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USACE Completes Nuclear Decommissioning of STURGIS Ship

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completely decommissioned the nuclear reactor aboard the MH-1A Sturgis ship.

USACE’s Baltimore-based Radiological Center of Expertise conducted the decommissioning together with Galveston District personnel over the last three years in an effort to remove and dispose of the reactor, USACE said Friday.

The team took out over 1.5 million pounds of radioactive material and recycled over 600,000 pounds of lead.

“We were committed to ensuring the safety of the public and our crews and I’m proud to say we completed our decommissioning work with no evidence of radioactive material, lead or increased radiation exposure from the Sturgis being documented outside of the reactor containment area at any point during the project,” said Brenda Barber project manager at USACE’s Baltimore district.

Among the decommissioning’s challenges was the removal of the reactor pressure vessel that stores fuel and serves as Sturgis’ main source of radioactivity.

“Its removal was a significant milestone for the decommissioning effort and meant we had successfully and safely removed the vast majority of the radioactivity from the Sturgis,” Barber said regarding the RPV.

With the RPV taken out, only two percent of radioactivity remained in the ship’s primary shield tank and reactor containment vessel.

The team finished decommissioning the remaining radioactive components in March and proceeded to complete radiological surveys needed to confirm that Sturgis is free from radioactivity.

Named after U.S. Army Gen. Samuel Sturgis, the ship was the service branch’s sole floating nuclear vessel.