PIQUA — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will be renovating Piqua’s former nuclear power plant.
“We’ve been working with the Department of Energy over the past few years to renovate and improve the existing nuclear power plant,” City Manager Gary Huff said. “They have informed us that they will be coming in to do a $4 million renovation on that facility, which is good news.”
The DOE owns the site and has a long-term lease with the city of Piqua at no cost to the city. The city has been using this site for storage.
“A lot of it is probably going to be asbestos removal and repairs,” Huff said about the renovations.
The plant, which contained a 45.5-megawatt organically cooled and moderated nuclear reactor, opened in 1963. It was the first of its kind and was a demonstration project completed by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the predecessor agency to the DOE. According to the DOE, “The prototype used a commercially available mixture of aromatic hydrocarbons called terphenyls to cool the reactor.”
The cost of building the site was approximately $8 million. The AEC funded the majority of the project, including the construction of the nuclear reactor. A Piqua Daily Call article from 1963 referenced a small fire occurring at the site during its construction, as well as financial issues, suggesting the the project had exceeded its budget.
In that same article, an AEC official named Dr. Pittman was quoted as saying, “We never said it would be economical, but we feel that reactors are important to the over-all atomic energy program, principally for testing. We need authority to move forward with these projects even though they have over-run the cost.”
The plant was decommissioned a short time later in 1966 due to technical problems with the control rods and cooling surfaces. After operations ceased, the reactor vessel was entombed in concrete and the buildings at the plant were decontaminated.
According to the DOE, they perform site inspections and radiological surveys annually. Ownership of the site is expected to transfer to the city of Piqua when radioactivity in the reactor complex has reduced to levels that allow the facility to be released for unrestricted use. The AEC estimated in 1968 that radioactivity would decay to levels low enough to remove safety constraints by the year 2106.
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