Lab Plan Describes Bevatron Demolition

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 25, 2009 - 07:40:00 PM

The Bevatron, at least large parts of it, will be reincarnated, in concrete form—its concrete ground back to powder and used for new construction. 

Paul Preuss, spokesperson for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the lab will begin moving concrete blocks from the structure in early July. 

While most of the concrete will be recycled, any material containing “induced radioactivity” will be sent to the Nevada Test Site, Preuss said. 

Previously nonradioactive materials can be irradiated by charged particles, such as those generated during the building’s 40-year history of high energy particle research. 

Also included in the debris requiring special handling are depleted uranium blocks. 

Preuss said $14.4 million of the estimated $50 million in demolition costs will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. 

“Most of the debris is the same sort of material you’ll find in any building of that age,” Preuss said. 

But some resulted from the unique work done in the building. 

The demolition contract was signed in Jan. 7, 2008, and work has been under way at the site, including removal of other hazardous materials including asbestos, lead, beryllium, chromium, mercury residues and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, according to a statement provided by lab officials to the Berkeley City Council last October. 

The Project Waste Management Plan with specific details on disposal of all hazardous waste, including radioactive materials, was signed effective February 11 and contains detailed descriptions of all potential waste types, procedures for assessment and disposal, and requirements for staging, packaging and transport, Preuss said. 

The steel-clad depleted uranium blocks were used as radiation shields against high energy particles generated by the Bevatron, according to the plan, and range in weight from 1190 pounds to 2.2 tons each. 

Lead was also used as radiation shielding, and as in most structures of the same vintage, was included in the building’s paint. 

Mercury was used in klystron tubes needed for some of experimental work, as well as in switches, gauges and pumps. Mercury traces remaining from at least one spill were cleaned up in the 1990s, according to the plan, but have been found in another section of the structure both in the floor and in the plumbing. 

Beryllium a highly toxic metal, has been found in both solid and dust form, and chromium and copper have seeped into the wood and plastic of one of the building’s cooling towers. 

Asbestos, which is known to cause mesothelioma, an invariably fatal form of lung cancer, was used as fireproofing and insulation. 

The work plan calls for each form of hazardous waste to be stored in its own appropriate container, with other details spelled out in the 104-page plan document. 

Radioactive wastes will be transported to the Nevada Test Site, where the Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission conducted nuclear weapons tests. 

The plan calls for hazardous and radioactive waste to be “staged,” stored in a roped off and posted area before transport, with each container appropriately labeled as to contents and their dangers, and with dikes or other separations between incompatible materials which could become volatile or otherwise more dangerous if mixed. 

Preuss said all the hazardous waste will be consigned to approved toxic dumps sites. 

The lab’s plans haven’t met with universal approval. A group of Berkeley activists, including Zachary RunningWolf, LA Wood, Gene Benardi, Mark Mcdonald and Carol Denney called a Tuesday evening press conference to condemn the proposal to truck the waste through the city.