Oak Ridge breaks ground on critical new disposal facility

August 25, 2023, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
Taking part in the Environmental Management Disposal Facility groundbreaking, from left, were Steve Arnette of Jacobs; Mark Whitney of Amentum,; Wade Creswell, a Roane Co., Tenn., executive; Brent Booker of the Laborers’ International Union of North America; Kevin Adkisson of North America’s Building Trades Unions; Jeaneanne Gettle of the EPA; Lt. Gov. Randy McNally; David Salyers of TDEC; Ken Rueter of UCOR; Jay Mullis of OREM; U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann; and DOE-EM’s William “Ike” White. (Photo: DOE)

National, state, and local leaders joined the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its lead cleanup contractor, United Cleanup Oak Ridge (UCOR), earlier this month to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new on-site disposal facility at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee.

Watch a video highlighting the Environmental Management Disposal Facility groundbreaking ceremony here.

According to OREM, the new $550 million Environmental Management Disposal Facility is essential for OREM and UCOR to maintain environmental cleanup momentum at the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The need: After 20 years of operations, Oak Ridge’s current on-site disposal facility is nearing full capacity. Hundreds of buildings, however, still require demolition at Y-12 and ORNL. The Environmental Management Disposal Facility will provide the capacity needed for OREM to complete cleanup at those sites.

The new disposal facility will support projects that remove old, dilapidated facilities and clear land that can be reused by the DOE Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration in support of research and national security missions.

The schedule: According to the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, groundbreaking on the disposal site and preparing it for construction comes four months ahead of schedule and meets one of the office’s priorities for 2023. The project will be conducted in three phases, with the facility scheduled to be operational in 2029.

The first phase of the project, early site preparation, includes moving utilities and rerouting portions of Bear Creek Road and the Haul Road. During the second phase, a groundwater field demonstration study will be completed to help OREM confirm modeling of how groundwater levels will adjust when construction begins. This phase will capture data for two years and inform the facility’s final design.

The balance of construction, which includes completing the final design and constructing the first two disposal cells, will be completed during the third phase. There will be four total disposal cells.

According to DOE-EM, the office is complying with all federal and state requirements in constructing the disposal facility. It is also incorporating numerous engineering features into the facility’s design, under the oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), to ensure its waste remains isolated from the environment. Additionally, the DOE will continue sending all highly contaminated waste out of state for disposal.

Event VIPs: Officials at the event included U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R., Tenn.), Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, DOE-EM senior advisor William “Ike” White, EPA acting regional administrator Jeaneanne Gettle, TDEC commissioner David Salyers, OREM manager Jay Mullis, and UCOR president and chief executive officer Ken Rueter.

“As the leader for the cleanup program for the Department of Energy, I very much feel the responsibility that we have to address the legacy of the past,” White said. “This facility is an incredibly important part of making sure we can continue to do that here, and the teams doing cleanup in Oak Ridge are some of the best in the country.”

In emphasizing the project’s importance, Fleischmann said, “Because of what we are doing here today, legacy cleanup will continue in Oak Ridge for the next 30 or 40 years until it’s complete. That means that Oak Ridge National Laboratory will be able to take down excess facilities. That means that our friends at NNSA will be able to do the critical work on our nuclear arsenal to keep our country safe.”

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