Source: EM Update | Vol. 11, Issue 35; Contributor: Wayne McKinney | September 10, 2019


Demolition on K-131 and K-631 began in May 2019. The buildings were the last of 11 Poplar Creek facilities Oak Ridge crews demolished.

EM’s latest cleanup progress in Oak Ridge has brought the end of an era at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP).

With the recent demolition of K-131 and K-631 — watch a video about the project here — there are no longer any buildings that conducted or supported gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment operations at ETTP for the first time since 1943.

ETTP, formerly known as the K-25 site or Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, was built as part of the Manhattan Project. During peak operations, the site contained five massive gaseous diffusion plants and numerous support facilities.

Those buildings housed operations, as well as workers, to help end World War II and produced highly enriched uranium for national defense and commercial energy production until the site was permanently shuttered in 1987.

Eleven of ETTP’s support facilities were housed in an area adjacent to Poplar Creek and known as the Poplar Creek facilities. With the completion of K-131 and K-631, crews have taken down all Poplar Creek facilities since the effort began two years ago.

“Completing demolition in this area is a major accomplishment for our program because it eliminates the oldest and most contaminated buildings that remained at ETTP,” said Jay Mullis, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM). “This is a key milestone towards achieving our vision for the site. This project helps close the chapter on gaseous diffusion and continues the transformation of ETTP into a multi-use industrial park for the community.”

Originally, workers in Building K-131 provided purified uranium hexafluoride to the uranium enrichment cascade. Through the years, the building was used for a variety of other purposes until uranium enrichment operations ceased at the site.

Workers in the companion Building K-631 withdrew gaseous depleted uranium hexafluoride from the cascade, converted it to liquid, and transferred it to transport cylinders. The five-story K-131 and two-story K-631 had a combined floor space of more than 83,000 square feet.

Crews are set to remove the Poplar Creek area building slabs. Once all cleanup is complete, that area and the adjacent footprint of the former Building K-29 will undergo a regulatory approval process to enable the land to be transferred to the community for economic development.

“In all, 1,200 acres have already been transferred from government ownership for economic development at ETTP, and this project will help add another 80 acres to that total,” said Ken Rueter, UCOR president and chief executive officer. “Making this land available for redevelopment will continue to stimulate the local economy as the site opens a new chapter in its decades-long history of serving the nation in both wartime and peace.”

The removal of buildings at ETTP is another in a long line of landscape changes that have taken place as OREM and cleanup contractor UCOR work toward achieving Vision 2020, the goal to complete major cleanup at ETTP by the end of 2020.

The ultimate vision for ETTP is a multi-use industrial park for industry, historic preservation attractions, and conservation areas.