Also Known As: Downey Facility was formerly part of Energy Technology Engineering Center.
State: California Location: Los Angeles County
Time Period: DOE 1948-1955
Facility Type: Department of Energy
Under an operating contract with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), North American Aviation operated a 2 MeV Van De Graaff accelerator at Downey. In addition, the AEC funded a four-watt Water Boiler Neutron Source Reactor at the Downey facility. Start up for the reactor was in April of 1952. This small research reactor was moved to Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in 1955. Personnel and operations from Downey moved to the new Canoga Avenue facility in late 1955. Effective remediation of the Downey facility was accomplished at that time.
In 2000, The Boeing Company performed a survey verifying that the prior remediation met current Nuclear Regulatory Commission and State of California requirements. Ownership of the Downey facility was then transferred to the City of Downey.
CONTRACTOR: North American Aviation 1948-1955
Downey Facility is listed as a Department of Energy (DOE) site under the EEOICPA.
Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) Classes
All employees of the Department of Energy, its predecessor agencies, and their contractors and subcontractors who worked at the Downey Facility in Los Angeles County, California from January 1, 1948 through December 31, 1955, for a number of work days aggregating at least 250 work days, occurring either solely under this employment or in combination with work days within the parameters established for one or more other classes of employees included in the Special Exposure Cohort.
The Downey Facility is located in Downey, California, and has been involved in the research and development of aircraft since the founding of EMSCO Aircraft Corporation in Downey by E. M. Smith in 1929. Since that time, the manufacturing facility as changed hands several times.
From the early 1950’s to 1964, the Downey facility was officially known as AFP 16 (Air Force Plant 16). Under Air Force contract, the Downey Facility, which was owned by the Vultee Aircraft Division of the Aviation Manufacturing Corporation began to develop a new missile concept called Navaho, which would lead to technology utilized in the space program. The company was also experimenting with two types of processes. One such power source was atomic energy, and in 1952 a small, low-power research reactor was tested and placed into operation in Downey and was the first nuclear reactor built and operated in California.
In the following years, the Downey Facility was involved in manufacturing the prototype for cruise missiles, the development of the X-15 aircraft, and in 1964 was transferred to NASA to work on the space program. Downey worked on the Apollo project and the Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis space shuttles.
By the end of 1999, Downey, now owned by Boeing North American, was closed.
As of 08/2015, the total compensation paid under Parts B and E of the EEOICPA, including medical compensation, for workers suffering from the effects of having worked at Downey Facility is $10,578,423.
Downey Facility Workers
If you or your parent worked at this or any other DOE or AWE facility and became ill, you may be entitled to compensation of up to $400K plus medical benefits from the US Department of Labor. Call EEOICPA Counsel Hugh Stephens at 1-855-EEOICPA (336-4272) or fill out the form to the right, whether or not you have already filed a claim and even if your claim has been accepted or denied.
We can help with all OWCP (Federal Workers Compensation) claims, impairments, wage loss and health care. 2495 Main Street, Suite 442 Buffalo, NY.
NIOSH site Profile
The Downey facility is on Lakewood Boulevard in Downey, California. AEC-funded activities were performed by Rockwell’s Atomics International Division in a small portion of this large building between 1948 and 1955. AEC activities included mainly paper studies, research and development, and engineering studies. However, these activities also involved the use of a 2-MeV Van de Graaff generator, a small-scale radiochemical laboratory, a neutron counting room, and a construction area with a small 0.5-W teaching reactor. In addition, the AEC funded a 4-W WBNS at the Downey facility.
Startup for the reactor was in April of 1952. The reactor fuel was uranyl sulfate with a sealed polonium and beryllium neutron source; only very small quantities of radioactive material were ever present at the facility. There were 3 Ci of radioactive material present when the reactor was at full power. The WBNS operated at Downey until December 1955. In 1956 it was dismantled and moved to Area IV. Personnel and operations from Downey moved to the Canoga Avenue facility in late 1955.
The major quantity of radioactive material at Downey was canned normal and depleted uranium metal used in the exponential pile. The exponential pile was a system designed to model different fuel/moderator lattice configurations. The behavior of neutron flux in these lattices was measured. The 4-W WBNS was used as a neutron source for the exponential pile. The radioactive material was obtained from a variety of AEC and government contractors. After use it was returned to the source or transferred to the SSFL. The loading dock was the only place where the fuel was stored. All isotopes used at Downey by Rockwell were used for industrial radiography at Building 004, on Clark Avenue. All isotopes were disposed of in the early 1990s.
Effective remediation of the Downey facility was accomplished in 1956. In 2000, Boeing performed a survey verifying that the previous remediation met current NRC and California requirements. Ownership of the Downey facility was then transferred to the City of Downey.
The Downey Facility
The Downey Facility on Lakewood Blvd. in the City of Downey, was used by North American Aviation (NAA) to build airplanes during the 1940s and 1950s. It was later used by Rockwell International to build the Space Shuttle. In addition to these aerospace operations, a small portion of the Downey facility was also used for nuclear research from 1948 to 1955. Operations were conducted by the Atomic Energy Research Department (AERD), which later became the Atomics International (AI) Division when operations were moved to the Canoga Facility in late 1955.
AERD was engaged in research and development for controlled release of energy from the atom for the production of electric power. This research and development was then sponsored by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).
One of the projects was the design, construction and operation of the first nuclear reactor in California. A source of neutrons was needed for one of the reactor physics projects, so a small aqueous, homogeneous reactor called the Water Boiler Neutron Source (WBNS) was built and put into operation on April 21, 1952. The reactor was operated at power levels up to 4 watts and served as an excellent neutron source for a number of reactor physics programs. It didn’t really boil water, as one might guess from the 4-watt power level, but a small amount of hydrogen and oxygen from decomposition of the water was released from the solution into a tank during operation – hence the designation “water boiler”.
NIOSH SEC Petition Evaluation Report
Petition 167 (Jan 1, 1948 to Dec 31, 1955)
SEC Petition Evaluation Report, Petition SEC-00167 – Rev #: 0
Report Submittal Date: March 24, 2010
Technical Basis Documents
Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, the Canoga Avenue Facility (Vanowen Building), the Downey Facility, and the De Soto Avenue Facility (sometimes referred to as Energy Technology Engineering Center [ETEC] or Atomics International) – Occupational Medical Dose
Effective Date: 10/31/2008
Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, the Canoga Avenue Facility, the Downey Facility, and the De Soto Avenue Facility (sometimes referred to as Energy Technology Engineering Center [ETEC] or Atomics International) – Occupational Environmental Dose
Effective Date: 04/26/2010
Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, the Canoga Avenue Facility, the Downey Facility, and the De Soto Avenue Facility (sometimes referred to as Energy Technology Engineering Center [ETEC] or Atomics International) – Occupational Internal Dose
Effective Date: 04/26/2010
Area IV of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, the Canoga Avenue Facility, the Downey Facility, and the De Soto Avenue Facility (sometimes referred to as Energy Technology Engineering Center [ETEC] or Atomics International) – Occupational External Dose
Effective Date: 04/26/2010
If you or your parent worked any of the DOE or AWE facilities listed on this website and became ill, you may be entitled to compensation of up to $400K plus medical benefits from the US Department of Labor.
Call EEOICPA Counsel Hugh Stephens at 1-800-548-4494, email email@example.com, or fill out the form below whether or not you have already filed a claim and even if your claim has been accepted or denied.
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*note: Submission of this form does not establish an attorney-client privilege.