Bevatron Landmark & Demolition NEWS
The proposed demolition will require more than a thousand trips on canvas-covered
flatbed trucks through Berkeley onto the freeway and on to waste dumps
as far as Nevada where the radioactive waste will be dumped. The environment
impact analysis is tiered, or extended off a 1986 study that does not
adequately evaluate the effects from all the truck trips on Berkeley’s
air, creeks, streets or citizens.
UC BERKELEY LAB PLAN TO DEMOLISH BEVATRON: PRESS RELEASE
The Lawrence Berkeley Lab held a scoping meeting for the public on Thursday, March 31, 2005, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., at North Berkeley Senior Center to present its plan to demolish the Bevatron (a massive particle accelerator) and Building 51. The University of California will prepare the Environmental Impact Report for this seven-year project.
The dust and debris from the tens of thousands of tons of radioactive/hazardous waste produced from the smashing of the concrete shielding blocks and metals in these facilities will contain toxic materials (which may also be radioactive) such as asbestos, mercury, lead, PCBs, chlorinated VOCs, and aromatic hydrocarbons. Some of the radioactive materials include Cobalt 60, Cesium 137 and Europium 154. Radioactive energy from Cobalt 60 can be 59 times greater in intensity than that of an ordinary X-ray.
These radioactive and hazardous wastes will be hauled by thousands of heavily loaded trucks down Hearst Ave. to Oxford, south on Oxford to University Ave. and down University to I-80. From there they will proceed to landfills in Altamont, CA, the Nevada Test-Site and Clive, Utah. The demolition is expected to continue through FY2012.
An alternative to demolition and removal would be to allow the Bevatron and its contamination to remain onsite in relative containment. Onsite containment will allow the radioactivity to decay in place and not be hauled away to other communities. This would also preserve the historic aspects of the Bevatron, as it is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for the research in particle physics, which resulted in four Nobel prizes.
If you don't want Radioactive Asbestos Dust in your neighborhood, stores, or at bus stops, or in a truck next to your car on the street. SEND IN YOUR COMMENTS BY April 16, 2005
To: Daniel Kevin,
City Councilmembers will face a relatively light agenda when they meet tonight (Tuesday), including a proposed revision to Berkeley’s “by-right” home addition ordinance and two competing resolutions on the demolition of a UC Berkeley landmark. Competing resolutions focus on the proposed demolition of the Bevatron on the grounds of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Once the world’s most powerful particle accelerator and the source of internationally acclaimed discoveries, the facility has since been eclipsed by other larger and more specialized accelerators and has been decommissioned. At issue is whether to demolish the giant machine and the building which housed it or to preserve them and use the cleanup funds to restore contaminated ground water at the site.
Councilmembers Gordon Wozniak and Linda Maio have offered a pro-demolition resolution designed to support earlier, similar measures passed by the council, while the Peace and Justice Commission’s resolution calls for preservation and water cleanup. Since the property belongs to the U.S. Department of Energy, neither resolution would have binding effect.
The battle over landmarking the Bevatron building ended Thursday when a city panel voted to bestow the honorific not on the structure itself but on the ground beneath.
The 5-4 decision by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) ended an agonizing process that had lasted through months and a long series of deadlocked votes. “We’re going to landmark a site. This is starting a precedent that has never happened before,” said Commissioner Lesley Emmington, one of the dissenters. “The building seems eminently suited to landmarking to me,” said Gary Parsons.
In adopting the motion by Burton Edwards, the commission called out the details of the revolutionary discoveries made within the massive circular building, as well as the discoverers—while leaving out all mention of the structure and its unique architecture.
“This application was made by the public,” Emmington said, and called for designating the building and its historical significance.
Commissioner Carrie Olson cast the deciding vote, supporting a motion by Edwards that called on the university to memorialize the groundbreaking research carried out on what was once the world’s foremost subatomic particle accelerator.
“So we have a new landmark site,” said Chair Robert Johnson after the vote in which he opted for the Edwards motion. “It’s a complex issue.”
The commission has been wrestling with the issue since last December, when it conducted its first hearing on a proposal by LA Wood to designate the building that led to four Nobel Prizes for research that transformed the way physicists look at the way the universe works.
Officials of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory opposed landmarking from the start, declaring that the best way to commemorate the work done there was to tear it down and build new facilities for new cutting edge research.
Opinion in the scientific community was divided. The late Owen Chamberlain, the Nobel Laureate honored for his Bevatron research that discovered the anti-proton, had argued passionately for preservation before his death at the end of February.
The Bevatron building and the attached office structure totaling 126,500 square feet form part of a series of major demolitions planned at the lab. The other six large structures are in the lab’s “Old Town,” a collection of mostly wooden buildings constructed during World War II.
Demolition plans are spelled out in the lab’s 10-year site plan, released on May 20, 2005.
According to that report, demolition of the Bevatron building and the massive structure it contains will take six to seven years and cost an estimated $83 million—with work to begin before the end of the current fiscal year and ending six to seven years later.
Opposition to demolition mobilized residents who fear that that the 4,700 truckloads expected to traverse city street en route to recycling facilities, landfills and hazardous waste disposal sites could spread radioactive contamination and dangerous asbestos fibers in their wake.
Critics also said they are concerned about traffic congestion, especially in light of other major construction work planned by UC Berkeley in the area of Memorial Stadium not far from the lab.
Landmarking efforts came later, and the application before the council was filed by LA Wood, who with Pamela Shivola has been spearheading opposition on public health grounds.
Many of the landmarking advocates have consistently acknowledged that their concerns were as much for public health and safety as for the preservation of a unique exemplar of Cold War architecture.
Demolition of the massive structure ranks high on the priorities of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory—and neighbors are worried that deconstruction will result in exposures to radioactive particles, asbestos fibers and other toxins.
Completed in 1953, the Bevatron was in operation until Feb. 21, 1993, when it shut down for the last time, rendered obsolete by vastly larger and more powerful accelerators.
Modern accelerators are far greater in size—with the largest almost big enough to encompass all of Berkeley within their circumferences.
But the Bevatron was unique in being the first of the world’s great accelerators, and while the accelerator itself—once the world’s largest human-made machine—has been decommissioned, much of the heavy equipment remains in place.
While Wood, Shivola and the commission minority felt the building itself should remain, the majority agreed with lab officials, who have repeatedly said the best memorial would be to replace the structure with new facilities that could generate new ground-breaking research in physics.
Even if the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission had voted to landmark the building, the decision would have had little power to halt the eventual demolition of Berkeley’s last significant relic of the monumental era of government-funded Cold War science, since it is owned by the University of California, which is exempt from Berkeley law.
If Edwards has his way, the work carried out at the Bevatron will be commemorated in an exhibit, perhaps at the Lawrence Hall of Science—a suggestion repeatedly raised by lab officials.
Fearing adverse health effects related to toxic debris from dismantling the Bevatron and the associated Building 51 at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and trucking the materials over several years through the streets of Berkeley, Councilmember Max Anderson is sponsoring a resolution for Tuesday’s City Council meeting—originally coauthored by recently deceased Councilmember Dona Spring—asking for a full environmental report on the impact of the demolition.
Lab spokesperson Don Medley, who did not return calls for comment, sent a copy of a letter written to the mayor and council to the Planet in which he asks the council to oppose the resolution and asserts that the demolition will be conducted safely and according to state and federal regulations.
At its 7 p.m. meeting, the City Council will also consider the reorganization of the Community Energy Services Corporation, Tom Bates Regional Sports Field maintenance and landscaping contracts, bee-friendly vegetation in parks, opposing the ban on marriage between same sex couples on the state ballot, the extension of residential parking permits to new neighborhoods, a moratorium on wireless telecommunication facilities, wording for the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance referendum title on the November ballot, an extension of the Panoramic Hill Urgency Ordinance, establishing a “sustainable energy financing district” and more.
At a 6 p.m. workshop, the council will hear a presentation on “Economic development trends in urban industrial land use,” by Karen Chapple of UC Berkeley and a talk on sustainability by Billi Romain of the Energy and Sustainable Development division of planning.
The Bevatron is a 54-year-old defunct nuclear accelerator located at LBNL, which is owned by the Department of Energy and managed by the University of California. Hazardous materials known to be present at the facility include low-level radiation, mercury and asbestos.
“This is a city that says how green it is,” Mark McDonald, a member of the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW), told the Planet, arguing that trucking toxics through town is contrary to city “green” policies.
The CMTW originally called for preservation of the Bevatron building, which the city named a historic structure. Having lost that battle, the CMTW is leading the charge for a safe demolition.
In addition to calling on the lab to prepare an environmental impact statement, the resolution before council asks the lab to respond to 25 questions, including dates when the demolition is scheduled and routes through Berkeley where debris is to be trucked. The resolution also calls for assurances that the hazardous material will be tightly covered and that the shell of the Bevatron will be maintained during the demolition of the interior of the facility.
McDonald said there had been a cursory environmental review that did not take into account the 4,700 trips planned through Berkeley streets and the degree of toxicity of the material to be trucked.
Lab spokesman Medley’s letter responds to some of the issues raised in the resolution. It asserts that an environmental impact statement is not required. “The Department of Energy completed an environmental assessment on the Bevatron and Building 51 demolition, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act,” the letter said. “Based on this assessment, the Department of Energy determined that the project does not require an environmental impact statement.”
The letter gives the project dates: between August 2008 and October 2011. And it also gives the routes for the 4,700 truck trips: Cyclotron Road to Hearst Avenue, south on Oxford Street, then west on University Avenue to I-80.
McDonald noted the lab has not revealed its future plans for the site, but the lab letter said it would be used for “in-fill” space for potential future activities.
The preferred option, other than turning the facility into a museum—which has been rejected—is to seal the facility, McDonald said. “Leave it alone and let it decay in place,” he said. “It’s not a problem as it is.”
The lab letter responds to this issue, saying that “the Berkeley Lab will dismantle and remove the Bevatron and surrounding blocks prior to the demolition of the building that contains them....”
The extent of mercury at the site is just coming to light, McDonald said, pointing to a May 20, 2008 letter to the City Council by Otto J.A. Smith, professor emeritus in the UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department. Smith was professor in the department from 1950 to 1954, at the time the Bevatron was shipped to the university
“Every time that the system was operated with both inverters connected, one Mercury Arc Ignition tube exploded,” he wrote the council. “The public deserves to know what tests have been made on mercury liquid in floors, walls, ceiling and tests of mercury vapor in the power room at the Bevatron.”
“We don’t know what happened to all that mercury,” McDonald said, adding, “How would you feel about 4,700 truckloads with low-level radiation, mercury and asbestos going by your house?”
The lab letter underscored the safety of the transported debris. Non-hazardous materials will be transported via trucks covered with tarps and, “All hazardous and radioactive material will be packaged in accordance with regulatory requirements. For example, all hazardous and radioactive material that is in the form of dust will be fully enclosed in containers,” it said.
For a number of documents and articles on the Bevatron see: www.berkeleycitizen.org/bevatron/
For environmental assessment documents, see: www.lbl.gov/community/contruction/b51.html.
The unique igloo-domed Bevatron building at UC Berkeley is coming down, the closing chapter in a political battle between city activists and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
The structure, formally known as Building 51, once housed the 180-foot-diameter particle accelerator known as the Bevatron.
Because the structure had been the venue for experiments that led directly to four Nobel Prizes, the federal government had deemed it potentially eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places—an action that could have hampered demolition efforts.
The late UC Berkeley physicist Owen Chamberlain, who won his Nobel for discovering the antiproton in experiments using the Bevatron in 1955, had fought to preserve the structure until his death in Berkeley on Feb. 28, 2006 at the age of 85.
A group of Berkeley preservationists and citizens worried about possible radiation exposure from the transit of debris through the city had waged a losing battle to landmark the structure under city laws in an effort to block demolition.
But after months of discussion, a sharply divided city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted on Aug. 3, 2006, to landmark the site and not the building, clearing the way for demolition. Several current UC Berkeley researchers spoke in favor of demolition during the commission’s hearings.
Ben Feinberg, the last head of Bevatron operations, argued against declaring the building a landmark, telling commissioners the best monument to the history of the site would be construction of new labs equipped with the latest hardware to conduct more groundbreaking research.
Crews at the site have already stripped the structure of asbestos, commonly used in insulation materials before its cancer-causing role was acknowledged, and other interior materials have been removed and metals shipped off for recycling, according to the lab’s website on the project.
Lab spokesperson Paul Preuss said Wednesday that work continues at the site, and that a nearby traffic island had been removed to ease truck access to the parking lot at the rear of the building for eventual removal of concrete and other construction debris.
“We are presently surveying all the concrete blocks that constituted the igloo, which are currently stacked up inside the structure,” he said.
Preuss said that he expects 90 percent of the debris will not contain any traces of radioactivity above normal background levels, while the remaining 10 percent is expected to exhibit low levels of radioactivity resulting from work conducted at the site.
“That 10 percent will have to be handled in a different way,” he said, including disposal in a federally approved site.
Eventually, according to the environmental documents prepared by LBNL for the demolition, the lab expects to remove a total of 4,700 truckloads of debris, which will be hauled through city streets en route to final disposal in landfills.
The trucks now hauling material from the lab don’t come from the Bevatron, but are instead the result of work on a second project, the construction of the Seismic Upgrade Building.
“We expect to go from five trucks a day at the beginning of July to 20 a day by the end of the month,” Preuss said.
Removal of the blocks from the Bevatron building is set to begin later this month and continue through fall, according to the notice posted at the lab’s project construction updates site, www.lbl.gov/ Workplace/siteconstruction.
The Bevatron building and the attached office building total 126,500 square feet, according to the environmental impact report the university prepared as part of the demolition project.
Completed in 1953, the Bevatron—named after the billion electron volts it produced—was in operation for the next 40 years, shutting down for the final time on Feb. 21, 1993, outmoded by far larger and more powerful particle accelerators built since its inaugural run.
The Bevatron, at least large parts of it, will be reincarnated, in concrete form—its concrete ground back to powder and used for new construction.
Paul Preuss, spokesperson for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the lab will begin moving concrete blocks from the structure in early July.
While most of the concrete will be recycled, any material containing “induced radioactivity” will be sent to the Nevada Test Site, Preuss said.
Previously nonradioactive materials can be irradiated by charged particles, such as those generated during the building’s 40-year history of high energy particle research.
Also included in the debris requiring special handling are depleted uranium blocks.
Preuss said $14.4 million of the estimated $50 million in demolition costs will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“Most of the debris is the same sort of material you’ll find in any building of that age,” Preuss said.
But some resulted from the unique work done in the building.
The demolition contract was signed in Jan. 7, 2008, and work has been under way at the site, including removal of other hazardous materials including asbestos, lead, beryllium, chromium, mercury residues and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, according to a statement provided by lab officials to the Berkeley City Council last October.
The Project Waste Management Plan with specific details on disposal of all hazardous waste, including radioactive materials, was signed effective February 11 and contains detailed descriptions of all potential waste types, procedures for assessment and disposal, and requirements for staging, packaging and transport, Preuss said.
The steel-clad depleted uranium blocks were used as radiation shields against high energy particles generated by the Bevatron, according to the plan, and range in weight from 1190 pounds to 2.2 tons each.
Lead was also used as radiation shielding, and as in most structures of the same vintage, was included in the building’s paint.
Mercury was used in klystron tubes needed for some of experimental work, as well as in switches, gauges and pumps. Mercury traces remaining from at least one spill were cleaned up in the 1990s, according to the plan, but have been found in another section of the structure both in the floor and in the plumbing.
Beryllium a highly toxic metal, has been found in both solid and dust form, and chromium and copper have seeped into the wood and plastic of one of the building’s cooling towers.
Asbestos, which is known to cause mesothelioma, an invariably fatal form of lung cancer, was used as fireproofing and insulation.
The work plan calls for each form of hazardous waste to be stored in its own appropriate container, with other details spelled out in the 104-page plan document.
Radioactive wastes will be transported to the Nevada Test Site, where the Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission conducted nuclear weapons tests.
The plan calls for hazardous and radioactive waste to be “staged,” stored in a roped off and posted area before transport, with each container appropriately labeled as to contents and their dangers, and with dikes or other separations between incompatible materials which could become volatile or otherwise more dangerous if mixed.
Preuss said all the hazardous waste will be consigned to approved toxic dumps sites.
The lab’s plans haven’t met with universal approval. A group of Berkeley activists, including Zachary RunningWolf, L A Wood, Gene Benardi, Mark Mcdonald and Carol Denney called a Tuesday evening press conference to condemn the proposal to truck the waste through the city.
Bevatron Demolition Plan Alarms Residents
Under California law, the LBNL has the authority to approve the demolition
project itself, but must first complete an environmental impact report
(EIR) after giving the public the chance to give information, raise
questions, and suggest alternatives. Last week’s scoping session
was the first in that series of mandated public input processes.
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