OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Demolition has resumed on the Centrifuge Complex at Oak Ridge's East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) after an almost two-month pause in field work due to protective measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spanning 235,000 square feet and reaching 180 feet in height, the complex is the largest and tallest collection of structures remaining at ETTP. It was built in stages to develop, test, and demonstrate the capability of centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment. The last of these facilities ceased operation in the mid-1980s.
This project is part of a larger effort by the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its cleanup contractor UCOR to complete all demolitions and major site cleanup at ETTP by the end of this year — a goal known as Vision 2020. It will mark the first time in the world an entire uranium enrichment complex is removed.
“As one of the last major demolition projects at the site, nothing is more symbolic of how close we are to achieving our goal at ETTP than the removal of this complex,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said. “I’m extremely proud of the countless hours of work and planning by our federal and contractor staff to enable workers to safely resume their work at this facility.”
UCOR is returning employees to the site in phases, with the demolition crews being among the first to resume cleanup based on the social distancing inherent in this type of work.
Crews are taking down the final two sections of the Centrifuge 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.
At 180 feet in height, K-1220 is too tall to be safely torn down with conventional heavy equipment. Instead, workers will pull down the facility using giant mechanical devices known as winches.
The complex was comprised of four sections. Before work was paused due to COVID-19, workers brought down the K-1004-J laboratory section, an original Manhattan Project facility built for research and development. They also finished tearing down the second section, the K-1200 facility, known as the Advanced Machine Development Laboratory and Component Preparation Laboratory.
OREM and UCOR are working together to transform ETTP into a multi-use industrial park, national park, and conservation area for the community. That vision has already started to become a reality. OREM has transferred almost 1,300 acres at ETTP for economic development, with another 600 acres slated for transfer in the years ahead. OREM has also set aside more than 100 acres for historic preservation and placed more than 3,000 acres in conservation for community recreational use.