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NISKAYUNA: KAPL cleanup faces delay

More than eight months after holding a widely attended public session, federal officials still haven't decided how extensive the cleanup of radioactive buildings on the campus of the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) will be.

In a public meeting earlier this month, staff from the Department of Energy were met with skepticism by many in a crowd of more than 50 people when they said no decision will be made on the fate of the facility's Separation Processing Unit (SPRU) until the federal government comes up with a plan for cleaning toxic chemicals out of the site's sprawling landfill.

The delay marks a change in course from what federal officials said when they solicited input in the spring on three options for either containing or eliminating a string of radioactive buildings still standing at the research facility. The price tag for that cleanup could range anywhere from $60 million to $160 million depending on which option is chosen.

Steven Feinberg, a project engineer with the Department of Energy, said delaying could prove helpful by allowing better coordination of overall cleanup efforts at KAPL.

He also noted that, there is money for planning purposes, but funding has not yet been secured to pay for actual cleanup costs. That won't come until departmental staff makes their recommendations.

The delay could put a crimp in the department's ability to remove the radioactive buildings that used to house the SPRU, a facility used decades ago for work on nuclear weapons. In the spring, the Niskayuna town board unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by Councilman Bill Chapman that called on the federal government to complete the cleanup of radioactive material, a move that would cost an estimated $160 million.

On Jan. 18, Chapman spoke up at the latest meeting about the KAPL cleanup and backed a $57 million clean-up of toxic materials from the landfill.

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