Source: EM Update | Vol. 12, Issue 35 | November 17, 2020

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EM crews begin knocking down the three-story 65,000-square-foot Building 9210 at Oak Ridge on Nov. 16.

 EM crews on Nov. 16 began taking down the remaining facilities located in the former Biology Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge.

Those vacant, deteriorated buildings are categorized as high risk due to their structural condition, and their removal will provide land for national security missions at the site.

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its cleanup contractor, UCOR, are starting by demolishing the three-story 65,000-square-foot Building 9210. Once that work is completed early next year, crews will begin tearing down the six-story 255,000-square-foot Building 9207.

“After completing the Department of Energy’s largest environmental cleanup project to date at the East Tennessee Technology Park, we are shifting our focus to the next phase of cleanup in Oak Ridge,” OREM Manager Jay Mullis said.

That next phase of cleanup involves addressing hundreds of excess, contaminated, and deteriorating facilities scattered throughout Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory that present hazards and occupy land that can be used for future research and national security missions. Removal of the Biology Complex will be the most significant skyline change at Oak Ridge to date, and it will be the first of many projects to clear away former Manhattan Project and Cold War buildings.

“Our program brings an incredible impact by eliminating hazards, enabling modernization, and creating opportunities by clearing away old facilities for the Department of Energy to construct new infrastructure to meet the needs of this nation,” Mullis said.

Preparing the Biology Complex buildings for demolition was a major undertaking and required workers in full protective suits to remove asbestos material found in areas such as pipe insulation and wall panels.

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A view of the conditions inside one of the remaining Biology Complex facilities, which date back to the 1940s. These buildings are part of Oak Ridge’s inventory of excess contaminated facilities to be addressed by cleanup workers.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for this accomplishment,” UCOR President and CEO Ken Rueter said. “Our UCOR workforce is highly trained to remove the kinds of hazards that were in this building, which made it possible for us to conduct this work safely and efficiently.”

Rueter noted that UCOR implemented special workforce development programs, such as its East Tennessee Apprenticeship Readiness Program and asbestos removal training geared to apprentices using a mock-up of a worksite.

“Those programs ensured our workforce had the skills necessary to achieve this next major cleanup milestone even as we continue to manage the impacts of the pandemic,” Rueter said. “It’s also important to note that this focus as well as our strong partnerships with Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) and the National Nuclear Security Administration allowed us to start the Biology Complex demolition within a month of celebrating Vision 2020.”

CNS is the Y-12 management and operations contractor.

Originally constructed for recovering uranium from process streams in the 1940s, the Biology Complex was later used for research that led to strides in understanding genetics and the effects of radiation. When operational, the facilities once housed more individuals with doctorates than anywhere in the world.

The Biology Complex previously consisted of 11 buildings. OREM demolished four of the structures in 2010 and removed another two structures in 2018. All remaining Biology Complex structures are scheduled for removal by 2021.

-Contributor: Ben Williams