SM-1A Stakeholder Update: March 2024

USACE and A3D have recently completed our first major milestones for the Decommissioning and Dismantlement project at SM-1A. On January 22, 2024, our team mobilized to the site to perform the first Vapor Container (VC) entry since 2011, which allowed for additional characterization and investigation of the encasement material used at the site.  The pending results from this investigation will impact our approach to future work at the site with respect to health and safety, engineering, and waste operations.

Our team was at SM-1A from January 22 to February 16.  A brief summary of our team’s site visit is as follows:

The team mobilized personnel and supplies to the site the week of January 22.  While implementing our Industrial Hygiene monitoring, the team opened the outer VC hatch.  On January 26, the inner VC hatch was partially opened and ventilated over the weekend to ensure a safe atmosphere for planned investigation activities.  On January 29, the inner VC hatch was safely opened.  A three-person team performed confined space entry of the VC to perform a safety, structural, and radiation contamination (RadCon) survey of the interior of the VC. Throughout this effort, crew members who entered the VC to perform work wore the appropriate personal protective equipment, to include a Tyvek suit and powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs). Following initial entry, the team prepared to begin torch cutting to enlarge the inner VC hatch opening, which was required to provide a safer access point for investigation inside the VC.  Cutting operations to enlarge the inner VC opening took place from January 29 to February 2.

Over the course of the next three weeks, our team entered the VC to collect characterization sampling.  The team set up a portable drill and core-drilled several locations in the wall and floor of the inner VC encasement material.  Samples were collected for characterization purposes and sent to an offsite laboratory for analysis.  Upon completion of sampling, the sample locations were grouted shut.  The team performed inspections of the primary shield tank (PST) and attempted to gain access to determine/assess if the PST was fully encased.  On February 12, the team successfully drilled through the top four feet of the PST encasement.  The entire core removed as part of the drilling was concrete.  The core was then placed back into the boring location and the area was secured with a steel plate and caulk.  Following the field activities, the inner VC hatch was sealed and caulked, and the outer hatch was sealed, welded shut and padlocked for security purposes.  A storyboard highlighting this effort is included with this update, and a YouTube video documenting this effort will be posted to the project website in the near future. 

While the team was on site for the VC efforts, a Hazardous Building Material Survey was completed to further refine our inventories of asbestos, lead paint, PCBs, universal waste, etc.  Additionally, land surveyors performed civil surveys of the site and the waste storage location. 

Overall, the objective of this initial VC entry was to inspect and characterize the VC encasement materials and mitigate future risk.   We will be using the data obtained from this effort to modify our approach, preparing us to implement a safe, successful project moving forward. 

USACE and A3D will be hosting a series of in person and virtual public meetings to share our path forward with stakeholders and local communities.  The first meetings will be held in Fort Greely, Delta Junction, and Fairbanks at the end of March.  Virtual meeting information will be posted on our website upon availability.

SM-1A Dismantling and Decommissioning Public Outreach Meeting information:

  • March 21, 2024; 6-8 p.m. at Fort Greely, CAC Multipurpose Room B
  • March 25, 2024; 6-8 p.m. at Delta Junction Community Center, 2287 Deborah St, Delta Junction, AK 99731
  • March 26, 2024; 6-8 p.m. at Clarion Hotel Fairbanks, 95th 10th Ave. Fairbanks, AK  99701 

Meetings will include an open-house information poster session from 6-7 p.m., followed by a public meeting and question-and-answer session. 

Thank you once again for choosing to be a part of this process as we progress with the decommissioning and dismantling of the deactivated SM-1A. Additional project information is available on our project website  As a reminder, we also have a dedicated Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program YouTube channel Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant Program (DNPPP) - YouTube  which includes videos for SM-1A and her sister site, SM-1 in Virginia. 

If you have any questions and/or concerns regarding the SM-1A project, please feel free to reach out to me and/or email us at

SM-1A Final Environmental Assessment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has released the Final Notice of Availability (NOA), Final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FNSI), and National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the proposed action to decommission and dismantle the Deactivated Stationary Medium Power Model 1A Nuclear Power Plant (SM-1A) at U.S. Army Garrison Alaska, Fort Greely, and release the property for unrestricted use. 

SM-1A Nuclear Power Plant Overview

The SM-1A Nuclear Power Plant is located in central Alaska, approximately 6 miles south of Delta Junction on the Fort Greely Military Reservation. Fort Greely is approximately 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks and 225 miles northeast of Anchorage.

The construction of the SM-1A at Fort Greely began in 1958 and was completed in 1962 with first criticality achieved on 13 March 1962. The design was based on the concept of the SM-1 reactor at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a prototype for stationary medium-power plants (“SM”). The “1A” moniker designates it as the first field plant of its type.

It was designed to be used as an “inservice” test facility for this type of equipment in an arctic environment with its primary mission being to supply electrical power and heating steam for the utility systems at Fort Greely. The secondary mission was to study the economics of operating a nuclear-type electrical plant compared to conventional oil-fired systems in a remote area where fuel costs are high and supply lines unusually long. The SM-1A was a 20.2 megawatt-thermal (MWt) pressurized water reactor which could supply 72,000 pounds of saturated steam per hour. The reactor used uranium oxide, highly enriched in U-235 and clad in stainless steel, as fuel. Due to the high operating costs and the projected cost of replacing the reactor pressure vessel, a decision was made to shut the plant down by 1968.



This decision was reversed when an annealing process was utilized to extend the vessel’s lifetime. Additionally, it was thought that continued operation would offer opportunities for experience and information about the reliability and lifetime of nuclear plants. By modifying an unused core procured for the portable medium-power PM-2A Nuclear Power Plant (Greenland) and using other spare fuel elements, an additional core was assembled, prolonging the active use of the SM-1A for five more years.

The final shutdown was performed on the SM-1A Reactor in March 1972, in accordance with the SM-1A Decommissioning Plan as approved by the Army Reactor Systems Health and Safety Review Committee (ARCHS). This consisted of removal of the nuclear fuel, minor decontamination, shipment of pre-packaged radioactive waste, encasing certain reactor components (vapor container, waste tanks, and demineralizer room), sealing the pressure vessel, and installing appropriate warning signs and monitoring devices. Certain areas were maintained as restricted areas for radiation safety considerations.

This method of decommissioning was selected due to the low initial cost and low personnel radiation exposure. Future remediation was to take place at a time when radiation levels and quantities of radioactive waste were significantly reduced due to radioactive decay.

In 1995, Fort Greely was placed on the Base Realignment and Closure list. As part of the BRAC, certain areas associated with the SM-1A were investigated and remediated. Three specific areas were released under a Record of Decision, BRAC Site 90, BRAC Site 132, and Wastewater Pipeline Station 21+25.The AHA process supplies information to support the decommissioning study process outlined in Army Regulation 50-7. This process is performed by USACE, at the direction of the Army Reactor Office, to better define disposal activity costs.

SM-1 A Deactivated Nuclear Power Plant NoticeThe decommissioning strategy that was developed in the 1970's recommended that the deactivated reactors be placed into a safe storage mode that would allow the shorter-lived radionuclides to decay. It was expected that delaying decommissioning would reduce radioactive waste volumes and worker exposures. However, preliminary studies indicated that the levels of contamination present within the reactors would not be reduced by decay sufficiently to allow for release of the facilities without significant decontamination being performed. Additionally, concern regarding the increasing cost and decreasing availability of radioactive waste disposal led the Army Reactor Office (ARO) to recommend that an assessment be performed of the SM-1A reactor to allow for a more accurate decommissioning cost estimate to be developed which addresses projected changes in disposal options.

USACE developed a management plan for conducting an AHA, which contained provisions for four phases of work to be performed. Phase I included a Historical Records Review and Disposal Alternatives Investigation. Phase II, included performing a characterization survey and decommissioning cost estimate. Initial Phase II efforts were completed in 2015. Phases III and IV deal with decommissioning planning, design, and execution.

Public Outreach Meeting Info

Meetings will include an open-house information poster session from 6-7 p.m., followed by a public meeting and question-and-answer session. 

Contact Information

US Army Corps of Engineers – Baltimore District
PO Box 31030
Fort Greely, AK 99731

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Please direct any inquiries regarding contracting opportunities to Leigha Arnold.

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Alaska Forum for the Environment

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