Source: The Oak Ridger | Ken Rueter, UCOR | October 9, 2019
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken Rueter is UCOR’s president and cleanup project manager for the East Tennessee Technology Park. As such, he has guided and motivated a professional management team and hundreds of skilled workers as they successfully undertake the largest environmental cleanup in the U.S. Department of Energy’s history.
For the past eight years, I have had the privilege of serving my company, community and, ultimately, the nation by leading the monumental cleanup of the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, today known as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). Because we are in the home stretch of this important project, I have been reflecting on what this really means to our nation.
ETTP will be the first of the nation’s Secret City sites to reach cleanup completion. The vision that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and my team — UCOR, an AECOM-led partnership with Jacobs — have been working toward is the transformation of a once-contaminated government site into a multi-use community asset.
More than 1,200 acres of land have been transferred for reuse. The revitalized site is home to new industry, historic landmarks and conservation areas that honor the past while supporting the future development of the region.
Since 2011, UCOR has been DOE’s lead environmental cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge. Throughout our partnership, risk reduction has been front and center for DOE and UCOR, ensuring that we eliminate hazards for our workers, the public and the environment. The massive cleanup effort challenged our team to perform safely in industry’s most hazardous settings.
We have completed the first-of-a-kind demolition of some of the world’s largest and most hazardous structures. It has taken a highly skilled workforce to complete this work — in fact, this is the best and most skilled team with which I have ever worked. Our remarkable team addressed this project by introducing innovations to decommission and demolish these complex structures in a way that serves as a model for future cleanup.
This immense cleanup effort has resulted in significant risk reduction. To date, UCOR workers have safely demolished 5.5 million square feet of buildings and structures (DOE reports 12 million square feet total over the life of cleanup work). In addition, we have disposed of more than 28 million cubic feet of radiological, chemical and industrial waste, which includes removing 2.9 million cubic feet of contaminated soil.