GALVESTON — A deactivated U.S. Army barge with a nuclear reactor onboard will be hauled into the Port of Galveston where it will be decontaminated and decommissioned.

The MH-1A Sturgis barge will arrive in September from the James River National Defense Reserve Fleet base near Fort Eustis, Va. Crews will remove residual waste from the reactor before moving the barge to Brownsville, where it will be broken up for scrap.

Unlike the U.S. Navy, which uses nuclear reactors aboard ships for propulsion, the Army’s MH-1A Sturgis had to be towed and operated in the Panama Canal as a way to generate power for military and civilian use.

After its last operation in 1976, the Army removed the nuclear fuel from the reactor and returned the radioactive materials to the U.S. Department of Energy, leaving only traces of residual waste.

Hans Honerlah, Baltimore District program manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said there were three other potential places for dismantling the barge, but Galveston was chosen because of its proximity to neighboring facilities.

“The Galveston rationale was the proximity from Andrews County and Brownsville,” Honerlah said. “There’s a licensed disposal waste facility in Andrews County.”

Once it is extracted, the residual waste will be sent to the Waste Control Specialists facility in West Texas.

Andrea Takash, Baltimore District public affairs specialist for the corps, said there was no danger of radioactive material causing harm to residents or the environment.

“No need for the public to be concerned or worried about any of this,” said Takash. “We will follow all federal laws and regulations for the disposal of the material.”

Takash said more information would be available to the public in coming months.

“We are going to have a meeting sometime this summer to go into details on how the process is going to happen,” Takash said.

Galveston port officials said they were not aware of the plans for the barge.

The Baltimore District awarded a $34.66 million contract with the CB&I Federal Services LLC to dismantle and dispose of the nuclear reactor.

(9) comments

JD Arnold

Come on GDN which facility or shipyard is it going to?

Matt Coulson

Yes, not exactly full of info this article. Just rewrite the release that the military wants people to know. Maybe the radiation will help break up the bunker oil spill or neutralize any escaped virus from the research facility.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Totally unacceptable reporting of what is likely to be a very significant story.

The two previous posters have it very correct: the single most important details are WHERE will it be docked? Followed by WHO will do the work.

Isidro Reyna

Good afternoon,

I am the chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District awarded a $34,663,325.34 contract to CB&I Federal Services LLC for the decommissioning, dismantling and disposal of the MH-1A nuclear reactor, which is installed on the STURGIS barge. The STURGIS will be relocated in September 2014 to Galveston, Texas, for decommissioning.

The USACE Galveston District Public Affairs Office posted a news release yesterday announcing the contract and contacted local news agencies. We are currently working to identify all parties who will have an interest in this project to include local government, businesses, environmental organizations and non-profit groups among others.

The USACE Baltimore District is the lead agency on this project, however, our office will work with local parties to provide up-to-date information and help field any questions you may have. The Baltimore District also established a web page to post information about the project

I understand this project will generate interest at local, state and national levels and want to ensure you that we will work diligently to answer any questions you have in a timely and transparent manner.

Please let me know if you have any questions. You can reach me at


Sandra Arnold, APR+M
Chief, Public Affairs
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Galveston District

Matt Coulson

Sandra, we appreciate your willingness to fill us in on the details you have, I'm afraid you have stumbled into a family argument about the local news coverage and the lazy, route fashion they use to report important items. I'm sure government regulations that cause cleaning up a barge that has all radioactive material already removed to cost $35 million dollars will be sufficiently stringent to keep us all safe. Micheal, remember you are our watch dog on all things shipping.

Miceal O'Laochdha

Hey Sandy,

That is clearly the same, vague but accurate, say nothing of substance, no-risk press release upon which the reporter based his pathetic, superficial, non-story.

It is news to me if CB&I Federal Services LLC is a local facility. If I am correct and they are not local, then the vessel is coming to Galveston in one of two scenarios:

Either this federal camp-follower that you were required by the FAR's to identify publically has sub-contracted a portion of their $35M windfall to a local ship repair facility, or else they plan to simply put this vessel at the Galveston Wharves for the published tariff and use "others from elsewhere" to do all the work to make this vessel environmentally acceptable to the good folks of Brownsville, who have such a low environmental threshold of acceptability they are happy to have two major ship scrapping Yards in their port..

In the first case, there is at least the possibility of something positive on the risk-to-benefit scale to the Galveston community. In the second case, there is none.

Just answer the 2 questions I asked: Where is it going (which berth in the port city named Galveston)?

And who will do the environmentally risky work?

Isidro Reyna

Good afternoon,

The contract was awarded to a Houston-based company.

1. Where is it going (which berth in the port city named Galveston)?
A. I do not have this information yet, but will contact the USACE Baltimore District Monday for an answer. The Baltimore District awarded this contract. I am requesting the contract information be sent to us.

2. Who will do the environmentally risky work?
A. I will ask the contractor if this portion is being subcontracted (and to who) and should have an answer Monday.

I will work to put together a fact sheet of this project for public dissemination.

Please continue to send me your questions. I will work promptly to have them answered.


Isidro Reyna

Answers to inquiry:

1. On March 27, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded the $34.66 million MH-1A STURGIS decommissioning contract to CB&I, a Houston based company. The Corps is working closely with CB&I to plan all of the details of decommissioning, dismantling and disposal. The details associated with subcontractors are being finalized and the Corps will provide the name of the shipyard at the Port of Galveston, along with other project information as it becomes available. Updated information will be provided on the Army Corps of Engineers' website: The website currently includes a fact sheet, historical information, and historical videos on the construction and testing of the STURGIS.

2. Who will do the environmentally risky work?
CB&I, based in Houston, is the prime contractor. They have a team of highly trained and experienced professionals who will manage the project. It is important to note that the reactor was de-fueled, decontaminated and sealed before being towed to the James River Reserve Fleet at Joint Base Langley Eustis, Va.; where it has been being stored and maintained since 1977.

JD Arnold

Thanks Ms Arnold for the updates.

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