Workers are making significant progress removing asbestos and other hazardous waste from the Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex in a deactivation project that’s more than 60 percent complete, the U.S. Department of Energy said this week.
The work prepares the Biology Complex for demolition, possibly next year. The Biology Complex was originally built to recover uranium from process streams. It was later used for DOE’s research on the genetic effects of radiation from the late 1940s. When they operated, the facilities once had more people with doctorates than anywhere in the world, according to DOE.
Asbestos abatement teams from UCOR are working inside the six-story 9207 Facility and the three-story 9210 Facility. The first building is 256,600 square feet, and the second is 64,700 square feet.
“This project paves the way for EM (Environmental Management) to begin demolishing remaining buildings that comprise the Biology Complex next year,” the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management said in an “EM Update” newsletter on Tuesday.
UCOR is the cleanup contractor at federal sites in Oak Ridge.
“Momentum is building in the project after UCOR subcontracted deactivation work at the 9210 Facility, augmenting the workforce so abatement and demolition preparation can proceed at that facility in tandem with the work going on inside the 9207 Facility,” the “EM Update” said.
Oak Ridge is also adding newly trained workers to the project. Ten members of the inaugural East Tennessee Apprenticeship Readiness Program class now work at the Biology Complex.
After completing a specialized training experience, these new employees team up with seasoned deactivation personnel at a mock-up area created by UCOR, the “EM Update” said.
“There, the new workers gain experience and proficiency with various methods of asbestos removal before beginning their work inside the Biology Complex buildings,” the newsletter said.
Also advancing cleanup are transfer platform cars. These lifts installed by UCOR help move equipment, supplies, and employees between floors of the multi-level facilities.
“This approach has enabled crews to remove the hazards of these deteriorating buildings more safely and quickly,” the “EM Update” said.
Workers have already abated and shipped more than 350,000 pounds of asbestos waste for disposal, according to DOE. Deactivation is expected to be complete in summer 2020, and demolition is scheduled to begin later that year.
The Biology Complex previously consisted of 11 buildings. EM demolished four of the structures in 2010 as part of work under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and EM removed another two structures in 2018 as part of DOE’s Excess Contaminated Facilities initiative.
Y-12 announced in December that the Tennessee Historical Commission had approved the demolition of 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.
Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that the deactivation and demolition work, a top-priority project, could cost $125 million over three to four years.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, which is part of DOE and oversees work at Y-12, has said it could build a Lithium Production Facility where the Biology Complex is, possibly to start operating by 2030.
—”EM Update” contributor: Susanne Dupes
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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