In February 2016, demolition crews started tearing down the K-27 gaseous diffusion building.
Now, only months later, the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and its contractor UCOR have already completed demolition on more than 65 percent of the four-story, 383,000-square-foot facility, the U.S. Department of Energy said.
K-27 is the last of five large gaseous diffusion facilities to be torn down at the East Tennessee Technology Park, or ETTP, which was formerly known as the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant and often referred to as the former K-25 site.
“Due to the heavy contamination and state of the 1940s facility, K-27 was one of the environmental management’s highest cleanup priorities,” the DOE Office of Environmental Management, or EM, said in a May 31 newsletter. “The progress taking down the facility moves EM closer to fulfilling its Vision 2016—the removal of all five gaseous diffusion buildings from the site by year’s end. It is not only a significant goal for EM and Oak Ridge, but it will also mark the first time in the world that a uranium enrichment complex has been cleaned and removed.”
A significant amount of work occurred inside K-27 during the past two years before demolition crews could begin.
“The men and women working on this project are doing a phenomenal job,” ETTP Portfolio Federal Project Director Wendy Cain said. “I think we can attribute our success and impressive pace of work to our talented team and our organization’s ability to continually learn and apply lessons from previous projects to help us perform as efficiently as possible.”
Deactivation, which concluded in January, included removing hazardous and radioactive materials to ensure protection of workers, the public, and the environment; isolating utility systems; and ensuring structural stability. In addition, all materials that could cause a nuclear criticality were removed.
To date, demolition crews have produced more than 4,000 truckloads of debris from the K-27 work site that have been shipped to the onsite disposal facility, known as the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (it’s on Bear Creek Road west of the Y-12 National Security Complex). Most importantly, all of this work is being achieved safely, the DOE Office of Environmental Management said.
The K-27 teardown follows successful demolition of four other uranium enrichment process buildings, including K-29, K-33, K-31, and the mile-long K-25 building. All of these facilities once produced highly enriched uranium for national defense and commercial energy production.
“All of these cleanup projects are paving the way to OREM’s ultimate goal for the site as a privately-owned and operated industrial park,” the newsletter said. “Each project and accomplishment adds to the inventory of clean land that can be made available for reuse and economic development purposes.
UCOR is also known as URS | CH2M Oak Ridge.
The K-25 site was built during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret program to build the world’s first atomic weapons. The site enriched uranium for atomic weapons and commercial nuclear power plants through the Cold War. Operations ended in 1985, and the site was permanently shut down in 1987. Now, it is being slowly converted into a large industrial park.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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