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Amodei Secures $12 Million in Funding for the Remediation of UNR Radium-226 Contaminated Facility

August 14, 2020
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Logan Tucker, 202-225-6155

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Congressman Mark Amodei (NV-02) today released the following statement after the U.S. Department of Interior announced it will award $12 million to the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to decontaminate its Facilities Services Building (FSB)which was previously occupied by the U.S. Bureau of Mines from 1920 to 1954. After testing confirmed the FSB’s contamination by Radium-226 in 2016, the building was vacated and its occupants were relocated.

“Since learning of this issue, securing the funding needed for the remediation of this building has been a top priority of ours,” said Rep. Amodei. “It’s encouraging to see our efforts pay off and to know the students and faculty who will soon utilize this historic facility will be able to do so safely.”

“I’d like to recognize the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee Chair, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Ranking Member David Joyce (R-OH), and their staffs, all of whom were instrumental in helping us advance this priority on behalf of the Silver State. It’s an honor to work alongside them on the Committee, and I’m grateful for their hard work, productivity, and thoughtful deliberation on this issue. Today’s announcement that UNR will receive the fully requested funding amount is certainly welcome news, and I’m pleased to have finally arrived at a positive outcome that will ensure the continued health and safety of the entire UNR community while on campus.”

BACKGROUND:

  • From 1920 to 1954, the U.S. Bureau of Mines occupied a facility at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) known as the Facilities Services Building (FSB). During this time, Radium-226 was researched and used by the Bureau, ultimately leading to the contamination of the FSB. In 2016, UNR was notified by the Nevada State Radiation Control Program Office that the federal government’s research of Radium-226 during this34-year period might have contaminated the FSB. After testing confirmed its contamination, UNR vacated the FSB and relocated all occupants.

 

  • Since the Bureau dissolved in 1996, it was not immediately clear which federal agency has jurisdiction over remediating such contamination caused by the federal government’s activities. To address this issue, Congressman Amodei’s office secured language in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Energy and Water Minibus appropriations bill, directing the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct a comprehensive review of the facility to determine if it had a legal liability or authorization for the remediation of the facility. The DOE completed their review in April 2019, determining the agency lacked the authority to remediate the FSB’s contamination.

 

  • Following the DOE’s determination, Congressman Amodei’s office identified the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Central Hazardous Materials fund as a suitable account to support the remediation of the FSB’s Radium-226 contamination, and worked to secure the following language in the FY 2020 Interior & Environment Appropriations bill, providing $12 million for radium cleanup under the Central Hazardous Materials Fund:

 

“For necessary expenses of the Department of the Interior and any of its component offices and bureaus for the response action, including associated activities, performed pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (42 U.S.C. 9601 et seq.), $10,010,000, to remain available until expended. For an additional amount for a competitive grant program to fund radium decontamination and remediation at any land-grant university that has been subjected to such contamination as a result of actions of the former United States Bureau of Mines, $12,000,000.”

 

  • On August 14, 2020, DOI announced it would award the fully requested $12 million to UNR to complete the remediation of the FSB.

 

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