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UA official says lack of funds to halt cleanup at nuke site

by Jaime Adame | March 16, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Every three months since December 2016, project leaders have met with residents to provide an update on the cleanup of a former nuclear test reactor site in rural Washington County.

But at the latest meeting Thursday, about a dozen people in attendance at the Strickler Volunteer Fire Department heard that a lack of federal funding will mean a halt to cleanup of the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor, commonly known as SEFOR.

The reactor, which ceased operations in the early 1970s, has been owned by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville since 1975.

"I hope we'll be asking you to come back again sooner rather than later," Mike Johnson, UA's associate vice chancellor for facilities, said, expressing optimism that the project will be completed. Thousands of pounds of low-level radioactive waste has been trucked away, but the radioactive reactor core remains at the site.

He said a request for $8 million in federal dollars could still come through soon to pay for completion of the $24 million project. He said a congressional continuing resolution will end soon and the shape of future federal funding bills is being hammered out.

"I am still optimistic in the next seven or eight days that we might be able to receive that $8 million," Johnson said.

Work is funded through the end of this month, with an alternative plan for after that involving UA and nuclear services contractor Energy Solutions keeping a minimal presence at the site over the next year.

Johnson said that under this plan, after April 1 work could be restarted in 45 days should funding come though at a later date.

Verneal Prater, who lives just a couple of miles from the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor site, said she's been pleased with the work done so far.

"I don't think it's a danger. I think they've handled it well enough that there's not a danger to the people that live here," Prater said.

Metro on 03/16/2018

Print Headline: UA official says lack of funds to halt cleanup at nuke site

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