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Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews new plan for Pickard Hall demolition

pickard hall 11-20
Pickard Hall

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing decommissioning plans for the demolition of Pickard Hall.

Last week, University of Missouri officials announced the decision to demolish the more than 100-year-old building due to "chemical safety concerns." Pickard Hall is contaminated with radioactive radium and thorium, according to the NRC. The contamination dates back to chemical separation activities performed in the early 1900s.

According to emails from the co-director of MU Emergency Coordination to officials at the NRC, MU made the decision to demolish on May 13.

The University of Missouri had tasked Chase Environmental Group Inc. with creating a new decommissioning plan by Sept. 20. Now, the NRC is reviewing the decommissioning plans. The approval process could take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, depending upon how complicated the plan is. After approval, the university will have two years to go through with the decommissioning plan.

Michael LaFranzo, the senior decommissioning inspector at NRC's Region 3 location, is the primary contact for decommissioning activities at Pickard Hall. LaFranzo said it is the university's responsibility to ensure they meet regulations pertaining to exposure limits.

"We will be looking at one, they addressed it, and number two, when they addressed it, that their procedures adequately protect the public health and safety and the environment," LaFranzo said.

In correspondence between officials at MU and the NRC, the university detailed the decision’s benefits. The demolition would present the least amount of risk, have lower costs and allow for a speedier process.

There are a variety of methods the NRC considers to limit radiation exposure during the demolition process.

"Some of the options that are out there is to put a large tent over the building and keep it at negative pressure," LaFranzo said. "Another option would be to spray the area down with water as decommissioning happens to keep the dust levels down. There are other ways that they can be much more circumspect in how they tear the building down. They could tear down, for example, board by board."

The entire process will be guided by continuous inspections.

MU will be responsible for paying for any fees associated with the work done by the NRC. This includes reviewing the plan, inspections and independent radiological assessments.

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekend morning anchor, reporter and producer at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.

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