Looking back at 2021—Nuclear News October through December

January 7, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear News

This is the fifth of five articles posted today to look back at the top news stories of 2021 for the nuclear community. The full article, "Looking back at 2021,"was published in the January 2022 issue of Nuclear News.

Quite a year was 2021. In the following stories, we have compiled what we feel are the past year’s top news stories from the October-December time frame—please enjoy this recap from a busy year in the nuclear community.

Tennessee Civil Rights pioneers to be honored by the American Nuclear Society

November 29, 2021, 12:51PMPress Releases

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) is honoring 85 former students from Tennessee, known as the Scarboro-Oak Ridge, TN 85, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with the society’s inaugural Social Responsibility in the Nuclear Community Award for their roles in integrating in 1955 the first public schools in the southeastern United States. The award will be presented at the upcoming 2021 ANS Winter Meeting and Technology Expo (Nov. 30 – Dec. 3) being held in Washington, D.C.

Oak Ridge upgrades waste shipment tracking system

November 8, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A truck loaded with waste crosses the scale at the East Tennessee Technology Park at Oak Ridge. Each truck used by Oak Ridge contractor UCOR is equipped with a unique radio frequency identification card that logs its movements and weight and registers the data in a database.

UCOR, the primary contractor for the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OEM), recently transitioned to a new waste tracking system that improves how shipments are tracked from work sites to disposal locations.

The new system includes upgraded radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking for trucks, as well as new hardware and software, allowing for an automated tracking operation that delivers up-to-the-minute waste disposal data.

UCOR awarded $8.3 billion Oak Ridge cleanup contract

October 28, 2021, 3:01PMRadwaste Solutions
EM crews demolish Building 9207 in the former Y-12 Biology Complex at Oak Ridge earlier this year. (Photo: DOE)

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has awarded a 10-year, $8.3 billion contract to United Cleanup Oak Ridge (UCOR), of Germantown, Md., for the cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, including the Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP).

Final hot cell at former Oak Ridge lab prepared for demolition

October 14, 2021, 3:03PMRadwaste Solutions
A view of the final remaining hot cell at the former Radioisotope Development Laboratory at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as it is prepared for demolition. (Photo: DOE)

Using a specialized radiation detector, Department of Energy cleanup contractor UCOR is characterizing a hot cell at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in preparation for its demolition. The detector overlays a radiation-intensity color-map on a picture of the environment and identifies gamma-emitting nuclides and their locations.

Oak Ridge museum opens Alvin Weinberg’s personal archives to the public

August 19, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

Weinberg

Alvin M. Weinberg, a founder, Fellow, and fifth president (1959–1960) of the American Nuclear Society, was a Manhattan Project physicist who studied at the University of Chicago before building a celebrated career in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where he influenced the development of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the United States. Weinberg’s personal files tell the story of his decades of work in Oak Ridge from the 1940s to the 1980s, and the Alvin Weinberg Archive Project was created to digitize the archive, ensuring that it would be accessible to researchers and the public.

A place in time: Weinberg arrived in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in 1945, and soon became head of the Physics Division of Clinton Laboratories. In 1948, the laboratory was renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Weinberg was appointed director of research, a role he held until 1955, when he was named laboratory director. In 1974, Weinberg moved 17 file cabinets from ORNL to Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), where he founded the Institute for Energy Analysis (IEA) and served as its director until his retirement in 1985. Under Weinberg’s guidance, the IEA studied atmospheric carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming, as well as alternative energy sources.

DOE finishes demolition of Biology Complex at Y-12 site

June 11, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition of the last of 11 structures at the former Y-12 Biology Complex at Oak Ridge was completed in June, and the removal of the building’s slab foundation is scheduled to be completed this fall. (Photo: DOE)

Crews with the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) have completed the demolition of Building 9207, the largest and final building at the former Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the DOE announced this week. Removal of the massive six-story, 255,000-square-foot building ushers in a new chapter of transformation at Y-12, the DOE said.

Shrinking Y-12 will facilitate cleanup, reduce costs, DOE says

April 16, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste Solutions
Federal and contractor officials participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the WEPAR project on April 7 at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Photo: DOE

A project to reduce by approximately half the high-security protected area at the Department of Energy’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., will avoid millions of dollars in costs and accelerate cleanup, the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) announced.

Demolition of final Biology Complex building begins at Oak Ridge

March 26, 2021, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions
Demolition begins on the six-story, 255,000-square-foot Building 9207, the final building in the former Biology Complex at Oak Ridge. Photo: DOE

Workers with the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) recently began demolishing the last facility standing in the former Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex at the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee.

As announced by EM on March 23, removal of the massive six-story, 255,000-square-foot Building 9207 creates a new chapter of transformation and modernization for Y-12. Completion of the Biology Complex demolition is one of EM’s 2021 priorities.

According to EM, the facilities in the Biology Complex presented significant structural risks due to their deterioration, and their condition landed them on DOE’s list of high-risk excess contaminated facilities.

Y-12 cleanup project recovers, reuses mercury

January 28, 2021, 7:01AMRadwaste Solutions

Crews cleaned and demolished COLEX equipment on the west end of the Alpha-4 building at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and its contractor UCOR have found a way to reuse instead of dispose of mercury collected from a cleanup project at the Y-12 National Security Complex, near Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. “This questioning attitude and innovative thinking by our workforce is a major contributor to how our program is able to accomplish its projects under budget and ahead of schedule on a consistent basis,” said OREM manager Jay Mullis.

The DOE is conducting a number of projects to address mercury contamination—the most significant environmental risk is at Y-12, according to the agency. The work includes the cleanout and removal of equipment at Y-12's Alpha-4, a building that was used initially for uranium separation in 1944 and 1945. Ten years later, the building started being used for lithium separation, a process that required large amounts of mercury and involved column exchange (COLEX) equipment. Over the years, a significant amount of mercury from the process leached into the equipment, buildings, and surrounding soils.

DOE prepares experimental Oak Ridge reactor for deactivation

November 2, 2020, 9:38AMRadwaste Solutions

OREM and cleanup contractor UCOR are set to fully deactivate the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor at Oak Ridge for eventual demolition. Photo:DOE

With work recently completed on the removal of a former uranium enrichment complex at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the Department of Energy is shifting focus to other remediation projects around the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. On October 27, the DOE announced that the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) is set to begin cleanup of the Experimental Gas-Cooled Reactor at the site.

OREM and cleanup subcontractor UCOR are in the planning stages to fully deactivate the reactor for eventual demolition. The reactor is one of 16 inactive research reactors and isotope facilities that OREM is addressing and cleaning up at Oak Ridge. The cleanup effort will happen concurrently with other OREM cleanup projects underway at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

U-233 processing restarts at Oak Ridge following upgrades

October 22, 2020, 7:01AMNuclear News

A fissile material handler uses a shielded glovebox to dissolve U-233 into a low-level form so that it can be mixed with grout for safe transportation and disposal. Photo: DOE

The processing and downblending of uranium-233 for disposal has resumed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, following a pause in operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Energy announced on October 20. Removal and disposition of the U-233 is one of the DOE Office of Environmental Management’s highest priorities at the site, as stated in its strategic vision released earlier this year.

The project is removing a significant risk by eliminating the inventory of highly enriched fissile material stored in Building 3019, the world’s oldest operating nuclear facility, according to the DOE. Employees, known as fissile material handlers, use shielded gloveboxes to dissolve U-233 into a low-level form so that it can be mixed with grout for safe transportation and disposal. The material dates back decades and was originally pursued as a fuel for reactors; however, it did not prove to be a viable option.

First-ever cleanup of uranium enrichment plant celebrated at Oak Ridge

October 20, 2020, 2:57PMRadwaste Solutions

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette speaks during an October 13 celebration marking the completion of the cleanup of Oak Ridge’s East Tennessee Technology Park.

The completion of the decades-long effort to clean up the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant was celebrated on October 13, with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette joining U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and other state and community leaders at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), where the uranium enrichment complex once stood.

“We are not only celebrating reaching this achievement, but also how this achievement will impact the future of this region moving forward,” Brouillette said. “We turned what was once an expensive government liability that presented risks to the community into an asset that the community can use to usher in new growth for East Tennessee.”

DOE marks 75th anniversary of Trinity Test by highlighting cleanup progress

July 16, 2020, 10:25AMRadwaste Solutions

On July 16, 1945, the research and development efforts of the nation’s once-secret Manhattan Project were realized when the detonation of the world’s first atomic device occurred in Alamogordo, N.M., more than 200 miles south of Los Alamos, in what was code-named the Trinity Test—a name inspired by the poems of John Donne.

On the 75th anniversary of this landmark event, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) is highlighting the cleanup, long-term management, and historical significance of the Manhattan Project sites—Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash.—that were conceived, built, and operated in secrecy as they supported weapons development during World War II.

DOE hosts grand opening for K-­25 History Center

March 8, 2020, 9:46AMNuclear News

Visitors explore the exhibits and interactive displays at the K-25 History Center at Oak Ridge. Photo: DOE

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and its contractor URS/CH2M Oak Ridge hosted a ribbon-­cutting ceremony on February 27 for the new K-­25 History Center on the site of the former uranium enrichment plant. Located next to the original foundation for the K-­25 building, the center was built to honor and preserve the stories of the workers who constructed and operated the K-­25 complex during World War II and the Cold War.

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