Beta-1 building at the Oak Ridge site on a sunny day.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.EM crews have removed more than 1 million gallons of water from the basement of the Beta-1 building at the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge.

Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) cleanup contractor UCOR is ridding the building’s basement of water as it prepares the Manhattan Project-era building for eventual demolition.

In previous years, sump pumps failed, causing groundwater to fill the basement.

Workers removed this significant volume of water in 42 working days. Approximately 450,000 additional gallons of water will need to be pumped from the basement as cleanup progresses.

“The conditions in Beta-1 are a prime example of the type of circumstances crews are facing as they prepare aging, deteriorated structures for demolition at the site,” said Brian Henry, Y-12 portfolio federal project director for OREM. “We have numerous projects like this one ramping up at Y-12 that will be changing the landscape in the years ahead.”

Worker in protective gear pumps water from inside the building
A worker lowers a hose to pump water from the basement area of the Beta-1 facility. Crews have pumped 1 million gallons over the past 42 work days, and they expect to pump another 450,000 gallons to finish the job.

The Beta-1 building was constructed in 1944 to enrich uranium during World War II. It was later converted to laboratory space for fusion-energy technology.

Demolition of the massive structure will eliminate old, unused infrastructure and open land to support future DOE missions.

To complete the work safely, UCOR built a water treatment skid outside the facility. The skid uses micron bag filters and carbon vessels to filter the water to meet stringent water quality standards. After treatment, the water is discharged.

Deactivation of the building will continue in the above-grade areas before progressing into the basement areas when they’re pumped dry.

“Our team has been working diligently to make sure we can safely move deactivation activities to the basement area, which has been problematic because of the water infiltration,” said Billy Lloyd, UCOR project manager. “Demolition of the building, expected to begin in 2026, will not proceed until we are certain we have successfully completed deactivation of the entire facility and have removed any obstacles or hazards to safely bring down the building.”

Crews are expected to complete pumping all of the water out of the basement this month.

-Contributor: Carol Hendrycks