What is the Buffalo Materials Research Center (BMRC)?
Presently, it’s an empty building on UB’s South
Campus, located near the Winspear Avenue campus entrance.
Over the next few months, the building will be completely
demolished. Then, the site will be filled in and returned to a
From 1960 to 1994, the BMRC housed a nuclear reactor used in
medical research but it has not been used for this research for 20
years. All nuclear fuel and loose radioactive waste was
removed from the building in 2005. Since then, the building
has undergone the final phases of “decommissioning,”
which included the removal and transport of contaminated materials
from the building.
The demolition of the building this fall is part of the final
phase of decommissioning.
What does “decommissioning” of a nuclear facility
Decommissioning, an activity managed by the U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC), is the process of safely closing a
nuclear power plant (or other facility where nuclear materials are
handled) to retire it from service after its useful life has
Decommissioning begins after the nuclear fuel and loose
radioactive waste are removed.
The process primarily involves decontaminating the facility to
reduce residual radioactivity and then releasing the property for
unrestricted or (under certain conditions) restricted use. This
often includes dismantling the facility or dedicating it to other
For more information on the NRC’s decommissioning process,
go to http://www.nrc.gov.
What will happen during demolition of the building?
The building will be torn down to its foundation. This
includes demolishing entirely the concrete building and removing
embedded pipes and structures that couldn’t be accessed in
the earlier phases of the decommissioning. This phase also includes
testing the soil around and underneath the site to verify that
it is not contaminated. When the process concludes, the site
will be free of radioactive contamination, and it will be returned
to a green field.
During a previous stage of decommissioning, the university
safely removed from the building equipment and materials that had
become contaminated with radioactive material when the facility was
in operation from 1960 to 1994.
Similar projects have been successfully undertaken in recent
years at Cornell University, the University of Michigan and other
university-based research reactor facilities.
Are there still contaminated materials in the
The facility’s radioactive fuel was completely removed in
2005 as part of the facility’s decommissioning process. Over
the past several months, all contaminated materials were safely
removed and transported from the building.
Some of the building’s structural columns currently have
very low-levels of contamination, but there is no danger to the
campus community or to the neighborhood bordering the South
What are the risks to the campus and the community as UB
demolishes the building?
The health risks are minimal. Over the past several months, 99
percent of all contaminated materials were safely removed and
transported from the building. There is a plan in place, working
with an experienced contractor, to demolish the building as safely
and as quickly as possible, and in accordance with federal and
Some of the building’s structural columns have very
low-levels of contamination, but there is no danger to the campus
community or to the neighborhood bordering the South Campus. There
are safety measures in place to ensure that the few contaminated
structures are dismantled, handled and transported to minimize any
risk of exposure, following federal guidelines.
A person passing by the demolition site will not receive any
additional radiation exposure than what occurs normally in the
What safety measures are in place?
All activities will be performed under strict NRC
Some of the safety precautions to be taken include dust control
with water misting to prevent building dust from being carried
offsite; canceling work if it’s too windy; monitoring air
quality every day and ground water quality frequently.
Many of these precautions are similar to asbestos removal.
What will be done with contaminated materials removed from
the facility and site?
All contaminated waste will be safely shipped to appropriate
disposal facilities outside of New York State.
Is there contamination of the groundwater surrounding the
No. An analysis of the site has determined there is no
contamination to groundwater underneath the building. Ground water
that gathers on the site as the building is demolished will be
collected and tested, but do not expect there to be any
contamination of ground water.
Is there radioactive contamination of the site outside the
No. An analysis of the site did not discover any radioactive
contamination beyond the boundaries of the physical building.
What types of construction activities and noise are expected
from this project?
The university will take steps to minimize noise, dust and
vibration resulting from the building’s demolition. The team
of specialized personnel who will be taking down the building will
most likely be working 10-hour days.
The project begins on Monday, Sept. 8, with the first week
devoted to preparation of the site: Putting up signage, fencing off
the area and shoring up areas where columns will be removed. The
demolition of the building and removal of the debris by truck will
begin on Sept. 15.
Each day of work will begin around 7 a.m. and stop at around 5
p.m. If the team needs to work longer hours into the evening, they
will be asked to work on ‘quieter’ tasks that
don’t require power tools.
Weather will be a factor on the number of hours-per-day and
days-per-week worked. If the weather is inclement for several days
rendering work impossible, that time will need to be made up to
finish the project on time
Truck traffic may create more congestion than community
residents, students, faculty and staff are used to. This truck
traffic will mostly impact Winspear Avenue and adjacent major
roadways. The University Heights and South Campus community
are asked to be patient and to expect to move slowly if travelling
in that area during the day.
Will the construction activities impact research conducted at
the adjacent Kapoor Hall?
Because of its proximity to the project site, Kapoor Hall is the
academic building that will be most affected by the noise and
vibration of power tools
The project team has set up vibration monitors to test the
“seismic” vibrations that may interfere with
instruments used to complete the precise measurements necessary for
delicate pharmaceutical research that occurs within Kapoor
Who will oversee the day-to-day decommissioning
The decommissioning project is a campus-led project managed by
UB's Facilities Planning and Design group. Special consultants will
be brought in to handle specific phases of work for which little
local expertise exists.
How does the NRC regulate and control the decommissioning
The NRC’s inspector will be on site frequently and during
significant project milestones to ensure that guidelines are being
To what standard will the MRC site be cleaned?
After the building is demolished, UB will be subjected to a
number of regulatory inspections to determine that the site is free
of contamination. The site will be returned to a green field after
the NRC performs a final inspection and declares the site is clean
and in compliance with guidelines developed by the NRC and the
Environmental Protection Agency.
What is the cost for this project?
New York State provided funding to UB’s capital plan to
pay for the project. There is no funding from other sources. It is
estimated that the entire decommissioning process will cost about
Why did UB decide to demolish the building?
The facility’s nuclear reactor has not been in operation
since 1994 and the facility’s radioactive fuel was completely
removed in 2005. The university was not performing sufficient
research involving nuclear materials to warrant maintaining such a
facility. UB received permission from federal and state authorities
to take down the building and return the site to a green field.
Why not rehabilitate and reuse the facility instead of taking
This option was considered by the university. An extensive
analysis determined it was far too costly to rehabilitate the
facility. The building’s structural components would need to
be scraped and nearly completely torn away before the facility
could be rebuilt. It is more efficient to take down the
Whom do I contact if I have concerns or questions about the
Representatives from UB’s Office of Community Relations
and Office of Environmental Health and Safety are available to
answer questions about the project from campus and neighborhood
community members. A public forum will be announced soon. Any
questions in the meantime should be directed to the Office of
Community Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org