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.

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.”

Demolition under way on last remaining building at ETTP in Oak Ridge

July 29, 2020, 12:33PMRadwaste Solutions

Demolition begins on Building K-1600 at ETTP. The 42,000-square-foot structure was formerly used as a test and demonstration facility for uranium enrichment centrifuges. Graphics: OREM

Demolition has begun on Building K-1600 at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) reported on July 28. The work is being done by OREM and its contractor UCOR.