Source: EM Update | Vol. 12, Issue 19; Contributor: Ben Williams | July 28, 2020

DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and contractor UCOR have begun demolishing Building K-1600 at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), marking the final teardown to end a decades-long effort to remove a shuttered uranium enrichment complex.

ETTP, formerly known as the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, once contained five massive uranium enrichment buildings, including the world’s largest building at the time of its construction, along with hundreds of support facilities. The site dates back to the Manhattan Project and continued to expand its operations during the Cold War. Those operations ended in 1987, and the site was permanently closed in 1989.

OREM and UCOR are working to complete major cleanup at ETTP later this year — a goal known as Vision 2020. It will mark the first time in the world a former uranium enrichment complex has been cleaned and removed. UCOR accelerated cleanup by four years, saving taxpayers nearly $500 million.

“We are in the process of making history as this building starts coming down,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said. “Getting to this point is the culmination of nearly 15 years of large-scale demolition with countless more hours preparing, planning, and ensuring each project was conducted safely. It’s extremely rewarding to see how all of these efforts have transformed the site, and how our work has removed barriers and created new economic opportunities for the community.”

The 42,000-square-foot Building K-1600 is a recognizable facility due to its height and location, sitting in the middle of the Building K-25 footprint. Building K-1600 was used as a former test and demonstration facility for uranium enrichment centrifuges. Centrus Energy Corp. leased the government-owned facility from 2002 until 2019. The company no longer needed the lease after consolidating its centrifuge testing and demonstration activities into a location in Oak Ridge.

Demolition and environmental cleanup at ETTP is part of an effort to transform the former government-owned enrichment complex into a privately-owned multi-use industrial park. OREM has taken down facilities spanning nearly 13 million square feet, transferred more than 1,200 acres of land for economic development, and placed more than 3,000 acres in a conservation easement for community recreational use.

Additionally, more than 100 acres will be used for historic preservation efforts at the site. Since the K-25 footprint is part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the demolition of Building K-1600 will increase accessibility and remove risks in the area for future use.

As demolition ends at ETTP, UCOR is transitioning crews to new deactivation and demolition projects at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex. These projects will eliminate deteriorating, high-risk facilities, enhance safety, and clear land for future national security and scientific research missions.