scraped areas had recovered about 25% of their vegetation, compared to the surrounding undisturbed landscape.
Areas treated with road oil appeared approximately the same as untreated areas except for some remaining oil residue. Based on a FIDLER survey, R. O. Gilbert estimated (in a paper included in Transuranics in Desert Ecosystems, NVO-181, 1977) that the inventory of Pu- 239/240 remaining in the top two inches of soil at Area 13 was approximately 46-Curies, covering a 4,017,000-square-meter area. An aerial survey in 1979 by A. E. Fritzsche yielded an estimated inventory of 62.1 to 90.5-Curies of Pu-239/240, based on Am-241 levels.
In their 1980 report, Estimates of Soil Removal for Cleanup of Transuranics at NAEG Offsite Safety-Shot Sites, R. R. Kinnison and R. O. Gilbert used available summary data to determine the amount of soil removal necessary to decontaminate the project 57 site down to 160- picoCuries of plutonium. They determined that roughly 198,000 tons of the top six inches of soil would need to be removed from an area covering 269 acres. Soil profiles studies indicated that most of the plutonium contaminants are located in the top two inches.
In 1981, the Department of Energy Nevada Operations (DOE-NV) sought funding through the Surplus Facilities Management Program (SFMP) for the decontamination and decommissioning of Area 13. The application for funding was submitted by Arden E. Bicker of REECo. In the application, Bicker describes Area 13 as being "approximately five miles from a public road and directly adjacent to the site of a rapidly growing military installation."
In fact, the contaminated zone was located just east of Valley Road, which is the primary thoroughfare from Area 51 to the town of Rachel in Sand Springs Valley to the north of Area 13. The "public road" described by Bicker was the road to Groom Mine.
Three years later, the road, the mine, and most of the Groom Mountains were seized by the Air Force to prevent public access, and provide additional security for Area 51.
A draft of the SFMP response to the application describes the request "to provide funding beginning in fiscal year 1983 to enable DOE to remove contaminated surface soil from Area 13 and dispose of it in appropriate disposal facilities on the Nevada Test Site." Estimates of contaminated soil volumes indicated that it would take 10 years to complete the cleanup if the funding was made available.
The application was reviewed by the SFMP Facility Acceptance Review Board to determine whether the site was eligible.
The Review Board discussed the fact that Area 13 was off-site from the NTS, on the Nellis Air Force Range. Presumably then, it might be the responsibility of the Air Force to decontaminate the site (or leave it alone). Also, the Board wondered if it was even appropriate to include a parcel of contaminated ground in the SFMP since it was not actually a "facility" per se.
The Review Board's most pressing questions were rooted in the "Requirements for Acceptance" portion of the SFMP Facility Acceptance Procedure, the rules and regulations for inclusion in the SFMP. These requirements stated that "the facility shall be in a radiologically safe condition."
Specifically, a current radiation/contamination survey of the facility and surrounding area had to be available, structures and monitoring equipment had to be adequate to contain and monitor any radioactivity, and security systems and procedures had to be adequate to prevent unauthorized entry. The Review Board was very concerned about these points.