Source: The Oak Ridger | Opinion: Ron Woody | August 6, 2021

Roane Countians have yet another reason to celebrate our reputation as a friendly home to industry with the recent announcement by Kairos Power.

Kairos Power plans to build its new low-power demonstration reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). This impressive $100 million project is scheduled for completion in 2026 and will create 55 permanent jobs.

We welcome Kairos and celebrate the fact that the company is the latest to choose ETTP as its preferred location. The list is growing steadily. Last year, Coquí Pharmaceuticals announced it will build a medical isotope production facility at ETTP, joining 20 other businesses who call the Park home.

This is a direct result of the Department of Energy’s commitment to clean up the contaminated land and facilities of the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant and create a multi-purpose industrial park that would be home to new industries.

The cleanup was a massive undertaking involving the demolition of dozens of aging, contaminated facilities and the first-ever tear down of massive uranium enrichment plants that were once among the largest buildings on earth. UCOR, an Amentum-led partnership with Jacobs was DOE’s lead environmental cleanup contractor. UCOR recruited and managed a well-trained, highly-skilled workforce that carried out the cleanup mission with precision and safety.

The cleanup results celebrated last year with successful completion of Vision 2020, was praised by government and industry on a local, state, federal and international level. This unprecedented mission was completed four years ahead of schedule and $80 million under budget, eliminating $500 million in environmental liabilities to taxpayers.

To carry out its cleanup mission, UCOR has hired some 2,000 workers from Roane and surrounding counties, creating long-term employment with jobs that will benefit our region for decades to come. In the process, the company has been aggressive in supporting training opportunities for new workers who will be needed to complete cleanup in other areas on the Oak Ridge Reservation. This includes programs at Roane State Community College to train new chemical operators and industrial hygiene specialists.

In my role as current chairman of the Energy Communities Alliance, a consortium of communities that host DOE sites nationwide, I have gained a useful perspective about what is happening in counties across the DOE complex. I am continually impressed how Roane and Anderson counties are leading the pack in environmental cleanup and diversifying the economy with exciting new industries. We can all take pride in this important leadership role.

With ETTP cleanup complete, DOE and UCOR are now focused on addressing the aging, contaminated facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Y-12. This next phase of work that will help ensure facilities and land are safe for workers and the public, that mercury levels in our waterways are minimized and that clean land is available for future DOE missions.

The cleanup of contaminated nuclear facilities is a hazardous, painstaking, expensive process. It takes time, skill, and leadership. However, as demonstrated by the Kairos news, it pays dividends — in investment, in jobs and in prospects for a bright future.

Ron Woody

Roane County executive