Mercury cleanup: COLEX equipment deactivated at Y-12

Oak Ridge workers remove mercury and mercury-contaminated solids from process pipes in the column exchange, or COLEX, equipment at the Alpha-4 facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex. (Submitted photo)

Crews are nearly finished deactivating the second of three collections of old, mercury-contaminated equipment around the Alpha-4 facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, a press release said.

The project addresses potential environmental risks and moves the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management a step closer to preparing one of Y-12’s largest high-risk contaminated facilities for demolition, the press release said.

The column exchange, or COLEX, structures are connected to the four-story 500,000-square-foot Alpha-4 building, which was used for uranium separation from 1944 to 1945. Workers finished installing the COLEX equipment in 1955 for lithium separation, a process that required large amounts of mercury. A significant amount of the mercury was lost into the equipment, buildings, and surrounding soils, and its cleanup is one of EM’s top priorities.

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