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Lessons Learned at the Rocky Flats Closure Project and Their Applicability to the Emerging Cleanup of the United Kingdom’s Civil Nuclear Liabilities

[+] Author Affiliations
Nany Tuor, Allen Schubert

Kaiser-Hill Company, LLC

Paper No. ICEM2003-4784, pp. 743-748; 6 pages
  • ASME 2003 9th International Conference on Radioactive Waste Management and Environmental Remediation
  • 9th ASME International Conference on Radioactive Waste Management and Environmental Remediation: Volumes 1, 2, and 3
  • Oxford, England, September 21–25, 2003
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division and Environmental Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-3732-7 | eISBN: 0-7918-3731-9
  • Copyright © 2003 by ASME


The Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site is a former nuclear weapons production facility owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Located in central Colorado near Denver, the facility produced nuclear and non-nuclear components for weapons from 1953 to 1989. During this period, Rocky Flats grew to more than 800 facilities and structures situated on 2,500 hectares. Production activities and processes contaminated a number of facilities, soil, groundwater and surface water with radioactive and hazardous materials. In 1989, almost all radioactive weapons component production activities at Rocky Flats were suspended due to safety and environmental concerns related to operations, and the site was placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priorities List (also known as the Superfund list). In 1992, the nuclear weapons production role at Rocky Flats officially ended and the mission changed from weapons production to one of risk reduction. In 1995, Kaiser-Hill, LLC (Kaiser-Hill) was awarded a five-year contract to reduce the urgent health and safety risks at the site, as well as begin the cleanup. At that time, the U.S. government estimated that it would cost more than $36 billion and take more than 70 years to cleanup and close Rocky Flats. Beginning in the summer of 1995, Kaiser-Hill developed a series of strategic planning models which demonstrated that accelerated cleanup of the site could be achieved while dramatically reducing cleanup costs. Within a few years, Kaiser-Hill developed a cleanup plan or lifecycle baseline that described how cleanup could be accomplished by 2010 for about $7.3 billion. Additionally, between 1995 and 2000, Kaiser-Hill made significant progress toward stabilizing special nuclear materials, cleaning up environmental contamination, demolishing buildings and shipping radioactive and hazardous waste for disposal. This initial contract was completed for approximately $2.8 billion. In January 2000, based its record of successes, Kaiser-Hill was awarded DOE’s first “closure contract” to close the site no later than December 2006, at a target cost of $3.96 billion. To date, some of the key enablers of the accelerated closure project concept and successful closure project execution include: • Shared vision of the end state; • Flexible, consultative regulatory agreement; • Credible project plan and robust project management systems; • Closure contract; • Empowered and motivated workforce; • Commitment to safety; • Closure-enhancing technologies. The scope of the closure project encompasses the following key completion metrics: • Disposition of 21 metric tons of weapons-grade nuclear materials; • Treatment of more than 100 metric tons of high-content plutonium wastes called residues; • Processing of 30,000 liters of plutonium and enriched uranium solutions; • Demolition of more than 800 facilities and structures totaling more that 325,000 square meters — many of which are contaminated with radioactive and/or hazardous materials; • Offsite shipment of more than 250,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste; • Disposition of approximately 370 environmental sites.

Copyright © 2003 by ASME



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