Office of Legacy Management

Hurricane Updates

September 21, 2017

You are here

Hurricane Irma

BONUS Decommissioned Reactor Facility in Puerto Rico Not Significantly Affected by Hurricane Irma

The decommissioned Boiling Nuclear Superheater (BONUS) reactor, located northwest of Rincón, Puerto Rico, was not significantly impacted by the winds and storm surge from Hurricane Irma.

A small-scale nuclear reactor facility operated at the BONUS site in the 1960s and is now an historical museum open to the public.

During the 1969 decommissioning, all special nuclear materials and certain contaminated components were removed and transported to the mainland. In addition, external systems were decontaminated, piping systems were flushed, and the reactor vessel and associated internal components were entombed in concrete and grout.

The reactor facility, which houses the entombed reactor system and the historical exhibits, was designed to withstand wind velocities up to 150 mph (equal to a Category 4 hurricane). The wind velocity of Hurricane Irma did not reach high enough levels in Rincón to compromise the integrity of the structure. In addition, the earthen embankment around the enclosed domed building makes the effective ground level approximately 40 feet above sea level. Therefore, there were no effects from the 10–15 foot storm surge that hit Puerto Rico.

For further information on the BONUS Site, please visit the DOE Office of Legacy Management website at https://www.lm.doe.gov/bonus/Sites.aspx.

No Significant Effects from Hurricane Irma at the Pinellas Site

Hurricane Irma did not significantly impact remediation efforts at the Pinellas County, Florida, Site in Largo. 

The former Pinellas Plant, now known as the Young - Rainey STAR Center, developed and manufactured components for the nation’s nuclear weapons program for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor agencies from 1957 until it ceased operations in 1994. The facility was transferred to the Pinellas County government in 1999. As a result of historical waste disposal practices during DOE operations, groundwater was contaminated with hazardous chemicals.

Since the mid-1980s, DOE has remediated groundwater contamination using soil excavation to remove the sources, groundwater extraction and treatment, thermal treatment, and enhanced bio-remediation. Bio-remediation helps naturally occurring subsurface microorganisms break down organic contaminants into non-toxic compounds.  Currently, DOE is treating contaminated groundwater plumes in two areas using this type of in-situ treatment.

The Florida Governor directed the closure of all public schools, state colleges, state universities, and state offices from Friday, September 8, through Monday, September 11. As a precaution, Pinellas County closed all county offices Friday, including the STAR Center. The LM office in the STAR Center remained closed on Tuesday, September 12, due to loss of electricity. The LM office re-opened on Wednesday, September 13.

For more information on the Pinellas, Florida, site, please visit the DOE Office of Legacy Management website at https://www.lm.doe.gov/pinellas/Sites.aspx.