Source: EM Update | February 14, 2017

Workers perform repairs on Alpha 4’s four-acre roof.

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) recently finished repairs to an aging Y-12 National Security Complex building as part of its excess contaminated facilities initiative to improve safety, reduce cleanup costs, lower risks and stabilize facilities as they await demolition.

Maintaining the roofs of aging, contaminated facilities prevents water damage, the greatest threat to rapid deterioration and the spread of contamination. These factors create a more hazardous environment for future demolition crews that must enter the facility, and they increase the cost of cleanup exponentially.

“We are applying lessons we’ve learned from previous cleanup projects,” OREM Acting Manager Jay Mullis said. “Buildings that are neglected cause cleanup to be much more costly and complicated. Performing smaller tasks like this one to maintain facilities will create considerable savings by the time we begin major demolition at Y-12.”

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Alpha 4 supported the nation’s defense missions for years.

Workers repaired 20 areas across Alpha 4’s four-acre roof, which has eight decks at various heights. Cleanup contractor URS | CH2M Oak Ridge LLC (UCOR), working with Y-12 management-and-operations contractor, Consolidated Nuclear Security, along with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Roofing Asset Management Program, awarded the roofing subcontract to Nations Roofing. The work was completed in three months at $200,000 under the $1.25 million budget and two months ahead of schedule.

EM has been concerned with water infiltrating the building and intermingling with residual contaminants, particularly mercury in Alpha 4, and becoming mobile. Water has already degraded other facilities. For instance, characterization crews can no longer enter one facility in Y-12’s Biology Complex due to a fallen roof.

Constructed in 1944, the 560,000-square-foot Alpha 4 building activities included enriching uranium using electromagnetic separation as part of the Manhattan Project. The facility was placed in standby as other enrichment methods proved more efficient. In 1953, its original equipment was replaced with column exchange, or COLEX, to support thermonuclear weapons production. These operations, which required massive amounts of mercury, continued until 1962. Alpha 4 was shut down in 1987.