Published in The Herald of Wall Township on April 23, 1998
By SHANNON KELLY
WALL STAFF WRITER
WALL – Sitting at the bottom of a 20 foot pool of water, a radioactive source slowly loses its hazardous aspects and soon the Army will make it disappear altogether.
As part of the base realignment and closure procedure for Camp Evans, a part of Fort Monmouth, the Army will be giving away most of the land and facilities to Wall Township. Before transferring it to the Township, the Army is testing the land, buildings and equipment at the research facility and removing all radioactive material. The Township has decided to use the site for passive recreation and a historical park which will include a learning center.
Monday, workers from IceSolv Inc, Hershey, Pa., worked on the removal of radioactive cobalt-60 that has been in the containment pool for over 20 years.
David Craig, program manager, is in charge of the site’s clean up and the transporting of the cobalt out of Camp Evans to its burial site in Barnwell, S.C.
According to Craig, cobalt-60, a radioactive isotope, has a half-life of 5.72 years. This means that about every five and a half years its radioactive properties decay by half. Twenty years ago when the Army acquired the cobalt its radioactivity was measured at 100,000 Curies, which Craig called “very large, very hazardous source.” It has now dropped to 3,400 Curies, lie said, still classifying it as a highly radioactive source.
While the substance was at Camp Evans, Army officials said that the cobalt once glowed so strongly scientists had to wear sunglasses inside the room. Now the cobalt must be illuminated with artificial light.
With the protection of the twenty feet of water, workers at the research facility are shielded from the powerful effects of the cobalt. They work in street clothes rather than protective attire.
Before photographers were allowed in the pool room they were given a device called a dosimeter. To show the sensitivity of the instrument Craig said that if it were left outside in a natural environment for three days, the dosimeter would register radioactivity just from naturally occurring radioactive elements.
When photographers put the instruments up to their cameras they found that there was more radiation being emitted from the cameras than from the containment pool.
At the bottom of the pool are steel cylinders that look like test tubes. Each contains a small amount of cobalt. Researchers at the lab used the cobalt to test the effects of radiation on equipment. To expose it, equipment was lowered into the pool, Craig said. To transport the cobalt a 12 inch shield of lead and steel will be placed around it before it is lifted out of the water. After testing form leaks it will be placed in another, said Craig.
After the cobalt is removed, the water will be drained, cleaned and tested in 500 gallon samples before it is released into the sewer system. The water will pass through a matrix filter and a mixed resin bed to remove any contaminants, he said.
Once the facility is cleaned and inspected by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission it will be cleared for transfer to Brookdale Community College which is seeking to acquire 60 acres for a satellite campus.
According to Base Transition Coordinator Mike Ruane, Brookdale plans on demolishing the concrete building.
According to Fort Monmouth spokesman Henry Kearney, a 100 acre section of the site slated to be a picnic area and camp ground is ready for transfer to the Township, but is being held up by the State Historical Preservation Office. SHPO is arguing that more archaeological surveys of the area are needed, he said. The Army disagrees and estimates the cost additional surveys at $500,000.
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