OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - Disposing of old and contaminated buildings and remediating soil and groundwater across the Oak Ridge Reservation has long been a priority for the U.S. Department of Energy - Oak Ridge Office (ORO). Although much of the work—locally referred to as the Integrated Facility Disposition Project (IFDP)—wasn’t expected to begin for another three to four years, $755 million provided to Oak Ridge as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has helped to jumpstart preliminary cleanup activities. Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) will play an important role in independently assessing and verifying the environmental cleanup work happening at the site.
“ORAU is uniquely qualified for this work as they are located in Oak Ridge and know our facilities,” said Gerald Boyd, Manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office. “Many of the buildings they will examine are shut down, so it is critical to understand the hazards presented in order for workers to safely conduct cleanup and demolition activities.”
In support of the project, ORAU is preparing to lead characterization surveys at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), along with independently verifying work at ORNL, East Tennessee Technology Park, and the Y-12 National Security Complex. ORAU’s $2.9 million contract will involve support to DOE for its efforts to accelerate the cleanup of deteriorated facilities that will pave the way for greater footprint and site reduction across the Reservation.
ORAU’s role at ORNL will involve performing waste characterizations and developing waste handling plans and profiles at 34 facilities—most of which were used for offices, storage and research. ORAU survey staff are currently conducting “walk-downs” in preparation for sampling work that is expected to begin this month, as well as completing literature reviews to determine which chemicals or radioactive isotopes were used in the facilities targeted for disposal.
Once characterization surveys begin at ORNL, additional ORAU staff will begin reviewing waste management plans and profiles, as well as independently verifying cleanup activities at Y-12. High-risk legacy facilities Alpha-5 and Beta-4, which housed mass spectrometers used for uranium enrichment, are two of the more notable structures scheduled for remediation. ORAU will also provide technical reviews of waste disposal plans and independent verification services to help prepare gaseous diffusion building K-27 for demolition at the East Tennessee Technology Park.
“Modernization and reducing the footprint of old buildings are some of the best ways to eliminate the risks involved with legacy buildings across the Reservation,” explained Sarah Roberts, Associate Director for the ORAU’s Independent Environmental Assessment and Verification Programs.
The additional work has also created a greater need for experienced staff. According to Roberts, the Recovery Act is already creating new jobs at ORAU. “Over the past three months, we’ve added five new staff members to support the Recovery Act projects, as well as other environmental cleanup and verification commitments to DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” she said. Though ORAU’s role is focused on the short-term disposal of high-risk facilities, the overall Oak Ridge IFDP project is expected to span up to 29 years and will likely involve hundreds of facilities built during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War eras. ORAU’s involvement is expected to conclude by 2011.