Final Work Underway on UI Reactor Building
The final elements of an old atomic reactor on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus should be removed by next spring.
The decommission process is expected to start in the next few days. U of I Head of Nuclear Plasma and Radiological Engineering, James Stubbins, says the facility housed next to the Engineering Science Building was used a lot for research and training from 1960 through 1998.
That year, he says U of I administrators chose not to renew the license for financial reasons. Stubbins says it's a decision the university should regret.
"I think in terms of the campus, it's a real loss in terms of those kinds of capabilities," he said. "The argument was about budget, but (compared to) the actual cost of running the reactor, actually this is is much more expensive than what it would have cost to continue to run the reactor."
Stubbins says the facility was less of a threat over the last several years, particularly after the fuel was removed from the reactor in 2004. He says cleaning what remains won't require workers to be greatly protected.
"What we expect is even the dust levels inside won't be enough for people to have to wear respirators," said Stubbins. "We expect a normal kind of building tearing down working environment. But because we're using saws to go through the concrete, we don't even expect so much dust to be pushed up into the air."
He says any areas with residual radioactivity should be removed first, followed by a concrete block that served as a biological shield, surrounding the reactor's core. Stubbins says any staff near the site at Springfield and Goodwin Avenues shouldn't be impacted.
The final work should be completed in May.