Crews Deactivating 23 Buildings in Oak Ridge’s New Cleanup Chapter

Source: EM Update | Vol. 13, Issue 38; Contributor: Susanne Dupes | September 28, 2021

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A view of the central campus area at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), which houses the oldest buildings at the laboratory. Buildings slated for EM cleanup are highlighted in red. Crews are performing deactivation at 18 ORNL facilities.

EM workers are in various stages of deactivation and demolition preparation inside 23 facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), including former research reactors, uranium processing facilities, isotope and fission development laboratories, and support buildings.

The projects represent a significant step toward enhancing safety, advancing cleanup, and clearing land of deteriorating infrastructure to expand the missions of the research and national security sites. ORNL and Y-12 house hundreds of excess, contaminated facilities that make up the largest inventory of high-risk buildings in the DOE complex.

Prior to deactivation and demolition preparation at the facilities — 18 at ORNL and five at Y-12 — employees conduct significant planning and documentation. That includes developing plans for characterizing and removing waste from the facilities. Engineers also create plans to isolate electrical and mechanical energy hazards in the buildings, such as power, water, and natural gas lines.

Characterization involves marking and sampling throughout the facilities to determine the presence and levels of any contaminants. That data informs the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its cleanup contractor, UCOR, of appropriate safety measures for employees preparing the buildings for demolition.

UCOR Oak Ridge Reservation Environmental Cleanup Manager Dan Macias said the company’s successful deactivation and demolition at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), which was completed last year under budget and ahead of schedule, provided a roadmap for the work ahead.

Workers who supported the ETTP project are using their training and experience to successfully complete projects at ORNL and Y-12, and they are identifying innovations and efficiencies along the way.

“When we wrapped up demolition at ETTP, we were able to bring those highly-trained deactivation workers over to ORNL and Y-12. Their expertise makes it possible for us to work in the most efficient way,” Macias said. “They have also come up with some great ideas for ways to continue our work even with the resource challenges we have occasionally experienced due to the pandemic.”

Employee innovation led to increased efficiency in asbestos removal, a significant step in the deactivation process for many old buildings in Oak Ridge. Crews at Y-12’s large Beta-1 facility pre-staged and hung bags used to collect asbestos-containing materials throughout the facility. This allowed them to work steadily to remove the materials instead of stopping and resuming the cleanup to obtain additional bags.