Tennessee officials have approved the demolition of two large buildings at the Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex.
The Biology Complex once housed more people with doctorates than anywhere in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. DOE has said the men and women who worked there radically enhanced the world’s knowledge in biology, including the discovery of the Y chromosome.
Y-12 announced in December that the Tennessee Historical Commission had approved the demolition of the two buildings: Buildings 9207 and 9210. The buildings date back to the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II. Oak Ridge was part of that project.
The demolition work at the Biology Complex is being overseen by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management.
In March, Jay Mullis, manager of the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said the federal spending bill approved that month included $125 million to deactivate and demolish the Biology Complex. The $125 million could be full funding for the top-priority project because DOE officials expect the Biology Complex deactivation and demolition work to cost $125 million over three to four years. That means the earmarked money is expected to be enough to complete the project.
The deactivation work includes asbestos abatement.
The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management announced in March that it had removed two higher-risk excess contaminated facilities at the complex: the Radiation Source Building and another one used for biological research. The buildings had been vacant since 2000, and they had deteriorated due to their age.
“Removing the buildings allows the location to be used for modern national defense missions,” federal officials said in March.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which is part of DOE and oversees the work at Y-12, has said it could build a Lithium Production Facility where the Biology Complex is, possibly to start operating by 2030.
On the east side of Y-12, the Biology Complex once consisted of 12 buildings. Four of them were demolished in 2010 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama early in his presidency. Only six buildings remained after the additional two were demolished in March. It wasn’t immediately clear Saturday if anymore buildings have been demolished since then. The goal is to complete demolition of the Biology Complex in the early 2020s.
In April 2017, the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and its cleanup contractor, URS | CH2M, or UCOR, finished characterizing the Biology Complex, identifying contaminants before demolishing and disposing of the buildings. DOE has said it was crucial to get crews into the complex before the working environment became too hazardous. Examples of hazards had included a failed roof, fallen exterior tiles, and asbestos and other risks due to roof leaks.
The Biology Complex was originally built to recover uranium from process streams. It later housed DOE’s research on the genetic effects of radiation.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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