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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nuclear Power Plant "Sturgis" enters the Panama Canal(1968). Records of the Army Signal Corps, RG 111; National Archives and Records Administration - College Park, Md.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nuclear Power Plant "Sturgis" enters the Panama Canal(1968). Records of the Army Signal Corps, RG 111; National Archives and Records Administration - College Park, Md. (Photo by Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

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Type of Program: Army Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program, MH-1A - STURGIS– James River Reserve Fleet, VA

Project Phase: Decommissioning Studies/Planning  

Authorization: AR 50-7 – (customer Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

U.S. Army Reactor Program, History: The Department of the Army was authorized to build and operate nuclear reactors under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and created the U.S. Army Reactor Program to support this effort.  Under this program, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed, built and operated nuclear reactors in support of several Army missions. Army reactors were used to train military nuclear reactor operators, provide power for military installations, and to provide power in remote areas, such as the Panama Canal and Alaska.

Army Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Reactor Program, Current Status: The Army is now focused on decommissioning the nuclear power plants within the program, using the Corps of Engineers’ expertise to design and implement the projects at each of the remaining nuclear reactors. The Corps of Engineers Headquarters assigned execution responsibilities for the sites on the east coast to its Baltimore District and to the Alaska District for the Fort Greely Plant. 

The deactivated reactors are: the SM-1 at Fort Belvoir, VA; the SM-1A at Fort Greely, AK; and the MH-1A, a reactor mounted on the STURGIS barge, which is moored at the James River National Defense Reserve Fleet near Fort Eustis, VA. The reactor names correspond to (SM) stationary/medium power and (MH) mobile/high power.

The reactors were deactivated in 1972 (SM-1A), 1973 (SM-1) and 1978 (MH-1A). During deactivation, the Army removed the nuclear fuel from the reactors and returned the fuel to the Department of Energy. The Army transported a majority of the readily removable radioactive material off-site to a designated disposal area. Radioactive structural material and primary system components remain and will be part of the upcoming decommissioning efforts.

The Baltimore District is currently pursuing a decommissioning permit for the STURGIS through the Director, United States Army Nuclear and Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Agency.  The decommissioning permit will outline the activities required to ensure protection of human health and the environment during the final decommissioning and dismantlement of the deactivated reactor.    


Background: The MH-1A power reactor was last operated on July 1, 1976.  In the following two years, the Army removed all special nuclear material and radioactive waste from the facility.  Additionally, crews decontaminated all areas outside the secondary shielding and placed the remaining radioactive materials in a safe configuration for long-term storage.  The MH-1A STURGIS barge has been moored at the James River Reserve Fleet since Sept. 28, 1978, except for times of periodic dry dock maintenance. 

The Baltimore District completed characterization efforts to better quantify the remaining radiological and chemical constituents.  This information was used to support costs estimates and request funding to complete decommissioning of the MH-1A and terminate the Army Reactor Permit. 

Decommissioning and Disposal - Status and Proposed Action:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District awarded a $34,663,325.34 contract to CB&I Federal Services LLC (CB&I) for the decommissioning, dismantling and disposal of the MH-1A nuclear reactor, which is installed on the STURGIS barge.  Before being shutdown in 1976, the MH-1A nuclear reactor was used to generate electricity for military and civilian use.  The reactor was de-fueled, decontaminated, and sealed before being towed to the James River Reserve Fleet at Joint Base Langley Eustis, VA; where it is currently being stored and maintained.

The STURGIS will be relocated in fall 2014 to Galveston, Texas for decommissioning.  After the contractor removes the residual radioactive waste materials, the remaining portions of the STURGIS barge will be transported to Brownsville, Texas for disposal or recycling as scrap using standard ship breaking methods.  Wastes will be segregated in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations.  The entire process is anticipated to be completed in under four years. 

For more information, please contact Andrea Takash, andrea.m.takash@usace.army.mil, 410-962-2626 


Army Nuclear Reactor Program STURGIS