Alaska’s lone nuclear power plant to be decommissioned

Though the small nuclear reactor at the SM-1A plant in Fort Greely, Alaska last generated power in 1972, it is only now becoming decommissioned.

Planning, contracting and execution is expecting to take 10 years, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. A contract is expected to be awarded by 2022.

The Army began SM-1A in 1962 as one of eight experimental projects to test the use of smaller nuclear reactors in remote areas. It was shut down in 1972 as it was more expensive to operate than a diesel plant. In fact, SM-1A continues to use the steam plant today with diesel power.

The Army Corps of Engineers mothballed the nuclear reactor at SM-1A in hopes the radioactive materials would quickly decay and become nonradioactive, though studies indicated the radioactive materials weren’t decaying as quickly as anticipated.

When mothballed, the fuel and waste was shipped out of Alaska, while the radioactive components of the reactor were encased in cement.

Other experimental nuclear plants developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, including some at Fort Belvoir, Virginia and aboard the Sturgis, a former World War II Liberty ship used as a floating nuclear power plant in the 60s and 70s, are also set for decommissioning.