Last month’s water hammer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, apparently caused by abnormal conditions in the city of Oak Ridge distribution, burst a number of pipes at the lab, and one of the impacted facilities was Building 3019 — an aged and sensitive nuclear facility that houses the government’s stockpile of uranium-233.
The uranium stocks apparently weren’t affected by the problem, which occurred shortly after midnight on Sept. 17, but a couple of contaminated rooms in the basement of 3019 reportedly received a minor flood from a burst pipe. The result was a couple of inches of standing water in contaminated areas that required a cleanup action by DOE contractor Isotek.
Mike Koentop, the executive officer of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, said the problem was created when a water line feeding Building 3019 ruptured outside the facility.
The water line was responsible for feeding the building’s fire-supression system.
“A majority of the water flowed out of the building’s south yard and onto the street,” Koentop said in response to questions. “Some water and mud flowed into Building 3019, resulting in minor water accumulation in several rooms. Two of the areas where the water accumulated were contamination areas. The water and mud were removed from the contaminated areas using standard radiological control practices and containerized. ”
The DOE spokesman said a temporary hose was “routed from a fire hydrant to a room in Building 3019 to back feed the suppression system” and help resolve the safety concerns.
The water line was subsequently repaired, and Koentop said the fire suppression system was “restored, tested, and declared operational “ at the end of September. He said day-top-day operations were not impacted.
“The affected areas were in rarely accessed parts of the building,” he said.