- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Veterans Affairs Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System is out of the nuclear business after entering the atomic age with its small-scale reactor nearly six decades ago.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission terminated the operating license for the Alan J. Blotcky Reactor Facility, effective Monday, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/2aq6rI6 ) reported. The facility had run in the basement of Omaha’s VA Medical Center for more than 40 years.

VA researchers used the reactor primarily for neutron activation of biological samples from 1959 to 2001. The facility was also used to train operators of the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant.

Soon after 9/11, it was shut down because of security concerns, and its 58 spent fuel rods were quietly removed in 2002.

Last year, the VA spent $1.3 million to dismantle what was left of the reactor, in addition to $5.9 million spent in 2001 and 2002.

System officials have haven’t found any health or safety concerns after inspecting the space in the months since. The results were confirmed in surveys by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

VA spokeswoman Anna Morelock says the future of the former reactor space is undetermined, but that it’s hoped that it’ll be converted into offices soon.

“Right now, it’s still an empty room,” Morelock said. “In our space-deficient hospital, we’re always anxious for more space.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com


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