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<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

Source: Enviroreporter

EPA Santa Susana Rocketdyne Site Background and History

Source: EPA

In July 2010, EPA started scanning soil in Area IV for gamma radiation. In September, we will complete our first round of groundwater testing. In October, we are scheduled to commence soil testing. Please come and observe our work at the site. See attached flyer for more information.

Background. The Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) is a 2,850 acre site located in Ventura County, California, approximately 2 miles south of the City of Simi Valley and 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The site is divided into four areas which are under different ownership. Boeing owns Areas I, III and IV. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) owns and administers Area II and owns 42 acres of Area I. Since 1948, the principal activities in Areas I, II, and III of the SSFL have been large rocket engine research, assembly, and testing by Rocketdyne and NASA. From 1956 to 1988, the Energy Technology and Engineering Center (ETEC), which is located in Area IV was used by Rocketdyne and the Department of Energy (DOE) for nuclear energy research and development. All these past site operations have resulted in soil and groundwater contamination. Primary chemical contaminants include a variety of radionuclides, trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), metals, and petroleum hydrocarbons.

Site Cleanup Status. Cleanup actions of chemical contamination are being conducted by DOE, Boeing and NASA under the direction and oversight of the State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). DTSC is using the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as its regulatory authority. The extent of chemical contamination has not been fully characterized, but it is estimated that more than 500,000 gallons of TCE is beneath the Site. Radionuclides associated with ETEC nuclear operations include tritium, plutonium-238, plutonium-239, iodine-131, strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, thorium-228, and uranium-235. Decommission and demolition of ETEC buildings has been conducted by DOE pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act. In accordance with a court order in 2007, DOE stopped its cleanup work in Area IV and is now working on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

EPA’s Role. The 2008 Federal Appropriations Law (HR2764) directed DOE to use a portion of DOE funding for the SSFL site to enter into an interagency agreement with the EPA to conduct a joint comprehensive radioactive site characterization of Area IV of the SSFL in accordance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). This has resulted in EPA taking on the following two studies at SSFL:

1. Radiological Background Study. In July 2008, an Inter-Agency Agreement was signed whereby DOE gave EPA $1.5 million to commence a radiological background study for the SSFL site. The purpose of the background study is to determine "ambient or background" levels radiation found in soils not affected by the SSFL site operations. EPA has made significant progress this project and our background study report is scheduled to be completed in summer of 2010.

2. Radiological Study at SSFL Area IV. In June 2009, EPA and DOE amended the Inter-Agency Agreement to provide EPA an additional $40M to fully fund a radiological study of Area IV and the adjacent northern buffer zone. The majority of the funds ($38.3M) originate from funding allocated to DOE under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A map indicating the boundaries of EPA radiological study is provided in a PDF file attached at the top of this website page. EPA's Area IV radiological study consists of the following projects:

Historical Site Assessment. This project consists of EPA's independent review of documents concerning past radiological operations and past spills and releases of radiological materials at SSFL. The goal of this project to is identify the full and complete universe of potential radiological contaminants and locations of where radiological contaminants remaining in Area IV and the northern buffer zone may be located.

Gamma Radiation Scan. This project consists of scanning the accessible areas of the Area IV and the northern buffer zone to identify locations of elevated gamma radiation. A gamma scanning vehicle will be specially designed by EPA and constructed for this project. Any gamma radiation "hot spots" identified by the gamma scan vehicle and other scanning equipment will then be sampled by EPA for full range of potential radiological contaminants.

Testing of Soil, Groundwater and Surface Water. Based on information collected during the Historical Site Assessment and Gamma Scanning, this project consists of testing the soil, groundwater and surface water (i.e. seep water) for a broad range of potential radiological contaminants.

EPA's final data report for the Area IV radiological study is scheduled to be issued in September 2011.

National Priorities List and the SSFL site. SSFL is not on EPA’s National Priority List (NPL) and therefore it is not considered a federal "Superfund site". In November 2007, EPA issued a CERCLA Preliminary Assessment/Site Investigation (PA/SI) report. This report along with other information indicated that SSFL may be eligible for placement on the NPL. In December 2007, EPA sent a letter to the State of California requesting its position in this matter and in January 2009 the State decided to not support to listing SSFL on the NPL. Therefore, the California DTSC will continue in its role as lead regulatory agency at the SSFL site. As lead regulator, DTSC's role includes oversight and approval of risk assessment, clean-up levels, and clean-up actions at the SSFL site. EPA's role shall be limited to providing technical assistance via conducting the two radiological studies (the Background Study and the Area IV Study) described above.

<-- LA Rocketdyne Nuclear Meltdown

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Michael R. Meuser
Data Research & GIS Specialist is an independent firm specializing in GIS project development and data research. We created the first U.S. based interactive toxic chemical facility maps on the internet in 1996 and we have been online ever since. Learn more about us and our services.

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