May 20, 2020 / 9:52 PM / 11 days ago

U.S. government to demolish buildings at contaminated California nuclear test site

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Trump administration said on Wednesday it would tear down 10 buildings at the U.S. government’s former Santa Susana Field Laboratory northwest of Los Angeles that was left contaminated by decades of nuclear, rocket fuel and liquid metal testing.

The buildings set for demolition were part of a radioactive materials handling facility at the more than 2,800-acre Santa Susana site in the Ventura County foothills, which opened in the late 1940s ordered cleaned up under a court-ordered 2010 consent decree.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of Energy is committed to making real and significant progress to meaningfully address the environmental legacy challenges from decades of Cold War era government research,” U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement.

State officials said the destruction and safe removal of the 10 deteriorating structures was sought in light of risks posed to the site from California’s seasonal wildfires, which could pose the risk of further contamination both on and off the Santa Susana site.

“The surrounding communities have waited a long time for decisive action at the Santa Susana Field Lab and today’s Order represents a new and important chapter towards the full cleanup,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

The Santa Susana site, which is owned by Boeing, Rocketdyne and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has been the subject of environmental concerns, protests and lawsuits since the early 1990s and ceased all operations in 2006.

A total of 10 nuclear reactors operated on the site during the years it was active, including an experimental sodium-cooled unit that experienced a core meltdown in the 1960s.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control is now overseeing cleanup of the Santa Susana site, which formerly consisted of four separate research areas surrounded by buffer zones.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Grant McCool

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