Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content


Fort Greely SM-1A Nuclear Reactor


The Fort Greely Military Reservation, established in 1942 near Fort Greely, Alaska, is a government owned military site covering approximately 640,000 acres (1000 square miles). Of this area, about 1,785 acres are considered the purview of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program subject to transfer or lease to private or commercial non-governmental use. The remainder of the site will remain under control of the United States Army [1]. The reservation is about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks and with the town of Delta Junction, Fort Greely serves as the area’s major population center. The 1990 census listed Delta Junction with a population of 652 [1].

In 1962, the United States Army constructed and began operating a nuclear reactor at Fort Greely, Alaska. This reactor, called the SM-1A, operated for 10 years producing electricity and power for the area. In 1972, the reactor was decontaminated and decommissioned (D&D) [2]. The D&D involved the removal and the shipment of the nuclear fuel to a location outside the state of Alaska (destination not listed) [2]. Additional activities associated with the D&D including dismantling of the reactor components, some of which were shipped off site and others entombed in place and covered with reinforced concrete caps (covers). Liquid wastes generated during these procedures were concentrated using a steam generator to reduce volume.

Prior to D&D activities and during the power production phase, liquid wastes from the SM-1A reactor were disposed of in one of two methods [3]. From 1962 to 1968, the liquid wastes were held within the reactor complex and then diluted to ensure the radiologic components were below the release criteria established by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The procedure involved mixing the radioactive liquid wastes with groundwater then pumping the water into Jarvis Creek which ultimately flows into the Delta River. Therefore, all radiological components in the liquid wastes would enter the creek and river. The second method covering 1968 until 1972 which also included the D&D activities, involved a steam generation system to boil the radioactive liquid wastes thereby reducing the volume and also producing a condensate containing tritium. The reduced volume, containing those radiological components not evaporated and collected by the condensate, was shipped off-site for disposal. The tritium-containing condensate produced in the steam process was diluted and pumped into a recharge well and apparently entered the underlying aquifer [3]. The estimated amount of tritium disposed in this manner was 30 curies (1.1 billion becquerels, Bq). The fort has a drinking water well about 900 feet upgradient from the recharge well [4].

To oversee the transfer of BRAC properties, the military established a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) consisting of government and resident representatives in the area. The RAB has expressed concern regarding the disposal of the liquid radioactive wastes into the aquifer to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result, the EPA requested the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Region X office to evaluate the potential radiologic hazards as they currently exist in and around the Fort Greely and Delta Junction areas.

Table of Contents   Next Section The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341
Contact CDC: 800-232-4636 / TTY: 888-232-6348

A-Z Index

  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #