The Oak Ridge Environmental Management’s (OREM) primary mission is to remove environmental legacies generated from decades of operations and research at the Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and East Tennessee Technology Park. Together, these sites house hundreds of facilities that were used to support the nation’s nuclear energy and defense programs.
Cleanup associated with these deteriorating and often contaminated facilities generates a large amount of waste. That waste ranges from highly radioactive material to building debris and soil. OREM uses an onsite disposal facility for most of this material (approximately 90% of the volume), while sending all hazardous and highly radioactive waste out of state for permanent disposal.
When determining how best to dispose of cleanup waste, OREM and its contractor UCOR use a hierarchy approach that first considers potential reuse or recycling options, followed by on-site disposal for classified, sanitary and low-level wastes, and then the potential use of off-site treatment and disposal at DOE and commercial facilities.
OREM operates four permitted landfills on the Oak Ridge Reservation to dispose of sanitary and construction debris waste. It also has the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), an onsite disposal facility designed to receive low-level radioactive and mixed wastes generated from CERCLA cleanup. Each landfill uses strict waste acceptance criteria to determine what is allowable for disposal, and waste that does not meet those criteria is sent out of state for permanent disposal.
EMWMF has operated safely for more than 20 years, and OREM conducts regular monitoring that tracks current conditions in the surrounding air, water, and soil to ensure safe operations continue. The facility is nearing full capacity, and additional capacity is needed to complete cleanup at the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
OREM began groundwork for a new onsite facility called the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) in 2023, and it is scheduled to begin accepting waste in the late 2020s. It will accept much of the same types of waste as EMWMF, primarily demolition debris and soil.
Our employees keep the safety of workers, residents, and the environment at the forefront. This drives us to ensure our actions surrounding the processing, storage, and transportation of all forms of waste adhere to all applicable regulations and laws.