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.