OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – With a forceful push from heavy machinery, the final wall of Oak Ridge’s last gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment building crashed to the ground in summer 2016. In that moment, Oak Ridge became the first site in the world to successfully remove all of its former enrichment facilities.
This accomplishment required four contracts, untold hours of planning and preparation, and a decade of demolition to tear down five gaseous diffusion plants — K-25, K-27, K-29, K-31, and K-33 — that had a sprawling 4.5-million-square-foot footprint.
These structures housed workers and operations that helped end the World War II and produced highly enriched uranium for national defense and commercial energy production until the site was shuttered in 1987.
The path to this journey began in 1997, when Oak Ridge’s EM program awarded its first contract to decontaminate and decommission K-29, K-31, and K-33. During the multi-year project, workers dismantled, removed, and dispositioned more than 159,000 tons of materials and equipment, paving the way for their future demolition.
In 2006, crews demolished the first gaseous diffusion building, K-29. In 2008, EM began work on K-25, an unprecedented task that presented an entirely new size and scope. The facility stood four stories tall with a base footprint of 44 acres. Crews began taking down what was once the world’s largest building when it was constructed in 1943.
In 2011, workers finished removing the second largest building at the site — K-33. During the project, workers moved 164,000 tons of steel and concrete from the building and another 61,300 tons from the concrete slab.
In 2011, EM also awarded a contract to UCOR to complete the remaining cleanup scope at the East Tennessee Technology Park, which included K-31, K-27, and a portion of K-25. The K-25 project presented challenges due to the building’s increasingly contaminated units as demolition progressed along the mile-long facility. By 2013, the demolition was complete.
In 2015, UCOR achieved success again with completion of K-31, and the goal was completed in 2016 with the removal of K-27.
Today, Oak Ridge’s EM program is on its way to another world’s-first distinction by completing all demolition and major cleanup at the former enrichment complex next year — a goal known as Vision 2020.
EM’s ultimate vision for the site is a thriving, multi-use industrial park. To date, crews have removed 12 million square feet of aging and contaminated facilities, with only 750,000 square feet remaining.
Additionally, EM has transferred nearly 1,300 acres of land at the site back to the community for new industrial development and economic growth.
Click here for more information on the Oak Ridge EM program.