Excess facilities at Oak Ridge's Y-12 National Security Complex are marked in red.

Excess facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are marked in red.

Crews at Building 3026 are nearly finished sealing a hot cell and completing other cleanup work.

Workers have completed the majority of characterization sampling at the nine remaining Biology Complex facilities.

The interior of the Biology Complex.

Alpha-4, an aging building with mercury contamination.

Cleanup of COLEX, chemical separation process equipment, continues.

An up-close view of the COLEX equipment

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) is improving safety and laying the foundation for cleanup and modernization at two DOE premiere science and national security sites through a new excess contaminated facilities initiative.

   A report to Congress by the Governmental Accountability Office served as the impetus for the congressionally funded cleanup initiative. The report notes DOE designated more than 2,300 of its facilities as “excess” — not operational and no longer serving the Department’s missions. 

   Many of these facilities pose high risk from contamination and deteriorating structural integrities due to their age and the limited resources to maintain them. More than a quarter of all DOE’s high-risk excess facilities are at Oak Ridge’s Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Y-12 has 90 excess facilities to address while ORNL has more than 200.   

   The initiative allows Oak Ridge’s cleanup program and its prime cleanup contractor, URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC (UCOR), to characterize and stabilize facilities not scheduled for near-term demolition. These projects prevent the spread of contamination, help create safer environments for more than 8,000 employees and significantly lower future cleanup costs.   

   “Several years ago, we had taken proactive steps to identify and evaluate all the remaining cleanup scope across Oak Ridge,” said Jay Mullis, OREM’s acting manager. “When Congress provided funding for this initiative we were positioned to begin addressing some of the most urgent risks immediately. In the past year, our workforce has already made progress remediating risks in multiple facilities at both Y-12 and ORNL.” 

   In 2016, OREM received $28 million and started six projects at Y-12 and ORNL. These projects seek to stabilize degraded higher risk facilities, characterize conditions and hazards and remove hazardous materials to achieve the lowest risk condition possible.

   At ORNL, crews eliminated contamination pathways and fire hazards from two facilities. Workers removed combustible materials from Building 7500, and they will reduce asbestos and remove water this year. At Building 3026, crews are 90 percent complete with sealing a hot cell, characterizing, draining, and disposing the water in a connecting tunnel, and sealing radioactively contaminated areas in concrete. Workers will stabilize the contamination in Building 3028 and 3029’s hot cells. OREM has already used funds for a risk and engineering evaluation at the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment.

   At Y-12, crews completed roof repairs on Alpha-4, an aging building with mercury contamination, to prevent water intrusion, which is the most significant contributor to structural deterioration and the spread of contamination. Its completion reduces future cleanup costs and stabilizes the environment for future demolition crews. Workers completed 80 percent of the characterization sampling within the nine remaining Biology Complex facilities. The work helps determine the disposal pathway for the building and its contents.

   Cleanup of the equipment for COLEX, a chemical separation process, adjacent to Alpha-4 is ongoing. This project removes old, hazardous, mercury contaminated equipment from a future demolition work area. Workers conduct characterization and deactivation activities with an objective to demolish and dispose of the equipment.

   “This initiative is not only important for our cleanup program, but also for the future of DOE and Oak Ridge,” said Mullis. “The projects that are being planned and executed now will pay dividends in the future.”