Terms and acronyms Defined (IN PROGRESS)
The 2010 Agreement on Consent (AOC) was a legal agreement between the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) and NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to clean the site to “background” by Fall 2017. Boeing did not sign the AOC.
Agreement on Consent (AOC) 2010
I, II, III, IV
The SSFL is divided into four production areas in addition to the North and South buffer zones. Areas I, II, III, were used for rocket testing, missile testing, and munitions development. Area IV was used primarily for nuclear reactor experimentation and development. We’re in the process of obtaining documents that show nuclear work in all the areas. Check back soon.
The Boeing Corporation is the primary land owner at the Santa Susana Field Lab and are responsible for cleaning up Area 3, as well as their portion of Area 1 and the Southern Buffer Zone. Boeing did not agree to the 2010 AOC agreement, but agreed to clean the site to match loca zoning.
The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA)’s new Secretary, Jared Blumenfeld, as of 2018 is working to ensure that the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Polluters meet the 100% cleanup standards in the AOC.
Background Cleanup Standard
Rural Residential Cleanup Standard
Recreational Cleanup Standard
Natural Attenuation Cleanup Standard
A confusing and contentious part of the cleanup debate stems from the cleanup standards.
The “background” cleanup standard (aka 100% cleanup) ensures that any radioactive or chemical contamination that was brought to the SSFL is cleaned up and taken away from the SSFL. An extensive $41.5 million U.S. EPA study was done to determine naturally existing levels of radiation levels in the “background” of the area. The 2010 AOC states that only radiation above the background level would be remediated. A radiological survey of Area IV and the Northern Buffer Zone by the EPA found over 500 samples of elevated radioactivity, in some case thousands of times above background.
The “rural residential” cleanup standard (which is very similar to an Agricultural standard) is a cleanup stringent enough that if a full time resident were to live on the site after the cleanup, and eat the produce grown there, that they would be safe from contamination related health risks. This standard is similar to the background cleanup goals. This is also the zoning of local communities. Though Boeing did not sign the AOC cleanup, this is the cleanup standard they agreed to.
The “recreational” standard (aka risk based) assumes that the cleanup should only be protective enough to keep occasional visitors safe from the radioactive and chemical contamination. This could leave as much as 98% of the contamination on site permanently. This standard does not guarantee visitor protection, and it would continue to put local residents, some who live less than 0.25 miles away) at continued daily risk of exposure to radioactive and chemical contamination.
A “Natural Attenuation” cleanup would leave 100% of the radioactive contamination on site and assumes it will naturally decay. Plutonium-239 is one contaminate on the SSFL that has a 24,000 year half life. This is the least protective cleanup...because by definition, there is no cleanup.
Dept. of Energy (DOE)
The federal agency, the Department of Energy (DOE) is not a property owner at the SSFL, but because they leased the land from NASA and conducted their own experiments there, they are responsible for the cleanup of Area IV.
of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)
The California agency overseeing the SSFL cleanup is the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Due to the convoluted nature of ownership at the SSFL, the Californian agency oversees two federal agencies, NASA and the Department of Energy, as well as the Boeing Corporation during the cleanup. Read more about the DTSC.
SSFL’s Hot Lab was built in 1959 and was used to cut up irradiated reactor fuel from around the country. According to the Department of Energy, “This involved handling and examining highly radioactive items. These operations were done remotely in the heavily shielded Hot Lab, which was built for this purpose.” Read more on Enviroreporter.com
NASA is one of three landowners at the Santa Susana Field Lab and is responsible for the cleanup in part of Area I and all of Area II, where the rocket engine testing took place. NASA has recently declared that they do not intend to live up to their legal AOC agreements. The DTSC issued a response reminding NASA that they must comply with the 100% (AOC) cleanup as agreed on in 2010.
SANTA SUSANA FIELD LA
The Santa Susana Field Lab, originally known as “Rocketdyne”…
Sodium Reactor (SRE)
The Sodium Reactor Experiment (SRE) was designed by Atomics International and was the first nuclear reactor to be used with the commercial electricity grid commercial power grid to be used for the nearby city of Moorpark.
In July 1959, the reactor experienced a partial meltdown where 13 of the reactor's 43 fuel elements partially melted, resulting in an uncontrolled release of radioactive gas into the atmosphere. The reactor was repaired and restarted in September 1960. In February 1964, the Sodium Reactor Experiment was in operation for the last time. Removal of the deactivated reactor was completed in 1981.
Technical analyses of the 1959 incident have produced contrasting conclusions regarding the types and quantities of radioactive materials released. Members of the neighboring communities have expressed concerns about the possible impacts on their health and environment from the incident.