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Federal funds to allow cleanup of nuclear site in Arkansas

April 5, 2018

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An additional $10 million in federal funding will allow for the full cleanup of a nuclear test site in northwest Arkansas, according to officials.

There have been doubts that the cleanup at the Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor site in Washington County would be completed, the Arkansas-Democrat-Gazette reported. The site ceased operations in the early 1970s and has been owned by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville since 1975.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack and UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz announced the funding Wednesday. Residents were previously told that work for the estimated $26 million project was only funded through the end of March.

Womack said he’s pleased with the latest funding commitment “sufficient to accelerate completion of this long overdue project.”

The money will be provided through federal appropriations since lawmakers approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act on March 23.

Ann Harbison, a Washington County official who lives about 10 miles from the site, said she had feared the project had been shelved.

“I’m delighted that it’s going to be finished,” Harbison said. “For decades, people living near the site felt it as kind of a safety issue, a hazard in the community.”

Mike Johnson, UA’s associate vice chancellor for facilities, said the entire site is expected to return to “greenfield” status, which would allow for unrestricted use once the cleanup is finished.

Johnson said about $26 million has been approved so far. He said the “hope” is to finish the project at a cost below the $26.1 million estimate by early 2019.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

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