University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) and U.S. Congressman Steve Womack (R-Rogers) on Wednesday (April 4) jointly announced an additional $10 million in funding to dismantle the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR) in southern Washington County.
SEFOR was decommissioned as a 20-megawat sodium-cooled nuclear test reactor in 1974, when its nuclear fuel and coolant were removed. The UA has been caretaker of the facility since 1975.
“The funding we have received for fully decommissioning this project would have neither been possible nor happened without the efforts and hard work by Rep. Steve Womack, Sen. John Boozman, and their collective staff members,” Chancellor Steinmetz said in the statement. “Finalizing this project was a long time coming, and I can think of no better example of public servants who put the needs and safety of their constituents at a higher priority than Rep. Womack and Sen. Boozman — a decades-old problem will now be eliminated and that will benefit the University and the State of Arkansas for generations to come.”
Dismantlement of the facility has been more than four decades in the making, with funding coming through with the help of two senior members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation.
In previous fiscal years, the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the UA $10.5 million to begin the dismantling of SEFOR, and the first phase of the cleanup was completed in September 2017.
“Completing the cleanup of SEFOR has been a longtime priority for the University of Arkansas, and I’ve worked to support this goal,” Sen. Boozman said. “As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have long advocated for federal funding to decommission SEFOR in a safe and responsible manner. I’m pleased to have helped secure the resources needed to finish the cleanup.”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, which passed on March 23, provided final funding to complete the effort to decommission and dismantle SEFOR.
“Decommissioning and dismantling SEFOR has been a top priority for the University of Arkansas and Northwest Arkansas communities,” Rep. Womack said in the statement. “I am pleased DOE has committed the resources sufficient to accelerate completion of this long overdue project. I will continue to monitor the diligent SEFOR cleanup efforts and look forward to witnessing the fruits of our labors at its resolution.”
Energy Solutions, the contractor handling the SEFOR project, is expected to resume work dismantling and removing the remains of the reactor later this month. MIke Johnson, associate vice chancellor for facilities at the UA, said cleanup should be finished by early 2019. The site will be returned to “green field” condition.