OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The skyline in the heart of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is changing again as workers begin to demolish a once world-famous reactor.
The training reactor became world-famous when a photographer first captured a blue glow caused by radiation in the pool above the reactor. That photo appeared on the cover of the October 1951 issue of Scientific American. The facility is now highly deteriorated and contaminated, requiring demolition.
With demolition underway, Oak Ridge is set to accomplish this EM 2023 priority by the end of the year.
“We’re pleased to make headway on the removal of this old reactor facility, which is an EM priority for 2023,” said Nathan Felosi, ORNL portfolio federal project director. “Our progress is helping eliminate hazards and open land for reuse at ORNL.”
The project follows the recent demolition of the Bulk Shielding Reactor, which marked the first removal of a former reactor from ORNL’s central campus area. It was adjacent to the Low Intensity Test Reactor.
Getting to the first bite in demolition of the Low Intensity Test Reactor required nearly five years of planning and deactivation work due to unique conditions associated with the facility.
Employees identified structural concerns associated with the facility that posed significant challenges to standard deactivation and demolition practices.
As workers removed the concrete shield blocks around the reactor, they discovered the slab floor structures were not adequately supported, creating a potentially unstable work environment.
“Great kudos to our workers in the field for discovering the structural concerns, pausing the work, and bringing it to the attention of our management team and engineers, allowing the project to remain safe,” said Dan Macias, ORNL site integration and cleanup manager.
Additional factors complicated the cleanup process. In some cases, the facility’s original drawings did not include all necessary information to help inform workers as they perform characterization, a process that determines the types and levels of contamination in and around a facility to support work planning, worker safety and waste management. Nonetheless, they used high-tech equipment to detect radiological material that had not been previously documented in some areas of the facility.
Crews are currently taking down ancillary facilities. The goal is to demolish all structures surrounding the reactor, remove and sample additional shield blocks to support waste disposal and tear down and package the reactor for transport and disposal.
This work continues through the spring and summer with completion set for later this year.
Though the Low Intensity Testing Reactor is not one of the largest reactor sites, it played a critical role in training.
Built as a mock-up of the Materials Test Reactor that was being constructed at the Idaho National Laboratory, the Oak Ridge training reactor operated from 1951 to 1968.
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