The High Flux Beam Reactor (HFBR) at the US’s Brookhaven National Laboratory will close permanently, US Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced on 16 November.
The 3 MW heavy water reactor was started up for the first time in October 1965, but it was shut down temporarily in 1996 after water samples from two monitoring wells south of the laboratory were found to be contaminated with a small amount of tritium. The shutdown was initially said to be temporary, but Congress decided that the annual cost of keeping the reactor in standby, some $23 million, was not justified: “While I don’t believe the Brookhaven reactor is a threat to the public or environment, we need to focus our limited resources on productive research rather than keeping the reactor in standby mode for an unknown length of time”, Richardson said.
The laboratory, which is in Long Island, New York state, was operated until 1997 by Associated Universities. Since then, the operator has been Brookhaven Science Associates. The new operator was fined $27 000 for safety violations that took place at the reactor in May and June 1998.