Diverse Employee Skills Ensure Oak Ridge Facilities Remain Safe, Stable

Source: EM Update | Vol. 14, Issue 9; Contributor: Shannon Potter | March 8, 2022

EM crews have performed numerous corrective maintenance projects over the past two years to ensure nuclear facilities on the Oak Ridge Reservation continue operating safely and effectively.

Corrective maintenance is critical to keep nuclear facilities safe while ensuring continuity of operations. These activities include repairing, restoring or replacing failed or malfunctioning equipment.

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and cleanup contractor UCOR are responsible for maintaining infrastructure that supports waste treatment and environmental cleanup missions, such as the Liquid Gaseous Waste Operations (LGWO) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). They are also responsible for surveillance and maintenance operations at hundreds of radiological and contaminated facilities at Oak Ridge awaiting demolition in the years ahead.

The past couple years have brought numerous challenges to the teams responsible for oversight and upkeep of those facilities, including partial shutdowns due to the pandemic, supply-chain issues impacting needed materials and complexities inherent with facilities and systems operating beyond their designed lifecycle.

A central concern during that period was ensuring uninterrupted operations at LGWO. Despite the challenges, the UCOR nuclear operations maintenance team has performed needed maintenance, and LGWO has continued its critical operations without interruption.

LGWO contains three waste treatment systems that collect, treat and reduce the volume of liquid and gaseous waste across the laboratory. LGWO encompasses more than 60 facilities and 27 miles of piping that process waste generated from cleanup operations, research and development laboratories, and active and deactivated nuclear reactors.

In 2021, the UCOR surveillance and maintenance team and LGWO team completed 1,687 work orders, or an average eight work orders each business day. Such work orders involve at least two visits to the facilities and numerous other tasks.

Corrective maintenance work requires a range of skillsets across the UCOR workforce, including carpenters, chemical operators, electricians, equipment operators, general laborers, instrument and control experts, insulators, pipefitters and riggers.

“Maintaining these aging structures can be challenging, but it is a top priority and necessary measure to ensure the continued safety of the workforce and the environment,” EM ORNL Portfolio Federal Project Director Nathan Felosi said.