Oak Ridge Closes in on ETTP Vision Formed Decades Ago

Source: EM Update | Vol. 14, Issue 8; Contributor: Ben Williams | March 1, 2022

There is a plan for every acre at the East Tennessee Technology Park. With 3,500 acres being transferred to the state of Tennessee for conservation and recreation, residents and visitors will have abundant areas to hike, bike and enjoy nature.

DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its contractor UCOR hosted a virtual event on Feb. 24 highlighting the transformation underway at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) and new economic opportunities for the community there.

Watch a recording of the virtual event here.

The event unveiled a closure plan providing a pathway for OREM and UCOR to complete all work at ETTP. It opened with comments by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, State Sen. Ken Yager, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Superfund Division Director Carol Monell, Oak Ridge City Mayor Warren Gooch and Roane County Executive Ron Woody.

The event featured a discussion by a panel whose members helped create the vision and blueprint for the ambitious conversion of ETTP from a former uranium enrichment complex to a private industrial park – a feat of reindustrialization.

The Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee has helped transition cleaned land, buildings, and infrastructure from federal ownership to attract new industry. The organization’s former president and CEO Lawrence Young served as a panelist, discussing the transformation that has occurred since the ETTP reindustrialization began in the mid-1990s.

“I’m amazed where we are currently,” said Young. “As I look back and think about what the site was … it was a decaying, dilapidated, and quite frankly, a dangerous site that needed to be cleaned up.”

Young continued, “You can’t underestimate what efforts went into this. This was an impossible endeavor, but the people that worked on this turned the impossible into the possible. Now we’re at a point where we have industrial property that is clean and safe and can be marketed and redeveloped into a new industrial park.”

He also noted that new wide-open spaces at the former enrichment complex now attract companies developing the next generation of nuclear technologies.

Kairos Power announced plans last summer to deploy a low-power demonstration reactor at ETTP. The company’s initial $100 million investment is expected to create 55 jobs. It will construct its facility on a 185-acre parcel that previously housed two massive enrichment buildings that OREM demolished.

Kairos Power’s objective for deploying the Hermes Reactor is to demonstrate the capability to deliver an advanced reactor at the cost necessary to make nuclear power the most affordable source of dispatchable electricity in the U.S.

While OREM has created many new economic development opportunities at ETTP, cleanup work is ongoing to reach the ultimate vision at the site.

“You can imagine there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into the cleanup of the site,” said panelist Ashley Saunders, who leads UCOR’s end state and federal land reuse efforts. “There’s been decades of work to get the buildings down, and UCOR still has 200 individuals dedicated to the cleanup of the site.”

Saunders noted that crews are working to complete soil cleanup at ETTP by the end of next year.

Other employees work to transfer land for new opportunities. That team has helped facilitate the transfer of 1,300 acres to date, with an additional 500 acres planned for transfer this year.

EM and UCOR are also creating conservation areas and adding facilities that highlight the site’s history. EM signed an agreement with the state of Tennessee in December to transfer 3,500 acres for conservation and recreation. OREM has also partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build the K-25 Viewing Platform.

“There is a plan for every acre,” Saunders said. “We’ve divided the site into different geographical areas to ensure the best and highest use of every area is achieved.”