Another Hot Cell Down at ORNL, EM Advancing Project Toward Completion

Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 16; Contributor: Carol Hendrycks | April 27, 2021

A view of the west portion of the former Radioisotope Development Lab before and after demolition. Workers will tear down the east portion of the facility next. Crews begin characterizing the final hot cell in that portion of the laboratory this month to pave the way for its demolition next year.

DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and contractor UCOR recently completed the removal of one of the final remaining structures at the former Radioisotope Development Lab at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

“This is a big step for our program and marks the first major demolition that’s part of our new chapter of cleanup at ORNL,” said Nathan Felosi, OREM’s ORNL portfolio federal project director. “This project, and others like it on the horizon, will transform the oldest portions of ORNL and open space for future research missions.”

Watch coverage of this accomplishment here.

Known as hot cells, the structures being demolished are heavily shielded concrete rooms that provided researchers protection from highly radioactive material during the years the laboratory was operational.

The laboratory dates back to the Manhattan Project and postwar era, when one of the facility’s primary missions was the production of radioisotopes for medical, research, and industrial uses.

Constructed in the early 1940s, the laboratory contained six hot cells where radioisotopes from ORNL’s Graphite Reactor and succeeding reactors were processed for shipment.

OREM demolished the outer structure of the laboratory and four of the hot cells in prior years using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. With the fifth hot cell recently demolished, one remains to be torn down.

Workers conducted numerous activities to pave the way for the recent demolition project, including constructing a six-story protective cover over the hot cells to ensure nearby research facilities are not impacted during the demolition. Building the protective cover involved installing a foundation of 92 16,000-pound blocks and erecting 20 steel trusses for the frame.

To ensure demolition is performed safely inside the protective cover, cameras were mounted near the teardown area to provide a real-time feed of demolition and waste-loading activities.

“Performing demolition and debris removal inside an enclosure with significant space limitations presented unique challenges to our workforce,” said Susan Reid, UCOR project manager. “Our demolition team successfully completed the project on schedule, while incorporating several unique engineering controls like our intermodal rail system. I am very proud to be part of what this team has accomplished in returning valuable real estate back to ORNL.”

To ensure demolition is performed safely inside the protective cover, cameras were mounted near the teardown area to provide a real-time feed of demolition and waste-loading activities.

“Performing demolition and debris removal inside an enclosure with significant space limitations presented unique challenges to our workforce,” said Susan Reid, UCOR project manager. “Our demolition team successfully completed the project on schedule, while incorporating several unique engineering controls like our intermodal rail system. I am very proud to be part of what this team has accomplished in returning valuable real estate back to ORNL.”

The intermodal rail system is used to transport boxes containing demolition debris from the site. The system provides a safe way to transport the debris outside of the space-limited tented area. The boxes are then loaded onto trucks and transported for disposal.

Crews begin characterizing the final hot cell this month to pave the way for its demolition next year.