OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – While 2020 was an unusual and challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was also one of the most notable and accomplished for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractors. Together, they competed the Department’s largest-ever cleanup effort and began a new chapter of work at Oak Ridge’s research and national security sites.
Check out this video on Oak Ridge's 2020 accomplishments.
“I’m very proud of what our incredible workforce was able to accomplish despite all of the challenges and adjustments required to perform their jobs this year,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said. “They made history and positioned us for another year of success and transformation in 2021.”
This year, Oak Ridge became the first site in the world to remove an entire uranium enrichment complex. This milestone was the culmination of two decades of decontamination, demolition, and soil remediation at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). The end result was the safe and successful removal of more than 500 structures. This work was completed four years ahead of schedule, avoiding $500 million in costs to taxpayers.
OREM also finished construction and opened the K-25 History Center at ETTP, which fulfilled a longstanding commitment to preserve the site’s rich history. Over the past decade, nearly 1,000 oral histories were collected from former Manhattan Project and Cold War workers. These personal stories were used to develop the center’s exhibits and galleries.
With core cleanup complete at ETTP, OREM began transitioning the workers responsible for that historic success to the next big cleanup endeavor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12).
Drawing from their extensive training and experience from ETTP, these workers started projects that address DOE’s largest inventory of high-risk excess contaminated facilities. Preparations are underway to remove Building 3026’s hot cells at ORNL, and crews started tearing down the final buildings in the Biology Complex at Y-12. OREM also initiated other deactivation and pre-demolition projects that will advance cleanup at ORNL and Y-12 in the years ahead.
At ORNL, OREM continued to process and dispose of the remaining uranium-233 inventory. Part of this process involves extracting valuable medical isotopes for next-generation cancer treatment research by the private sector. Crews continued processing the low-dose portion of the inventory, while others prepared the facility to process the high-dose inventory starting next year.
OREM also spent 2020 building infrastructure that will play a pivotal role in cleanup. Construction continued on the Outfall 200 Mercury Treatment Facility, which is a linchpin project for Y-12’s cleanup. Workers also began constructing the Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility. When complete next year, the facility will mature the technologies needed to process Oak Ridge’s 500,000-gallon inventory of sludge transuranic waste stored onsite.