cleanup
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Study
“In 1988, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted an epidemiologic study to assess the potential association between exposure to ionizing radiation and the level of disease in the community surrounding the former Feed Material Processing Center (FMPC) in Fernald, Ohio. The results were released in 1998.”
Fernald Dosimetry Reconstruction Project
Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program
As of January 8, 2012, there have been 5,043 claims filed, equaling 3,828 cases which represents 2,207 workers. Of the 3,828 cases, only 974 of them have been awarded compensation. That’s a 25 percent success rate for the compensation program for this facility.
EEOICP Program Statistics http://www.dol.gov/owcp/energy/regs/compliance/statistics/WebPages/FEED__PROD_CTR.htm
“Nobody can ever safely live here, federal scientists say, and the site will have to be closely monitored essentially forever.”
Active Fuel Fabrication Locations in the USA
Mixed-Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility
Shaw AREVA MOX Services, LLC-Aiken, South Carolina (under construction)
Uranium Fuel Fabrication Facility
AREVA NP, Inc.- Lynchburg, Virginia
(Mt. Athos Road Facility)
AREVA NP, Inc.- Richland, Washington
B&W Nuclear Operations Group- Lynchburg, Virginia
Global Nuclear Fuel- Americas, LLC- Wilmington, North Carolina
Nuclear Fuel Services- Erwin, Tennessee
(active facility, license renewal application submitted, undergoing partial decommissioning)
Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC- Columbia, South Carolina
(Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility)
Uranium Hexafluoride Production (Conversion) Facility
Honeywell International, Inc.-Metropolis, IL
Locations of Major U.S. Fuel Cycle Facilities-NRC
Former Fuel Fabrication Facilities
Weldon Spring Site-Weldon Spring, Missouri
Bridgeport Brass Company- Adrian, Michigan
Vulcan Crucible Steel Company-Aliquippa, Pennsylvania
Bliss and Laughlin Steel Company-Buffalo, New York
B&T Metals-Columbus, Ohio
Associate Aircraft Tool and Manufacturing Co.-Fairfield, Ohio
Dow Metal Products Division-Madison, Illinois
Alba Craft Laboratories, Inc.-Oxford, Ohio
C.H. Schnorr & Company-Springdale, Pennsylvania
Apollo Plant-Apollo, Pennsylvania
Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site-Crescent, Oklahoma
Westinghouse Electric Company-Hematite, Missouri
Curtis-Wright Cheswick-Cheswick Pennsylvania
BASF (State of Massachusetts)-Plainville, Massachusetts
Reactive Metals, Inc.-Ashtabula, Ohio
World Information Service on Energy
Uranium Enrichment/Fuel Fabrication – Decommissioning Issues (USA)
Ohio.gov-EPA Fernald Cleanup Fact Sheet
Fernald Chronology, Ohio EPA
Department of Energy Publications
Fernald Preserve Guided Tour
DOE-History of the Fernald Site
DOE Management and Oversight of Cleanup Activities at Fernald
Fernald Production Process & Products
Other Articles of Interest
Fernald Feed Materials Production Center
IEER (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research)
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
A Tour of the Feed Materials Production Center at Fernald Ohio
A Field Trip to Fernald
Shifting Radioactivity Risks
A Park Grows at Fernald-May 13, 2009
The Ohio Ornithological Society