The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has awarded a $67.98 million contract for the decommissioning, dismantling and disposal of the deactivated SM-1 nuclear power plant on Fort Belvoir. The SM-1 is the Army’s first nuclear reactor and first facility in America to provide nuclear-generated power for a sustained period to the commercial grid.

“The Army Corps has worked diligently to award the contract for this very complex and challenging project,” said Col. John Litz, Baltimore District commander. “Our radiological experts have safely executed projects like this in the past, and our team of trained professionals will use proven techniques, precautions and engineering controls to prioritize and ensure the continued safety of our workers, installation community and public.”

From 1957 until it was shut down in 1973, nuclear technicians from all branches of the military trained at the SM-1 facility. SM-1 was partially decommissioned from 1973 into 1974, which consisted of the removal of most of the site’s radioactivity. This included removing nuclear fuel and control rods; minor decontamination; shipping radioactive waste; sealing the reactor pressure vessel; and installing appropriate warning signs and monitoring devices.

The majority of SM-1’s remaining low-level radioactivity is within activated metals and components of the reactor system, which are all secured within the walls of the facility’s containment vessel. During decommissioning, work will be completed within containment, and all material will be properly packaged before leaving the site. The property will be restored for future use by the installation.

Crews are expected to begin mobilizing early next year and the work is anticipated to take about five years to complete.

More information about the deactivated SM-1 Nuclear Power Plant is available online at nab.usace.army.mil/SM-1.

Editor’s Note: To read other stories about the SM-1 Decommissioning Project at Fort Belvoir, go to belvoireagleonline.com and search “SM-1.”