United Nuclear Corporation

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
UNC Incorporated
  • United Nuclear Corporation (1961–1984)
  • UNC Resources Inc (1984 - 1986)
Company typePublic
  • Nuclear mining, research, applications
  • Aviation services
FoundedMarch 1961; 63 years ago (1961-03) in Maryland, United States
DefunctSeptember 17, 1997 (1997-09-17)
FateAcquired by General Electric
United States
Area served
United States
Key people
  • Dan A. Colussy (Chairperson, President, CEO)
  • John J. Bonasia (Vice Chairperson)
  • Robert L. Pevenstein (Senior Vice President, CFO)
  • Kenneth G. Mosesian (Treasurer)
RevenueIncrease$832,063,000 (1996)
Increase$7,624,000 (1996)
Total assetsIncrease$748,296,000 (1996)
Total equityIncrease$136,279,000 (1996)
Number of employees
7,449 (1996)
ParentGeneral Electric
  • UNC Aviation Services (1984–1996)
  • UNC Naval Products (1961–1976)
  • UNC Development Division (1961–1984)
  • UNC Fuels Division (1961 - 1984)
  • Gulf United Nuclear Fuels Corporation (1971-1973)
Footnotes / references

The United Nuclear Corporation (UNC) was a diversified nuclear mining,[9] development,[10] and applications[11] company based out of the United States. Formed in 1961[10][12][13] as a joint venture between the Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation, the Mallinckrodt Corporation of America, and the Nuclear Development Corporation of America,[10] the company is most well known today as the company behind the Church Rock uranium mill spill.[14][15] In 1996 the company was acquired by General Electric,[16] and remains to oversee the decommissioning of its former sites.


The United Nuclear Corporation was formed in 1961 to oversee its founding partner's existing nuclear projects and take advantage of the growing nuclear market in the context of the cold war.[17] At formation, UNC began managing the Hematite, Missouri Production Plant and the New Haven Naval Products Plant previously owned by Mallinckrodt and Olin respectively.

That year, the company announced the development of a nuclear "fast burst reactor" designed for use in research contexts.[18] Later known as the Health Physics Research Reactor and located in the Oak Ridge National Laboratory,[19] the reactor was completed on 31 May 1963.[20] It was the first of its kind to depart from an unalloyed uranium metal assembly.[21]

The company purchased its first uranium mill, Ambrosia Lake, in 1963,[22] and built a nuclear fuel recycling plant in 1964.[23] The company also experienced its first nuclear incident that year when an operator at its recycling plant was killed by a criticality incident.[24] In 1965 UNC won a contract from the Atomic Energy Commission to operate the reactor and fuel fabrication facilities at the AEC's plant.[25] The company also attempted to merge with Pan American Sulphur,[26][27] however the deal never came to fruition.[28][29] The next year, in 1966, Cities Services Co attempted to enter the nuclear market through purchasing UNC,[30] however, yet again, the deal was terminated.[31]

On 13 February 1968 the company became publicly listed on the New York Stock Exchange,[32] although the company had been an OTC stock before then.[33][34] Shortly after, in June of that year, Combustion Engineering purchased 22% of UNC despite a majority of the UNC board indicating their opposition.[35] In response, UNC brought an antitrust suit against CE[36] and the company was forced to divest themselves of the stock.[37][38]

During the 1970s the company saw a large expansion as it opened its Church Rock uranium mill in 1977[39] and moved to a new, larger Naval Products plant in Montville.[40] In 1971, the company expanded into coal mining with the purchase of Plateau Mining.[41] The company also entered a partnership with Gulf Oil to form the Gulf United Nuclear Fuels Corporation,[42] although the company sold its interest to Gulf in 1973.[43] By 1978 the company was the nation's largest independent producer of uranium.[44] The next year, 1979, saw the company's second nuclear incident, when a dam at their Church Rock mine broke, leaking radioactive waste into a tributary of the Puerco River.[45]

In 1984, following the decline of the uranium industry near the end of the cold war,[46] the United Nuclear Corporation rebranded to "UNC" and transitioned over the next decade into a business aviation and jet engine service provider.[47] With the purchase of Garrett Aviation Services in 1996, UNC controlled 52% of the business aviation services market and saw annual revenues of close to $1 billion.[48][47] The next year, in 1997, General Electric acquired the company and its debts for $330 million, with The Carlyle Group purchasing its military contract services division, UNC Aviation Services.


Ambrosia Lake Uranium Mill

Ambrosia Lake was a uranium mine and mill built in 1957 and operated by the Phillips Petroleum Company[22] until it was purchased by UNC in 1963.[49][50] Shortly after, UNC ceased milling operations at the site, although they retained ownership of the property.[49][51]

Church Rock Uranium Mill

The Church Rock uranium mine and mill, located in McKinley County, New Mexico, first began exploration in 1968 as the company looked to expand its operations to meet demand.[12] The mill was operational from June 1977 to May 1982.[39] At around 5:30am on 16 July 1979, a 20ft breach opened in the south cell of the facility's uranium mill tailings pond, releasing 1,000 tonnes of solid radioactive mill waste and 93 million US gallons acidic, radioactive tailings solution into Pipeline Arroyo, a tributary of the Puerco River.[45][52][53] In 1983 the site was added to the Environmental Protection Agency's the National Priorities List, following investigations and minor cleanup efforts in the previous four years.[54][55] In 1997, following their purchase by General Electric, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined UNC $100,000 for failing to set aside funds for the decommission of the site.[56] In 2008, a five-year plan for the cleanup of contaminated uranium sites on the Navajo reservation, of which Church Rock is part, was authorized.[57]

Wood River Junction Fuels Recovery Plant

The UNC Fuels Recovery Plant was a nuclear fuel recycling plant opened in April 1964.[58] Four months after it began operation, on 24 July 1964 at 6:06pm a criticality incident occurred resulting in the death of the Production Operator, Robert Peabody, from acute radiation syndrome.[59] Five other employees were in the facility at the time, however no other fatalities occurred.[24] As a result of the incident, the Atomic Energy Commission charged UNC with 14 violations of nuclear safety regulations, however no fines were ever levied against the company.[23] After decontamination, the plant reopened on 1965 and remained in operation until it was decommissioned in 1980.[23] A 1979 aerial survey found radiation exposure rates in the area to be consistent with natural background radiation, except directly over the UNC facility.[60]

New Haven & Montville Naval Products Plants

UNC operated two facilities for the fabrication of nuclear products for the U.S Navy over its life. The original facility, located in New Haven, Connecticut, was built and operated by Olin Mathieson Chemicals from 1956 until 1961, when the newly formed UNC took over operations.[61] It moved to a new facility in Montville in 1974 and decommissioned the original plant.[61] Following the end of the cold war, the Montville facility was also shut down in 1990,[40][62] with decontamination being completed in 1994.[61]

Hematite, Missouri Production Plant

UNC owned and operated the Hematite, Missouri reactor fuel production plant between 1961 and 1971.[63] The facility was inherited from Mallinckrodt, one of three companies making up UNC.[64] During its tenure, the company buried small quantities of uranium on the property; however the company failed to record or disclose specific information about the location, size, or makeup of the burials.[63] In 1971, the facility was sold to the newly formed Gulf United Nuclear Fuels Corporation, a partnership between UNC and Gulf Oil.[65][64] The site was sold to General Atomics in 1974, and again sold later that year to Combustion Engineering, who repurposed it into an enriched uranium fuel production plant for the U.S Navy.[63][66]

In 1979 Combustion Engineering applied to decommission the site, however the proposal was rejected because decontamination and disposal activities were not included in the plan. Following this, several surveys were conducted during the 1980s to document the area's radiation exposure. The most notable of these was conducted in 1983 by the Radiation Management Corporation with the goal of discovering the sites Mallinckrodt and UNC had used to dispose of nuclear waste. The report found soil contamination at 40 times higher than the NRC's guidelines allow, and contamination in the ground water 1 to 12 times higher than the EPA allows. Despite this, the survey was unable to identify all burial sites.[63]

The site was purchased in 2000 by the Westinghouse Electric Company and closed the next year.[66] The decontamination and decommissioning of the facility was completed in 2016.[67][68]


  1. ^ "32. UNC INC". Washington Post.
  2. ^ Maryland Business Register; UNC Incorporated; Registration #F02337145
  3. ^ SEC. "Unc Inc 1996 Annual Report 10-K". SEC.report. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  4. ^ "NRC: UNC Naval Products". www.nrc.gov. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  5. ^ Strasser, A.; Taylor, K. (1962). "CARBIDE FUEL DEVELOPMENT. Progress Report, January 1, 1962 to March 31, 1962". U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information. doi:10.2172/4800249. OSTI 4800249.
  6. ^ "Nuclear Incident at United Nuclear Corporation Wood River Junction" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "NRC: UNC Naval Products". www.nrc.gov. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  8. ^ "United Nuclear Set to Sell Fuels Corp. Interest to Gulf (Published 1973)". The New York Times. 1973-08-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  9. ^ "United Nuclear Corporation Church Rock Project". Federal Register. 2019-03-13. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  10. ^ a b c "United Nuclear Corp". coldwar-ct. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  11. ^ "NRC: UNC Naval Products". www.nrc.gov. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  12. ^ a b United Nuclear Corporation (1968). "Annual Report 1968" (PDF). Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  13. ^ Maryland Company Register; United Nuclear Corporation; Registration #F00036210
  14. ^ "The Largest Nuclear Accident in U.S. History Has Been Forgotten". www.vice.com. 12 August 2019. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  15. ^ "The biggest radioactive spill in US history". YouTube. Vox. 12 October 2020.
  16. ^ "GE Completes Acquisition of UNC, Incorporated | GE Aviation". www.geaviation.com. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  17. ^ "Status of World Nuclear Forces". Federation Of American Scientists. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  18. ^ Smith, Gene (1961-07-19). "DEVICE SIMULATES A-BOMB'S EFFECTS; Reactor Produces Radiation Without Heat and Blast (Published 1961)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  19. ^ Wimett, Thomas F. (1965-05-14). "Fast Burst Reactors In The U.S.A.". doi:10.2172/4594044. OSTI 4594044. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  20. ^ Auxier, J. A. (1965-02-01). "The Health Physics Research Reactor". Health Physics. 11 (2): 89–93. doi:10.1097/00004032-196502000-00002. ISSN 0017-9078. PMID 14291025.
  21. ^ Wimett, Thomas F. (1965-05-14). "Fast Burst Reactors In The U.S.A.". doi:10.2172/4594044. OSTI 4594044. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  22. ^ a b "Remedial Action at Ambrosia Lake" (PDF).
  23. ^ a b c "Nuclear Fatality at Wood River Junction | Yankee Classic". New England Today. 2020-07-24. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  24. ^ a b "THE NUCLEAR ASPECTS Of The ACCIDENTAL CRITICALITY At Wood River Junction, Rhode Island" (PDF).
  25. ^ "DOUGLAS AIRCRAFT WINS A.E.C. PACT; Company and United Nuclear to Operate Reactor Units COMPANIES STAGE ANNUAL MEETINGS (Published 1965)". The New York Times. 1965-04-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  26. ^ "Pan American Sulphur Reports Merger Offer by United Nuclear (Published 1965)". The New York Times. 1965-07-16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  27. ^ "MERGER BID STATED BY UNITED NUCLEAR (Published 1965)". The New York Times. 1965-07-17. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  28. ^ Hammer, Alexander R. (1971-06-03). "Studebaker and Susquehanna In Pan American Sulphur Pact (Published 1971)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  29. ^ "United Nuclear Withdraws (Published 1965)". The New York Times. 1965-09-15. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  30. ^ Rechert, Clare M. (1966-07-07). "CITIES SERVICE CO. MAPS ACQUISITION; Plans Atomic-Energy Role With Proposed Purchase of United Nuclear Corp. (Published 1966)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  31. ^ "CITIES SERVICE ENDS UNITED NUCLEAR BID (Published 1966)". The New York Times. 1966-09-22. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  32. ^ "H.14 Capital Markets Developments in the United States". Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis. H.16 Capital Market Developments. 1968-02-05.
  33. ^ "UNLISTED STOCKS ROSE LAST WEEK; Increased Buying by Public and Institutions Noted (Published 1964)". The New York Times. 1964-01-26. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  34. ^ "United Nuclear Corp. Names Top Executive (Published 1961)". The New York Times. 1961-10-12. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  35. ^ Wright, Robert A. (1968-06-26). "Combustion's Bid Is Opposed; Deal With Olin Resisted COMBUSTION DEAL DRAWS OPPOSITION (Published 1968)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  36. ^ "COMBUSTION DENIES NUCLEAR'S CHARGES (Published 1968)". The New York Times. 1968-07-11. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  37. ^ Ranzal, Edward (1968-10-17). "URANIUM DEALERS FACE A TRUST SUIT; U.S. Seeks Combustion Sale of United Nuclear Stock URANIUM DEALERS FACE A TRUST SUIT (Published 1968)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  38. ^ Bechhoefer, Bernhard (1970-01-01). "ANTITRUST POWERS OF THE AEC". UMitch.
  39. ^ a b "UNITED NUCLEAR CORP. Site Profile". cumulis.epa.gov. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  40. ^ a b Jack Ewing. "Decline of UNC Plant has put Montville in a Tailspin". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  41. ^ "Merger News (Published 1971)". The New York Times. 1971-11-03. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  42. ^ "Gulf United Nuclear Set (Published 1971)". The New York Times. 1971-07-03. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  43. ^ "United Nuclear Set to Sell Fuels Corp. Interest to Gulf (Published 1973)". The New York Times. 1973-08-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-18.
  44. ^ "United Nuclear Gets Big Uranium Order (Published 1978)". The New York Times. 1978-06-09. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  45. ^ a b Pasternak, Judy (2010). Yellow Dirt: A Poisoned Land and a People Betrayed. Free Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-4165-9482-6.
  46. ^ Conca, James. "Nuclear Power - Where's The Uranium Coming From?". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  47. ^ a b Wooton, Suzanne (15 September 1996). "UNC poised to take off Transformation: UNC, after struggling to get out of the nuclear industry, now appears ready to be a force in aviation services". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  48. ^ Wooton, Suzanne (15 September 1996). "UNC poised to take off Transformation: UNC, after struggling to get out of the nuclear industry, now appears ready to be a force in aviation services". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved 2020-10-12.
  49. ^ a b "Ambrosia Lake, New Mexico, Disposal Site" (PDF).
  50. ^ "The Center for Land Use Interpretation". www.clui.org. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  51. ^ "United Nuclear Is Closing Grants, N.M., Uranium Mill (Published 1963)". The New York Times. 1963-04-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-16.
  52. ^ Brugge, D.; DeLemos, J.L.; Bui, C. (2007), "The Sequoyah Corporation Fuels Release and the Church Rock Spill: Unpublicized Nuclear Releases in American Indian Communities", American Journal of Public Health, 97 (9): 1595–600, doi:10.2105/ajph.2006.103044, PMC 1963288, PMID 17666688
  53. ^ Second Five-Year Review Report for the United Nuclear Corporation. Ground Water Operable Unit (PDF), EPA, September 2003, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-31
  54. ^ Second Five-Year Review Report for the United Nuclear Corporation. Ground Water Operable Unit (PDF), EPA, September 2003, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-31
  55. ^ EPA Superfund Record of Decision: United Nuclear Corp., Church Rock, New Mexico: EPA, September 30, 1988
  57. ^ Felicia Fonseca, "Navajo woman helps prompt uranium mine cleanup", Associated Press, carried in Houston Chronicle, 5 September 2011, accessed 5 October 2011
  58. ^ "Tragic Death Gives Way to Environmental Rebirth". ecoRI News. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  60. ^ EG&G Energy Measurements Group (1981). "An Aerial Radiological Survey of the Area Surrounding the UNC Recovery Systems Facility Wood River Junction, Rhode Island". U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information. National Technical Information Service. doi:10.2172/6316102.
  61. ^ a b c "UNC Naval Products". Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  62. ^ Sugawara, Sandra (1990-06-19). "HIGH AND DRY IN A TIME OF PEACE". Washington Post.
  63. ^ a b c d "NRC'S Decommissioning Procedures and Criteria Need to Be Strengthened" (PDF).
  64. ^ a b "FOIA; NRC" (PDF).
  65. ^ "Gulf United Nuclear Set (Published 1971)". The New York Times. 1971-07-03. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  66. ^ a b Thorsen, Leah (24 November 2012). "Cleanup under way at shuttered Hematite nuclear fuel factory". STLtoday.com. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  67. ^ "Project Decom - Nuclear Engineering International". www.neimagazine.com. Retrieved 2020-10-13.
  68. ^ "Hematite Radioactive Site". dnr.mo.gov. Retrieved 2020-10-13.