Visiting the Cimarron Nuclear Fuel Fabrication Facility

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Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Facility

The Cimarron site, located in the heart of tornado valley – just north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was used to fabricate enriched uranium and mixed oxide fuels for nuclear reactors from 1965–1975.  It was operated by Kerr-McGee for only ten years, from 1965-1975, and made plutonium pellets for nuclear fuel rods.

The site operated two facilities, a Uranium plant and a Mixed-Oxide Fuel fabrication plant.  Decommissioning activities at the 840-acre site began in 1976, after the discovery of corporate wrong-doing and the death of Karen Silkwood in 1974.

Silkwood was concerned about the exposures of workers at the plant and discovered that Kerr-McGee was doctoring records and quality control documents.  She also found that over 40 pounds of plutonium was missing from the plant – enough to make 3 nuclear weapons.  In 1974, the Cimarron facility was shut down on two separate occasions to do analyze their inventory of plutonium, because they could not account for all of their known inventory.

Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Facility - 3

Today, the site is quiet, only a handful of cars can be found in the parking lot.  Many of the structures have been decommissioned and removed.  The land surrounding the remaining structures is overgrown and littered with groundwater monitoring wells. There are no signs warning of radioactive materials or contaminated groundwater, or any other evidence that would indicate the site used to process large quantities of uranium and plutonium.

Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Facility - 2

There is a problem with the contamination of the groundwater by uranium and other radioactive materials.  The flow of groundwater from the site moves northward, towards the Cimarron River.  Kurion, a U.S. company assisting with the processing of contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi, has been contracted to try to remove some of the excess uranium from the groundwater.

For more about Karen Silkwood, click here and here.

Source: Kerr-McGee Wrong-Doing Investigations

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