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KAPL cleanup to resume

Previous leaks have public worried about moving forward

There isn't the chance for a nuclear meltdown in Niskayuna, but community members are concerned about radiation leaks as work continues at Knolls Atomic Power Labs.

The U.S. Department of Energy, URS Corporation and CH2M Hill discussed plans to continue cleanup of the KAPL site of radioactive material on Thursday, March 17, at Niskayuna Town Hall, while addressing the leak last year that affected nearby land and the Mohawk River. Many in attendance were wary about moving forward with the removal of materials on the site, despite project officials' efforts to quell concerns.

The water discharge that went to the Mohawk River also had a small amount of radioactivity. For perspective, the amount of radioactivity in that water was equal to about two household smoke detectors, said Steven Feinberg, project director for the DOE. "After those events, a couple items were done [URS] stabilized the immediate work area, URS issued a corrective action plan to prevent reoccurrence and DOE initiated an accident investigation."

Cheryl Cabbil, senior vice president for URS, said the plan for demolition was to remove the external site facilities, which didn't have radioactive material, but the demolition crew went beyond the planned work and removed three process vessels. Cabbil stressed this wasn't the planned work, but after demolition crews removed the vessels, the crew began to cut up one of the vessels.

"Our design was to remove those intact and dispose of them in a very disciplined manner," said Cabbil. "As our personnel were exiting the work area around noon time [they] discovered contamination on shoes of four workers as they were exiting the area. We did a thorough survey of those individuals and other individuals working in the area and found no further clothing or skin contamination."

After contamination was found off site, Feinberg acknowledged information on the spill took too long to get to the surrounding municipalities, and he said the reporting process has been corrected. Media reports originally informed residents and officials about the spill before they were notified officially.

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