OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) enters a new chapter in cleanup this year that will transform the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) and support the important missions at those sites.
As EM workers look to build on their historical accomplishments in 2020 — namely the completion of demolition at the East Tennessee Technology Park — they will take on several projects in 2021 that will alter the landscape at ORNL and Y-12.
Work is wrapping up on demolition of the 65,000-square-foot Building 9210 in Y-12’s former Biology Complex. That project is scheduled for completion early this year. Next, crews will start taking down the final structure in the complex — the six-story, 256,660-square-foot Building 9207.
These buildings were vacant for many years and have deteriorated. Due to their structural condition, they were categorized as high-risk excess contaminated facilities. By eliminating them, EM is enhancing safety and clearing 18 acres of land that can be used for national security missions.
EM is also nearing the start of a demolition project in the heart of ORNL. In coming weeks, crews will begin tearing down the two remaining contaminated structures that were part of Building 3026, the former Radioisotope Development Laboratory.
Last year, workers finished installing a six-story protective cover over the area to protect nearby facilities from potential impacts from the demolition of the two structures. Taking down these contaminated structures removes risks in the central campus of ORNL and clears land that can be used for future research missions.
EM is also setting the stage for the next wave of demolitions by moving forward on numerous deactivation projects at ORNL and Y-12.
At Y-12, workers will perform deactivation work at two Manhattan Project-era facilities, Alpha-2 and Beta-1, which have a combined footprint of more than a half-million square feet. Workers also continue to retrieve mercury and deactivate the Column Exchange process equipment at Alpha-4 prior to demolition. So far, crews have retrieved more than 10,000 pounds of mercury from dilapidated equipment that was installed in the 1950s and operated through the 1960s.
At ORNL, deactivation is concentrated in the central campus area, which houses ORNL’s oldest buildings. Deactivation is ongoing in three former research reactors — the Low Intensity Test Reactor, the Bulk Shielding Reactor, and the Oak Ridge Research Reactor. Workers also are transitioning the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor to the “cold and dark” deactivation state. In addition to addressing former reactors, crews will also deactivate nine isotope research and productions labs.
EM is also moving forward on its highest priority at ORNL – removing the remaining inventory of uranum-233. Workers are currently processing and downblending the lower dose portion of the inventory in gloveboxes. Meanwhile, facility upgrades are nearing completion so teams can begin processing and downblending the higher dose portion of the inventory later this year. This will mark a major step forward in this crucial project.
“While the accomplishments of 2020 are now in the past, those projects have positioned Oak Ridge’s environmental cleanup for another impactful year and laid the foundation for many more successes in the year ahead,” said Jay Mullis, manager of OREM.