OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Workers accomplished a major feat during one of the largest and final demolition projects at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) last week. They used powerful mechanical devices known as winches to pull over the 180-foot tower portion of the Centrifuge Complex. Click here to view a video of this project.
The task was part of a larger effort to take down the Centrifuge Complex — a series of structures originally built to develop, test, and demonstrate the capability of centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment. The last of these facilities ceased operation in the mid-1980s.
The Centrifuge Complex is one of the final major demolition projects remaining at ETTP as the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its cleanup contractor UCOR strive toward one of EM’s 2020 priorities known as Vision 2020 — the goal to complete demolition and major cleanup at ETTP by the end of the year.
“With a constant focus on safety, our workforce has done an exemplary job throughout this project and especially with the challenge of the tower,” said Ken Rueter, UCOR president and CEO. “As one of the final major facilities to be demolished at ETTP, this project is taking us a big leap forward to achieving ETTP cleanup — a historic, first-ever complete cleanup of a uranium enrichment complex.”
The tallest structure at ETTP, the Centrifuge Complex spanned 235,000 square feet and reached 180 feet in height in some locations. The challenge involved identifying the best way to take the tower down safely when conventional demolition equipment is intended for structures only measuring approximately 100 feet in height.
Engineers from OREM and UCOR evaluated a variety of methods to demolish the tower based on safety, complexity, risk, and equipment availability. The alternatives included winches, bulldozers, explosives, and a high-reach processor to cripple the tower.
They determined winches met all of the qualifications and were the best choice. While the approach was a success, it involved a great deal of preparation, including specialized training to operate the giant winches capable of pulling down massive steel beams.
The Centrifuge Complex was comprised of four sections. Crews are in the final phases of taking down the last two sections of the complex. Those include the K-1210 Complex, which served as a pilot plant for testing feed, withdrawal, and depleted uranium hexafluoride transfer systems, and the K-1220 Complex, which was used primarily to test production centrifuges, and contained the 180-foot tower.
With the tower down, workers will now focus on removing the debris and finalizing demolition on the K-1210 complex. The entire project is scheduled for completion later this summer.
Workers already brought down the K-1004-J laboratory section, an original Manhattan Project facility built for research and development. They also finished tearing down the fourth section, the K-1200 facility, known as the Advanced Machine Development Laboratory and Component Preparation Laboratory.