The Tennessee General Assembly has approved legislation that would establish the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, or CROET, as the manager of the 1,300-acre East Tennessee Technology Park in west Oak Ridge, a press release said.
The legislation was sponsored by Tennessee Senator Ken Yager and Representative Kent Calfee, both Kingston Republicans. It has been sent to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam for his signature.
East Tennessee Technology Park, or ETTP, is also known as Heritage Center and the former K-25 site. It once housed the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which was built during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. That was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons, before Germany could.
The ETTP site, once used to enrich uranium, is slowly being cleaned up. K-25 operations ended in 1985, and the site was permanently shut down in 1987. Now, it is being slowly converted into a large industrial park. Proponents hope it will become one of East Tennessee’s prime locations for new industry, the press release said.
CROET President Lawrence Young said the state legislation “is the latest step in efforts by the Department of Energy and CROET to reindustrialize the former K-25 site and help diversify the region’s economy.”
With passage of the legislation, the organizational structure is in place for the U.S. Department of Energy to transfer the remaining portions of the industrial park to CROET, the press release said. The legislation states that after the land is transferred, CROET will enter into a lease agreement with the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board, or IDB, to hold the property until it is sold for industrial and commercial development.
CROET currently manages about 300 acres at ETTP. CROET and the IDB have previously worked together on Horizon Center, an industrial park now managed by the IDB a few miles northeast of Heritage Center.
“I want to extend my appreciation to all the parties who made this legislation possible,” Young said of the ETTP bill. “In addition to Senator Yager and Rep. Calfee, we worked hand in hand with the Department of Energy, Roane County, and the City of Oak Ridge to lay the groundwork for the park’s long-term future.”
Besides being in west Oak Ridge, ETTP is also in eastern Roane County.
The press release said the East Tennessee Technology Park already contains infrastructure assets such as power, rail, barge, and interstate access that are critical to recruiting large industries. The park is the location of a number of private sector businesses and the proposed Oak Ridge Airport.
The legislation establishing the industrial park’s management passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives on April 13 and the Senate on April 17. It was sent to Haslam for his signature on Thursday, April 20. (You can see a bill summary here.)
Workers finished demolishing the last of the big five buildings that once enriched uranium at ETTP in August. That was part of Vision 2016, a plan by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management to remove all five gaseous diffusion buildings from the site by the end of last year. It was the first time that all of a site’s uranium-enriching gaseous diffusion buildings were cleaned up anywhere in the world. The buildings once used a process called gaseous diffusion to produce enriched uranium for atomic weapons and commercial nuclear power plants, starting during World War II and continuing through the Cold War. One of the buildings, K-25, was a mile-long U-shaped building that was once the world’s largest building under one roof.
The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, or OREM, also has a Vision 2020 plan, which calls for cleaning up and re-industrializing the rest of ETTP.
The Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee was established in 1995 as an economic development organization. The organization said its purpose is to assist the private sector in creating quality jobs in the region by using the underutilized land, facilities, equipment, personnel, and technology available at the U.S.. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge complex.
CROET and its subsidiaries own, develop and manage more than 300 acres of property at the East Tennessee Technology Park’s Heritage Center and the Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park. For more information about CROET and Heritage Center, please visit www.heritagectr.com.
Learn more about the ETTP/CROET legislation, HB0978 and SB0707, here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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