A view of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
A view of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.EM crews this month began a $4.7 million project that will reduce maintenance and operations costs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) and relocate employees stationed at this decades-old facility.

   The project, expected to result in cost savings of nearly $25 million, will enhance the facilities’ electrical distribution, sump pump, fire suppression, and monitoring systems. Personnel currently housed in the building will move to other site locations to help with other projects.

   MSRE only operated for four years in the 1960s, but it earned an enduring legacy as an innovative technology concept. Although it was shut down 50 years ago, certain systems within the reactor building have continued to operate to keep the facility safe and stable until it can be demolished. EM is responsible for the facility’s safety until decommissioning — scheduled to start in the 2030s — begins.

   EM defueled the reactor by removing uranium from its fuel salts in 2007. The cleanup program is working to identify the best approach to address remaining fuel salts in the building.

   “We are improving the reliability of systems that perform safety functions in the facility, which will result in a reduction of operations and maintenance costs that EM can direct to other important deactivation activities across ORNL,” ORNL Portfolio Federal Project Director Bill McMillan said. “The project will also relocate approximately 30 employees currently housed at MSRE, allowing them to assist other projects.”

   Crews will replace existing electrical systems with a new conduit-based electrical system to power essential systems. This change will minimize maintenance costs, reduce risk of injury to workers, and provide reliable electrical service.

   The new sump pump system, which removes groundwater from the building’s basement and foundation, will provide more reliable operations, improve safety, and reduce risks during maintenance activities.

   Workers will design and install the new dry fire suppression system, which will eliminate costs associated with purchasing and providing steam from the laboratory.

   EM and cleanup contractor UCOR are scheduled to complete the project in April 2020.