More UB Announces Plans to Close Nuclear Reactor Facility

By Arthur Page

Release Date: October 20, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo has announced plans to cease operating the nuclear reactor facility on its South (Main Street) Campus by the end of June and to take steps that will lead to its eventual decommission.

Dale M. Landi, vice president for research, said the university is taking the steps because of the escalating costs of operating the reactor.

"Throughout the more than 30 years of its operation, the reactor has been utilized only minimally in support of the research, education and service missions of the university," Landi noted. "In the recent past, with one exception, there has been virtually no utilization of the facility in support of research by UB faculty, students or staff."

He added: "Operating costs of the facility have risen steadily, due primarily to increased regulatory burdens, the advancing age of the reactor systems and physical plant, and continuing steep increases in the cost of radioactive waste disposal."

The nuclear reactor was constructed in the late 1950s, with the first reactor start-up in 1961. From 1984 until March 1994, the facility was operated and managed as the Buffalo Materials Research Center under a contractual agreement with Buffalo Materials Research, Inc., a private, for-profit corporation. UB resumed direct operation of the facility in March.

During the past 10 years, the reactor has been operated on a three-shift schedule. Its uses have included measuring radiation-damage effects in pressure vessel and piping steels, and in devices utilized in nuclear-power-plant environments. It also has been used to produce short-lived radioisotopes for medical research.

The decommissioning of the reactor will involve several steps.

UB will file an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to convert the facility to a "possession only" license. Under the license, the university will be allowed to possess, but not operate, the reactor. The reactor facility will still be staffed to monitor and maintain safety systems and essential equipment.

The university also will submit a detailed decommissioning plan that must be approved by the NRC. Once decommissioning begins, it will take two to three years to complete.

In any case, the reactor cannot be fully decommissioned until a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility opens in New York State.

Fuel used in the reactor is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and will be returned to it for disposal.