Source: The Oak Ridger | Darrell Richardson | August 30, 2016
On Tuesday, August 30th, Sue Cange, manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management for the better part of two years, will celebrate completion of a series of demolition and cleanup activities known as “Vision 2016” at the former K-25 Site with a few close friends.
Actually make that more like several hundred friends, as the work force involved in the East Tennessee Technology Park cleanup currently totals between 1,200 and 1,500 individuals — with all-in support expanding that number to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,700 men and women.
“Though everyone brags about having the ‘best’ labor force,” Cange recently shared with The Oak Ridger, “we really do. These people are highly skilled, highly motivated and they’ve done a great job for us.
“We engage and listen to our workers and invite them to be part of a process that identifies solutions,” Cange added. Which is why members of that workforce will be integral participants in the fete scheduled to be held at DOE-ORO’s expansive ETTP.
The Aug. 30 invitation-only event has been, you might say, 20 years in the making — as it was in 1996 that former DOE-ORO Manager Jim Hall, the father of Oak Ridge “reindustrialization,” kick started accelerated cleanup efforts with the formation of a task force and an eventual Industry Day organized in 1997 to explore in earnest the reuse opportunities of the former gaseous diffusion plants located in Oak Ridge — highlighted by the mile-long, U-shaped K-25 facility and including 50 acres of what’s been described as high-hazard, high-security and highly classified facilities.
Toward the end of this multiple-decades’ effort and after two years of preparations on the last facility alone, workers began tearing down the K-27 Building in February — the last of the five gaseous diffusion plants that once formed the nation’s largest uranium-enrichment complex.
This marked the first time anywhere in the world that an entire uranium-enrichment complex has been deactivated and demolished, Cange stated — again — having first noted this mighty milestone some six months ago.
Of course, it’s an auspicious occasion that bears repeating — and cries out for an appropriate observance such as next week’s Oak Ridge celebration, which is expected to include a kickoff breakfast attended by invited guests such as U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the Energy Department’s Monica Regalbuto, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Charlotte Bertrand and other notables.
“This is a significant milestone and event — not just for Oak Ridge but for the country,” Cange said. “We want to share our success.”
Of course, local cleanup efforts certainly won’t end with the successful conclusion of Vision 2016. Though now, as always, the work performed throughout the Oak Ridge Reservation continues to be funding dependent, “Vision 2020” plans call for cleaning up the remaining portion of the East Tennessee Technology Park and “Vision 2024” expands those cleanup efforts to the Y-12 National Security Complex — where mercury levels in particular will be addressed.
“We have had tremendous progress and we recognize there’s more we have to do,” DOE’s Oak Ridge cleanup manager said. “There have been a lot of lessons learned along the way and we are ready for the challenge.”