Source: EM Update | Vol. 11, Issue 22; Contributor: Mike Butler | June 11, 2019
Crews recently recovered more than a ton of mercury from an aging facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, marking another EM project that has prevented a release of the element into the environment.
EM teams successfully removed the mercury from tanks in the Column Exchange (COLEX) equipment on the east side of Y-12’s Alpha-4 building. Last year, cleanup contractor UCOR collected nearly 3.5 tons of mercury from COLEX equipment on the building’s west side. The latest effort boosted EM’s total mercury removal in the facility to more than 4.6 tons.
“Our skilled workforce safely inspected, cleaned, and retrieved mercury from old pipes and equipment,” said Brian Henry, Y-12 portfolio federal project director for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of EM. “This project prevents an environmental release, and it takes us a step closer to prepare Alpha-4 for its eventual demolition.”
While employees drained the majority of materials from the equipment when operations ended in the 1960s, they did not clean all of the systems and components. Recoverable amounts of mercury remained in the aging lines and equipment, which have rusted and deteriorated over the decades.
EM and UCOR conducted the recent six-month project in three phases. During each test, mercury was recovered from the piping, consolidated, and stored in the facility.
In the final phase, workers recovered any liquid mercury that remained in the piping and equipment. Additionally, employees drained and inspected 22 tanks to determine if any additional deactivation is needed prior to demolition.
The COLEX mercury removal project is part of a broader initiative to address the significant amount of mercury lost to equipment, buildings, and surrounding soils during Y-12’s historical operations.
The next big step in that larger effort begins this summer with construction of the Mercury Treatment Facility. It is a vital piece of infrastructure that will limit and control potential mercury releases as crews take down massive buildings and address soils in the mercury-contaminated area on the west end of Y-12. When operational, the facility will treat up to 3,000 gallons of water per minute and include a 2-million-gallon storage tank to collect stormwater.