San Jose CA – GE Nuclear Fuel Processing Facility at The Plant Shopping Center

Atomic Power Equipment Department of the General Electric Company
175 Curtner Avenue which is today “The Plant Shopping Center” How can the state do things like this? Here is the State of California’s Envirostor map of the location


This site was associated with the GE Vallecitos Nuclear Reactor site which is located near Sunol which is next to the San Antonio Reservoir. Let us hope that the creek does not empty into the water supply! In this map the site is near the middle 84 marker on this map and you can see Little Valley Road to its west.

How could the state of California allow a shopping mall to be built on top of a Uranium processing plant in the middle of the city of San Jose CA?. The site dumped radioactive waste directly into the city’s sewer system according to 1957 standards for disposal of nuclear waste into city sewer systems.

But 1957 standards for radiation exposure are nuclear accidents today. For example, in 1957 the maximum exposure for workers to be 1500 mrem of radiation a week for a person to be safe, that’s 18 full Rems a year. Today 5 REMS is the maximum amount for a nuclear worker a year but for civilians living on the site 0.1 REM or 100 mrems per year is the limit for safety for members of the public, the people of San Jose. 1 REM is 1000 mrems.

When the state says it was made safe, ask them what year and what were the standards back then!

Today’s nuclear radiation exposure levels from the Federal Register

Also note this report mentions radioactive contamination form Hetch Hetchy Reservoir as an excuse for high levels of radiation. The premise is that due to nuclear weapons’ explosions in the Nevada Desert contaminated the reservoir and the high radiation levels reported are from that contamination. This is a common dodge of nuclear radiation sites, they always blame it on the Nevada nuclear weapons tests dumpling radiation all over the world but this site was used to process Uranium Fuel Rods according to the San Francisco Examiner:

E. Bay plant quietly handles nuke waste
Safety is still in question at nearly forgotten Vallecitos, by Erin McCormick, Examiner Staff Writer Jane Kay contributed to this story. Monday, Nov. 24, 1997

The state of California knew San Jose plant was for manufacturing uranium for nuclear reactors but they were only concerned with hydrocarbons, I guess everyone forgot to mention the processing of Uranium for nuclear power plants on the site and nobody got the memo.

Here is the report from 1957 and I will follow it with what the state thinks is on the site.

United States Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. “Industrial Radioactive Waste Disposal.” Washington: U. S. Govt. Print. Off., 1959. pp. 2504 -2508


A brief description: is given of the sources of radioactive waste and methods of handling wastes by the Atomic Power Equipment Department of the General Electric Company. No serious problems in waste disposal from fuel manufacture, boiling water reactor operation or from the laboratory components have developed. The estimated quantities and costs are outlined along with a brief discussion of possible cost reductions.


The Department’s facilities are located at two principal sites in the San Francisco Bay area. The engineering and manufacturing facilities are located in San Jose, several miles south of the southern extremity of the San Francisco Bay. The laboratory facilities are located at Vallecitos in the hills some twenty miles northeast of San Jose. These sites include a very large variety of potential waste disposal problems; however, through careful design and established operating procedures, quantities of radioactive materials released to the environs are extremely limited.

In San Jose, the radioactive waste disposal problem is associated with uranium fuel development and manufacture. All liquid waste originating in the fuel facility and several small laboratories is received in a hold-up tank. Trace quantities of uranium contained in these waste streams are essentially removed by flocculation with either calcium or iron hydroxides. After precipitation and removal of the solids, the waste batch is sampled and analyzed for uranium content. Release to the municipal sewage system is permitted only when the concentration found by analysis is less than 10% of the public drinking water limit for uranium established by the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

All effluent air from radioactive materials areas in the San Jose site is discharged through high efficiency multiple stage filters to reduce the uranium concentration in the air below detectable levels. Solid wastes, which include filters, contaminated equipment, etc., are removed by a waste disposal firm licensed by the United States Atomic Energy Commission.

Samples of air, vegetation, soil and water of the environs surrounding the General Electric plant and from the San Jose City Sewage Treatment Plant are taken routinely to assure that no uranium has been dispersed.

The principal nuclear facilities currently in operation at the Vallecitos Laboratory site are:
(l) The Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor
(2) The Experimental Physics Laboratory
(3) The Radioactive Materials Laboratory
(4) The General Electric Test Reactor

All waste water released from the various laboratory facilities which is contaminated with radioactive materials or is potentially contaminated is either

p. 2505

1) removed from the laboratory site by a United States Atomic Energy Commission licensed waste disposal contractor or 2) released into one of two retention basins for analysis preparatory to discharge into Vallecitos creek. The retention basins are of reinforced concrete construction, each of 50,000 gallon capacity. When one basin is filled, it is isolated from the system and a sample is analyzed for radioactivity content. When the quality of the water is found to be acceptable for discharge, it is released into the creek. The Laboratory Staff works closely with the Bay Area Regional Water Pollution Control Board Staff in ascertaining suitability for discharge. To date, no radioactive contamination from the Vallecitos operation has been released via this outlet.

In the Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor, experimental fuels are irradiated under conditions which would be encountered in normal power plant use. The Pacific Gas & Electric Company has constructed and operates an associated turbine- generator to generate commercial electric power during the operation of the reactor. Sources of liquid waste from this facility include any necessary drainage from the boiling water reactor and the steam system itself, periodic replacement of recirculated cooling tower water, and other miscellaneous building drainage.

Wastes from the reactor system itself are purified by use of mixed bed demineralizers. In some cases, the activity of waste liquids can be reduced to essentially zero by short term decay storage. The waste water system consists of the reactor enclosure and turbine area sumps, a hold-up sump, and the waste water filter and demineralizer. Waste from the reactor and turbine sumps flows into the main hold-up sump. A sample is taken at this point and analyzed. If treatment is required, it is circulated through the waste demineralizer and filter until the radioactivity is removed. Water may then be discharged to the concrete retention basins with other laboratory wastes for analysis and discharge to Vallecitos creek. Methods are also available to remove wastes to a tank truck for off-site disposal, but this has not been necessary to date since primary means of controlling contamination have been successful.

The condenser cooling water circulated through a cooling tower presents an interesting sidelight to the radioactive liquid waste disposal problem. Water coming to the laboratory from the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct system contains trace quantities of naturally occurring radioactive material and fallout from weapons testing. In the use of this water in the cooling tower, a high degree of concentration of the salts in the water takes place. Thus, naturally occurring radioactivity in water can lead to concentrations which exceed the normal disposal limit. This problem is immediately apparent at a plant where wastes are tested for radioactive materials, but this particular phenomenon occurs at any place a cooling tower is operated.

In the Physics laboratory, radioactive liquid waste problems are minimal. In critical assemblies used primarily for testing reactor fuels, water is present as a moderator. This water is replaced infrequently, but its usage is such that essentially no radioactivity is induced. This is confirmed by sampling and analysis prior to release to a dual retention basin system. If the water were contaminated it would be removed by tank truck. -2-


A principal use of the radioactive materials laboratory is to perform tests on irradiated fuel elements. Small quantities of highly radioactive liquid wastes are generated in this facility. Where the volume is small and the radiation level high, the liquid waste is solidified and handled subsequently as an item for solid waste disposal. Large volumes of radioactive wastes are received in a series of catch tanks in the laboratory basement. Currently this waste is placed in a tank trailer for removal from the site by a licensed contractor. Other miscellaneous waste streams from this laboratory, which should contain no radioactive material, are discharged to the concrete retention basin system and tested to assure safety.

The General Electric Test Reactor Just began operations. Potential waste problems are similar to that of the boiling water reactor in that reactor water and cooling water are the chief potential sources for waste volume. Similar handling and treatment methods will be used. Liquid wastes from the plant, other than the cooling tower wastes, are drained or pumped to one of three retention tanks. These tanks have a 25,000 gallon capacity to provide retention for the maximum expected volume of liquid wastes. The storage or retention tanks are divided into a “non-usable” and a “re-usable” system. Radioactive and other possibly suspect drains discharge to the non-usable retention tank. The usable retention tanks take low-level radioactive overflow or scheduled drainage from the reactor and pool cooling systems when it has been proven that these liquids are not radioactive. Water from the usable tanks is returned to the demineralized water storage tank via the pool cleanup demineralizer.

General Electric has also supplied a number of open pool test reactors for various foreign governments and domestic universities. While we do not have such a facility at the Vallecitos Laboratory, we have established temporary provisions for testing cores of these reactors prior to shipment. Again, liquid waste problems are limited primarily to low level activity in reactor cooling water. Particularly in the case of the pool reactor, most of the significant activities have a relatively rapid radioactive decay.

All solid wastes generated by the Laboratory operations are carefully packaged. A waste disposal contractor, licensed by the United States Atomic Energy Commission, removes the wastes if the radiation levels are sufficiently low for safe transport over the highways.

Some solid wastes are too radioactive to remove from the site due to the unreasonably large amount of shielding which would be required during transportation. Therefore, a radioactive waste storage facility consisting of a horizontal tube arrangement shielded by concrete on the ends and earth fill on the top and sides was constructed. Waste is entered into the receiving end, and waste with reduced radioactivity, as a result of the natural decay process, is removed from the discharge end. Hold-up time for radioactive waste decay may require a few years. An associated storage area consisting of 2.5 feet diameter drainage pipes buried vertically in the soil is also available for storage of filled 55 gallon drums. After sufficient decay these materials are removed by the waste disposal contractor.

Air contaminants fall into two broad categories; particulate and gaseous. Where needed, decontamination of the air is effected through highly efficient multiple stage filtration which reduces the particulate contamination to low levels. Where necessary, radiogases which decay rapidly are retained in a tank for a short period of time until quantities of radioactivity are reduced to acceptable levels. -3-


At all locations where air which may reasonably be expected to contain radioactive contamination is discharged from the laboratory buildings, the exhaust air is monitored continuously. If traces of contamination pass through the filters the ventilation system can be stopped until repairs are made. The monitors consist of two stages; one measures and records the accumulation of particulate and filterable radioactive material; the other measures and records concentrations of gaseous and non-filterable radioactive materials.

In addition, the Laboratory site is surrounded by four environmental monitoring stations. Each station continuously measures and records variance in the total radioactivity as detected by a Geiger counter, and also measures and records accumulation of radioactivity on a filter, through which atmospheric air is continuously drawn. These stations have not indicated radioactivity above normal background levels at the periphery of the Laboratory site as a result of Laboratory operations. This survey program is further supplemented by the radio analysis of samples of soil, vegetation and water from the environs of the site.

The waste disposal systems outlined above provide the control which is necessary to meet health protection requirements. Continued maintenance of high health protection standards is expected in the future. No unusual or serious problems have been encountered and no new problems are anticipated that cannot be solved by usual engineering methods.

Economics of WASTE PROGRAM

The San Jose facility, which manufactures reactor fuels, generates approximately 1500 gallons of potentially contaminated liquid wastes a week. In general, the contaminant consists of small suspended UO2 particles from the laundry operations, floor mopping, etc. which are easily separated by the flocking process. Chemicals for the operation cost less than $1/week and an additional two hours/week of laboratory technician’s time is required for analyses. Excluding amortization of the floc tank and associated pumps and equipment, treatment costs about 5% a gallon including overhead costs. The flocking equipment costs $7500 and with a six year amortization, the additional cost would be 1.6 cents/gallon.

The solid waste volume at San Jose is approximately 800 cu ft/month and costs $6.10/cu ft. of volume for removal by the waste disposal contractor.

At Vallecitos, the radioactive materials cannot be economically separated from some of the liquid wastes, particularly those from the radioactive materials laboratory and associated chemical operations. These are the wastes that have been accumulated in tanks and are removed by the waste disposal contractor in truckload quantities. The average quantity of liquid waste removed during 1958 was 2300 gallons per month. The cost of liquid waste disposal ranges from 30% to 50¢ per gallon. The cost of storing the waste until removed is not included.

The average quantity of solid waste removed from Vallecitos during 1958 was 279 cubic feet per month and the cost of disposal varied from $3.25 to $6.10 per cubic foot. This cost does not include packaging and storage until disposal. -4-


A total of 263 cubic feet of radioactive waste is currently stored at the Laboratory awaiting natural decay to lower levels to enable transportation without costly shielding. Decay to suitable levels for transport will vary from a few months to years.

Cost of shielded storage space for radioactive waste varies considerably with the radiation levels and nature of the waste. The minimum construction cost of shielded storage space at Vallecitos is $11 per cubic foot of usable space.

Future Estimates

The non-volatile characteristics of UO2 dust at the San Jose facility offer attractive possibilities for incineration. Studies indicate that a suitable incinerator can be built for approximately $5000 to reduce the solid waste volume by an estimated 90%. Decontamination of the effluent gases will be effected by a cyclone separator backed up by a high efficiency, high temperature filter. Reclamation of U from the ashes may also prove feasible. A further reduction in the cost of liquid disposal from San Jose is anticipated through the installation of larger floc tanks to reduce the man hours required per gallon treated.

At Vallecitos waste volume reduction is complicated by the variety and the physical state of the radioisotopes being used. Studies of primary interest at the present time include the economics of mechanical waste compression, the feasibility of incineration of combustible solids and the possibility of solar evaporation of liquid wastes.

This is what the state of California says about the site:


General Electric (GE) acquired the site in 1948 and began operations of the GE Motor Plant Facility. In 1956, GE began operations of the Nuclear Energy Facility. GE filed a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Hazardous Waste Part A Permit Application for the Facility on November 13, 1980 for the wastes generated during operations at the facility. GE was granted an Interim Status Document on December 17, 1981 by the Department of Health Services (DHS). GE requested that DHS withdraw their RCRA Part A Permit Application on March 26, 1985 and requested a change in their status to that of being solely a generator of hazardous waste because they did not store hazardous wastes on site for more than 90 days. The Motor Plant Facility ceased operations in 1986 and instead became used for warehousing purposes for the GE Nuclear Energy Business Group. On March 2, 1987, DHS approved the withdrawal of GE’s Part A Permit Application. U.S. EPA confirmed the withdrawal of GE’s Part A Permit Application on June 20, 1988.

The GE Nuclear Energy facility was licensed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, now known as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as a fuel development and manufacturing operation for Nuclear Power Plants in 1967. Manufacturing activities at the GE Nuclear Energy facility ceased in the 1970s. GE decided to decommission most of the facility, but maintained a smaller area in Building A at the site for radioactive materials. The Department of Health Services, Radiological Health Branch licensed the facility for radioactive materials. The NRC oversaw decommissioning activities between the 1970s and 1985. In 1985, the NRC performed a confirmation survey and terminated GE’s license for fuel development and manufacturing operations. On January 24, 1994, GE’s California Radioactive Materials License was terminated.

GE began soil and groundwater investigation at the site in August 2000. In October 2000, GE voluntarily entered into the Spills, Leaks, Investigations, and Cleanup (SLIC) Program managed by the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB). RWQCB has been the lead agency in charge of oversight at the GE site since then. Between 2000 and 2005, GE has coordinated with RWQCB for investigations at the site. The investigations showed that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethene (TCE) and dichloroethene (DCE), heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and petroleum hydrocarbons were detected in soil and groundwater.

GE sold the site in 2005, and redevelopment of the site into an approximately 630,000 square foot retail shopping center began. Remediation of VOCs, heavy metals, PCBs, and petroleum hydrocarbons was performed alongside redevelopment. Remediation activities included soil excavation, soil vapor extraction, groundwater remediation, and the installation of vapor mitigation systems in all newly constructed buildings. Soil excavation was completed in 2006, and soil vapor extraction was completed in 2011. GE is performing ongoing groundwater remediation to restore groundwater to drinking water standards. The vapor mitigation systems are to remain in place, and will be maintained until groundwater remediation is completed.


Editors note: Uranium and Uranium Ore are METALS.

The State says that GE told them they do not hold wastes more than 90 days, but the above report from 1957 says otherwise.

This site is an example where there is a disconnect between nuclear weapons and nuclear power and the EPA. They do not communicate with each other and sites like this get left to a bunch of state bureaucrats who have no idea what they are doing!

They are land mines and I would bet the people of San Jose have no idea what was done there!


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