OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) has laid out its course for cleanup in 2023, setting the stage for a busy year of projects including demolitions, construction and addressing inventories of nuclear waste stored at the site.
As in years past, OREM is focused on taking down excess contaminated facilities across the Oak Ridge Reservation, thereby eliminating risks and opening land for reuse to support expanding research and national security missions.
“Together, the projects we have planned for 2023 will continue our mission of enhancing safety and creating new opportunities for DOE and the region,” OREM Acting Manager Laura Wilkerson said.
In 2023, crews will knock down another former reactor in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) central campus area. OREM achieved a significant milestone last year when it safely completed its first reactor demolition in that area.
On the teardown docket this year is the Low Intensity Test Reactor, which operated from 1951 to 1968 as a water-moderated and cooled reactor. It 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.
Crews will also demolish a dilapidated 1940s era building at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) this year. They are set to take down the Old Steam Plant, continuing OREM’s goal of eliminating risks at the site to enhance safety and enable modernization.
It’s not all teardowns for OREM in 2023. Workers are also constructing new facilities pivotal to future cleanup.
One of OREM’s top priorities is maintaining progress on the Mercury Treatment Facility. That piece of infrastructure is necessary before crews can begin large-scale cleanup at Y-12. The facility will allow OREM to tackle mercury-contaminated buildings and mercury sources in soil at the site without causing increases in mercury flow offsite in the Upper East Fork Poplar Creek.
That facility will be comprised of a headworks facility and treatment facility connected by more than a half mile of piping. Crews expect to finish a key installation needed for the foundation of the headworks facility this spring, and they are set to complete the framework for the treatment facility this summer.
Also this summer, OREM is scheduled to begin site preparations for the Environmental Management Disposal Facility, which will provide adequate waste disposal capacity to maintain cleanup at ORNL and Y-12. That work will involve moving roads and rerouting utilities.
Employees will also begin operations at the Sludge Processing Mock Test Facility at ORNL. Crews finished constructing that building last year. It will be instrumental to enabling maturing technologies needed to process Oak Ridge’s 400,000-gallon inventory of transuranic sludge waste and inform the design of the future Sludge Processing Facility.
OREM aims to process and remove 25 canisters of the uranium-233 inventory stored at ORNL. That ongoing project is the highest cleanup priority at ORNL and will continue for several more years.
Officials at OREM are closing in on their ultimate vision to complete cleanup and transfer all useable land at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) for economic development, conservation and historic preservation.
Workers expect to remediate 35,000 cubic yards of soil at ETTP in 2023, and all soil cleanup there is slated for completion next year.
OREM is set to transfer more land at ETTP this year. The cleanup program has already transferred 1,300 acres of land, with hundreds of more acres planned for transfer in the near future.
The transfers eliminate the cost associated with government oversight of that land and lead to new opportunities for the region.
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