Cleanup crews have started tearing down the largest remaining collection of buildings at the former K-25 site, which was built during World War II and enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and power plants through the Cold War.
The demolition work is occurring at the Centrifuge Complex at the K-25 site, now known as East Tennessee Technology Park or Heritage Center. The Centrifuge Complex is on the south side of ETTP. It includes the tall, white buildings visible from Highway 58.
Oak Ridge crews began demolishing the K-1200 section of the Centrifuge Complex in February. It’s the second of four sections.
Deactivation and demolition work in the first section of the complex was recently completed. That portion was a Manhattan Project facility built for research and development in 1944.
“Demolition of the first section has already created a significant landscape change,” said James Daffron, ETTP portfolio federal project director. “Removal of the entire complex will be one of the most visible skyline changes we’ve accomplished at the site, and it will bring us to the finish line of our goal to complete all major demolitions at ETTP this year.”
The Centrifuge Complex included 235,000 square feet of building space and structures of up to 180 feet in height. It was built in stages to develop, test, and demonstrate centrifuge technologies for uranium enrichment. The last of the facilities stopped operating in the mid-1980s.
Getting the complex ready for demolition is a major effort that involves removing hazards and ensuring the safe, efficient removal of structures, according to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management. Deactivation includes disconnecting all power and utilities, performing characterization and sampling, and removing asbestos and other waste. Crews also vent, purge, drain, and inspect piping and equipment to prepare it for disposal.
Many pieces of equipment were removed prior to the start of demolition at the Centrifuge Complex. Because the work is being conducted in separate sections, demolition can take place in physically separated and deactivated sections while deactivation continues in other sections of the complex, DOE said in an “EM Update” newsletter published Tuesday.
Workers are now demolishing a nearly 83,000-square-foot section known as the Advanced Machine Development Laboratory and Component Preparation Laboratory. It was used from 1975 to 1985 to develop machines and manufacturing processes for centrifuges. More recently, it was leased by Materials and Energy Corporation for commercial waste operations and to support the processing of DOE waste. That lease ended last year.
Deactivation and demolition of all sections of the Centrifuge Complex is scheduled for completion this year. After the major demolition at ETTP is presumably completed this year, some work, such as groundwater remediation, will remain.
Operations at the K-25 site, which has about 700 acres in its main plant area, shut down in the mid-1980s, and it is being transformed into an industrial park that could include the planned Oak Ridge Airport, a national park site that will include K-25 history buildings, and a conservation area.
The Office of Environmental Management has transferred almost 1,300 acres at ETTP for economic development, and another 600 acres are expected to be transferred later. EM has also set aside more than 100 acres for historic preservation and placed more than 3,000 acres in conservation for community recreational use, DOE said.