OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The final pieces of brick and steel crashed to the ground from Building K-27, marking one of the most significant accomplishments in the Oak Ridge EM program’s history. After a decade of demolition, the site became the world’s first to remove all of its uranium enrichment processing buildings.
Despite this monumental achievement, the celebration lasted only moments before workers started taking down another structure to bring them closer to the next big goal — Vision 2020. It’s the Oak Ridge EM program’s goal to complete all cleanup at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) and transfer the site to the private sector by 2020 for industrial development.
“We are extremely proud of the work, commitment, and dedication our employees exemplified to remove these massive structures and achieve Vision 2016,” said Sue Cange, manager for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of EM. “But, that is not our ultimate goal, and our employees remain focused on the work ahead so we can successfully accomplish Vision 2020.”
While Vision 2016 opened 300 acres of real estate for redevelopment, Vision 2020 is larger in scale and includes the planned transfer of the entire 2,200-acre ETTP for use as an industrial park to benefit the regional economy.
EM has several large cleanup projects to complete before that can happen. Next is the demolition of the Poplar Creek Facilities. These 10 buildings — a major priority as they are ETTP’s most contaminated remaining facilities — were constructed in the 1940s and 1950s to support the site’s nuclear program and operations. EM is currently characterizing and deactivating these buildings to prepare for demolition.
The other major remaining projects involve removing Building K-1037, the former centrifuge research facilities, and Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Incinerator, and addressing the site’s remaining soil and groundwater contamination.
Crews are currently characterizing and deactivating the 380,000-square-foot Building K-1037, which produced the barrier components essential to the gaseous diffusion process. While the building does not contain significant radiological contaminants, a large amount of legacy material and process equipment requires disposal. The barrier technology contained inside is still classified, which presents the largest challenge in cleaning and removing the building.
The TSCA Incinerator played a key role in the treatment of radioactive PCB and hazardous mixed wastes from the Oak Ridge Reservation and more than 20 other sites in DOE’s enterprise. EM safely shut down the facility in 2013 after it incinerated more than 35 million pounds of waste.
EM plans to demolish the former centrifuge research facilities by 2020. Some of the facilities are leased through 2018.
As EM works to clean the ETTP land for reuse by 2020, it will complete historic preservation projects to commemorate the contributions of the men and women who built and operated the Manhattan Project- and Cold War-era complex.
The local EM program signed a memorandum of agreement in August 2012 committing the agency to constructing a history center and recreating a unit of the K-25 Building to teach visitors about the technology and accomplishments that took place there during a pivotal time in the nation’s history. These facilities will be located beside the footprint of the K-25 Building, which is part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
“While we work to complete cleanup, it is not the end of the story for the East Tennessee Technology Park,” said Cange. “Instead our work is enabling a new chapter so the site can once again benefit the community as it did many years ago.”