Office of Environmental Management

As Oak Ridge Celebrates 75th Anniversary, EM Mission Connects to Past, Future

June 12, 2018

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A soldier at the Y-12 National Security Complex in 1944.
A soldier at the Y-12 National Security Complex in 1944.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Originally constructed during the Manhattan Project to help end a global war, Oak Ridge is now celebrating its 75th anniversary.

   Scientists and engineers at the site accomplished significant feats over the years. While early operations helped change history and science books, they also changed the local landscape.  

   Once formed, DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) began removing risks and environmental legacies from these early operations. Their work continues today — creating new economic opportunities for the community and enabling Oak Ridge to continue its international impact in national security and scientific research.

   “The environmental cleanup happening here is connected to both the site’s past and its future,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said. “Oak Ridge’s 75th anniversary gives us a chance to reflect on all that’s been accomplished at the site while also considering the path ahead.”

A 1947 view of what would become Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
A 1947 view of what would become Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
A view of the present-day Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the nation’s largest multi-program national laboratory.
A view of the present-day Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the nation’s largest multi-program national laboratory. The DOE Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s work keeps its employees safe, and future demolition will open land for mission growth.

   Cleanup is happening on a massive scale. At the East Tennessee Technology Park, crews are nearing completion on the cleanup of more than 500 facilities that supported uranium enrichment activities for 40 years. 

   Land at the former government-owned uranium enrichment complex is being remediated, and large parcels of it are being transferred to the private sector for redevelopment and reuse. The community can then use this land and infrastructure to support economic growth, along with a 3,000-acre nature preserve for residents to enjoy hiking trails, bike paths, and wildlife viewing.

Workers lay the foundation for the K-25 Building in 1943.
Workers lay the foundation for the K-25 Building in 1943. When completed 18 months later, it would be the largest building in the world.
In 2016, Oak Ridge became the first site in the world to successfully remove all of its gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment buildings.
In 2016, Oak Ridge became the first site in the world to successfully remove all of its gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment buildings.
This parcel was once home to two large uranium enrichment buildings.
DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management is transferring large parcels of cleared land at the East Tennessee Technology Park to the community for redevelopment. This parcel was once home to two large uranium enrichment buildings.

   But the work doesn’t stop there.

   At the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), crews will dismantle most of the 13 former research reactors and remove old research facilities. At the Y-12 National Security Complex, workers will also demolish massive, 75-year-old buildings and retrieve tons of mercury from buildings, soil, and water. 

   Hundreds of facilities remain to be removed in the middle of Y-12 and ORNL — amid thousands of employees and billions of dollars’ worth of modern infrastructure. Through funding from Congress, work is underway to address some of these structures through the Excess Contaminated Facilities Initiative.

DOE’s OREM is using funds from the Excess Contaminated Facilities Initiative to begin risk reduction in old, deteriorating buildings.
DOE’s OREM is using funds from the Excess Contaminated Facilities Initiative to begin risk reduction in old, deteriorating buildings years ahead of schedule at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex.

 

   Oak Ridge’s cleanup program is transforming former Manhattan Project and Cold War complexes into safe, modern sites whose work can provide the next big solution. Its projects are removing risks to ensure employees remain safe and clean land is available for future DOE missions.

   “Our role is very special and rewarding,” said Mullis. “We are the ones who remove the barriers and open doors for the exciting possibilities and advancements that DOE will likely be commemorating during its next anniversary.” 

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