Demolition begins on high-risk contaminated Y-12 building

June 1, 2022, 3:01PMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition crews remove some of the auxiliary structures surrounding the main building of the Criticality Experiment Laboratory on the Oak Ridge Reservation. (Photo: DOE)

A contractor for the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) started tearing down a 1940s-era facility in May at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. Demolition of the former Criticality Experiment Laboratory, also known as Building 9213, is the latest project by EM to address a large inventory of high-risk excess contaminated facilities at the Oak Ridge Reservation.

EM contractor United Cleanup Oak Ridge (UCOR) is taking down the two-story, 24,000-square-foot facility, which is the first structure to reach the demolition stage at Y-12 since crews safely demolished the Biology Complex in 2021.

Background: Built in 1949, the Criticality Experiment Laboratory was used to conduct experiments with fissile uranium isotopes for nuclear reactor designs. Employees performed more than 9,700 experiments there in its first decade, and it later supported the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s High Flux Isotope Reactor program. The building has been closed since 1992.

EM crews brought the lab to the cold and dark stage—disconnection of all utilities to the facility—in 2021, along with several other Y-12 facilities. As part of deactivating the building, workers removed, packaged, and shipped 1,496 linear feet of asbestos-insulated piping, 323 linear feet of process piping, and 8,540 square feet of other asbestos-containing material.

Demolition of the Criticality Experiment Laboratory is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2022.

They said it: “This facility demolition is one of our immediate priorities at Y-12, and we are in the process of preparing numerous others for demolition,” said Laura Wilkerson, acting manager of the DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management. “These projects are eliminating risks and clearing land that can support national security missions in the future.”

Ken Rueter, UCOR president and chief executive officer, added, “In addition to starting demolition of this facility, our team demolished the last two buildings in the Biology Complex, fully deactivated the Old Steam Plant, and pressed forward with deactivating three former enrichment buildings that were part of the Manhattan Project.”

More than 50 percent of the facilities throughout the National Nuclear Security Administration complex, which includes Y-12, are more than 40 years old. The Criticality Experiment Laboratory is one of them.

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