DOE sets 2024 cleanup goals for Oak Ridge

January 10, 2024, 3:59PMRadwaste Solutions
Oak Ridge crews will begin demolition of the 325,000-sqaure-foot Alpha-2 facility this year, marking the first teardown of a former uranium enrichment facility at Y-12. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy announced that its Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) is moving ahead with a slate of projects this year that will alter the Tennessee site’s skyline, remove inventories of nuclear waste, and complete a major phase of cleanup.

Workers in the Oak Ridge Research Reactor facility remove the top portion of the reactor vessel for disposal. They will remove the next portion of the reactor vessel this year. (Photo: DOE)

While last year’s projects changed the landscape at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, crews are set to make major changes at the Y-12 National Security Complex in 2024, according to OREM.

On the horizon is the demolition of the 325,000-sqaure-foot Alpha-2 building, which OREM said is Oak Ridge’s most significant demolition project for 2024. Removal of the building will mark the office’s first teardown of a former Manhattan Project–era enrichment facility at Y-12, clearing away a high-risk excess contaminated structure.

D&D projects: Teams with cleanup contractor UCOR will also advance many other deactivation projects at ORNL and Y-12 that set the stage for other near-term demolition projects. Those include Beta-1 at Y-12 and the Oak Ridge Research Reactor, Isotope Row facilities, Building 3026 Hot Cell, and Graphite Reactor support facilities at ORNL.

According to OREM, work is also moving forward on its highest priority at ORNL—eliminating the remaining inventory of uranium-233 stored on-site. Oak Ridge contractor Isotek is beginning the next phase of its processing campaign that involves material 15 to 20 times higher in radiological dose than the previous material it processed to date.

Infrastructure projects: OREM said it is also focused on advancing two infrastructure projects that will be essential for future cleanup projects.

In 2024, crews are set to finish early site preparation activities and begin a groundwater field demonstration study for the Environmental Management Disposal Facility. The study, which spans two wet seasons through 2026, involves understanding how groundwater levels adjust following construction of the landfill. It will capture data that will help inform and finalize the disposal facility’s design.

Another focus is progressing construction on the Mercury Treatment Facility at Y-12. When operational, this plant will allow OREM to begin addressing Y-12’s large mercury-contaminated facilities and sources of mercury in the soil, thereby protecting against releases into a nearby creek.

ETTP projects: In addition, OREM said it is reaching its final chapter at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), site of the former K-25 gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant.

This year, workers are scheduled to finish all soil remediation projects at the site, and OREM also expects to finalize decisions to initiate the last phase of groundwater cleanup there.

In addition to cleanup at ETTP, OREM plans to transfer additional land for economic development this year, moving it closer to its ultimate vision of transforming the site into a multiuse industrial center, national park, and conservation area for the community.

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