OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – EM’s onsite engineered disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste generated by environmental cleanup projects in Oak Ridge recently celebrated 20 years of safe and compliant waste disposal operations.
Over that span, the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF) has been instrumental in the pace of cleanup across DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation by providing a safe and cost-effective disposal option for building debris and soil that is not highly contaminated.
Approximately 90% of the waste generated from cleanup in Oak Ridge fits that category and is disposed at EMWMF, while the remaining 10% of the waste is shipped offsite for disposal. The waste disposed offsite accounts for more than 90% of the radioactivity of the site’s total cleanup waste.
To enhance safety further, the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) built the private Haul Road for all trucks hauling waste from cleanup projects directly to EMWMF. This approach has diverted more than 100,000 truckloads off public roads, preventing traffic accidents or other incidents.
“Having the facility on the reservation has allowed DOE to help clean up the environment at tremendous savings to taxpayers,” said Jeff Grindstaff, EMWMF operations manager. “Shipping this waste offsite would be very expensive, time-consuming, and also would require the material to travel on public roadways.”
Nowhere is the impact of EMWMF more evident than at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). Use of the waste disposal facility enabled OREM to clear away 500 structures at ETTP and become the first site in the world to remove a former enrichment complex. OREM and its contractor UCOR completed the work at ETTP four years ahead of schedule, avoiding $500 million in costs to taxpayers.
ETTP now provides great benefit to the community. OREM has transferred 1,300 acres back to the community for economic development, attracting private businesses that are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build new facilities and create hundreds of new jobs there.
Safety and compliance have been hallmarks of EMWMF operations throughout its 20-year history. The facility earned the National Safety Council’s Superior Safety Performance Award for achieving more than 10 consecutive “perfect record” years of operation without incurring an occupational injury or illness resulting in days away from work.
The EMWMF also has a stellar compliance record. Other recognitions include a Tennessee Recycling Coalition Recycling Innovator Award and a nomination for the GreenGov Awards sponsored by the White House. EMWMF operations also won five awards for pollution prevention and waste minimization.
“The project’s safety and compliance records set high standards that are indicative of a dedicated, focused workforce,” said Ken Rueter, UCOR president and CEO. “Maintaining such an exemplary record in safety and compliance while fulfilling the mission of receiving and disposing of nearly two million cubic yards of contaminated waste is truly a remarkable achievement.”
While the EMWMF has a capacity of 2.3 million cubic yards, 20 years of continuous disposal of cleanup waste has resulted in a capacity of less than 18% remaining. OREM is now working with its regulators on plans for another facility that will provide enough capacity to complete the remaining work at the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
To receive the latest news and updates about the Office of Environmental Management, submit your e-mail address.