Fernald has been the common name for a complex also known as the Atomic Plant and, more recently, as the Fernald Environmental Management Project. The community of Fernald is in Crosby Township in Hamilton County, not Butler County. But after 1951, Fernald was the popular name for the Feed Materials Production Center (FMPC), built and operated for the Atomic Energy Commission and in later years the U. S. Department of Energy.
The uranium processing center -- southwest of Ohio 126 and west of Ohio 128, about 10 miles southwest of Hamilton -- covered 1,050 acres with about a fifth (213.85 acres) in Ross Township in Butler County. Construction on the atomic plant, as it was often called, started in May 1951, some operations began in October 1951 and other parts of the original complex opened in phases through October 1954. Production peaked in the 1960s and the highest employment was 2,892 people in 1956. Uranium production ended in July 1989.
After July 1989. the emphasis was on environmental restoration. In August 1991, its official name became the Fernald Environmental Management Project. More than 2,000 people were employed at the end of 1992 in the cleanup effort. Three companies have managed Fernald for the government, starting with National Lead of Ohio from June 1, 1956, until Jan. 1, 1986, when NLO was succeeded by Westinghouse Environmental Management Company of Ohio (WEMCO), formerly Westinghouse Materials Company of Ohio. Starting Dec. 1, 1992, Fernald Environmental Restoration Management Corp. (FERMCO) assumed direction of the cleanup under a five-year contract with DOE. The work was completed by Fluor Fernald. At its peak, the cleanup employed about 2,000 people.
In a Sept. 20, 2006, article, the New York Times reported: "In about two weeks, the final trainload of radioactive waste is to leave the Fernald nuclear site." Writer Christopher Maag said: "The train will carry 5,800 tons of contaminated soil in 60 railcars, just like the 196 trains before it, which have run for seven years to a Utah dump from this scarred, cratered patch of land in the hills of southern Ohio." The Times said "the site will open to the public as a natural, undeveloped park following a 13-year, $4.4 billion cleanup. That is actually a bargain. Experts had originally estimated that cleanup would cost $12 billion and take until 2025.
Completion of the cleanup was formally observed Jan. 19, 2007, at the site. Among those participating was Samuel W. Bodman, U. S. secretary of energy. "We should not understate the contribution of these sites to our national security," Bodman said. "The strength of America's nuclear weapons capability served as an effective deterrent to the threat of major confrontation and ultimately helped bring the Cold War to an end. The men and women who worked here at Fernald and at Columbus and Ashtabula during that time made a vital contribution to the security of the United States."
The community of Fernald, or Fernald Station, is on New Haven Road in Crosby Township in Hamilton County. It was once a stop on the Cincinnati, Richmond & Muncie Railroad (later the Chicago Division of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Co., then the Chessie System and later a branch line of the CSX). Fernald had a population of about 30 people when the government announced the location of the uranium-processing plant in March 1951 during the Korean War (1950-1953).