Nuclear Waste Removed from Power Barge in Galveston

The first load of radioactive waste has been removed from a World War II-era Liberty ship converted to a barge-mounted nuclear reactor that was towed to a Galveston shipyard for scrapping, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

The waste from the former USS Sturgis was packaged for removal in special polypropylene bulk bags on Oct. 21, the Galveston County Daily News reported. The waste material was loaded onto flatbed trucks and driven to a disposal facility.

Details of the waste removal were provided by a periodic update from the Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the project.

"At this time, all waste shipments have been received by the disposal facility without incident," Brenda Barber, the corps project manager, wrote in the update.

Crews were expected to continue removing material over the next few weeks.

The waste removal is part of a nearly $35 million project involving the decommissioned floating power plant, which was brought from Virginia.

The Sturgis was outfitted with a nuclear reactor to generate electric power for military and civilian operations in the Panama Canal Zone in the 1960s. The reactor was shut down in 1976, the fuel was removed and it was mothballed in 1978.

The remaining materials on board contain low levels of radioactivity, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. After the materials are removed, the ship will be transported to Brownsville for final dismantling.

In the months leading up to the ship's arrival, the Sturgis drew objections from some Galveston residents and property owners concerned about the safety of the radioactive materials.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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