CD-1 milestone on proposed mercury-treatment facility; cost estimate rises to $146M

mercurysignSue Cange, the Department of Energy’s environmental manager in Oak Ridge, said the team has received approval from DOE headquarters to proceed with design of a new mercury-treatment facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.

Cange said the “project management executive” in Washington recently approved Critical Decision-1 for the project, establishing the preliminary baseline range. According to Mike Koentop, executive officer in the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, the estimated cost of the project has risen from about $120 million to $146 million.

The increase is reportedly tied to DOE’s agreement with environmental regulators earlier this year that adds capacity to collect and store up to 2 million gallons of storm water (to prevent the release of contaminated water during storms).

Mercury cleanup at Y-12 is considered a high priority by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and local stakeholders in Oak Ridge. Tons and tons of mercury were lost to the environment during the 1950s and ’60s when vast quantities of the toxic metal were used to process lithium for hydrogen bombs.

The new treatment facility will be located near Outfall 200, a point where mercury collected in Y-12’s storm sewage system is discharged into the upper end of East Fork Poplar Creek.

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy’s cleanup contractor, is responsible for design the treatment facility, Cange said. The agency is still evaluating how construction of the facility will be contracted, she said.

“As you know, we also reached agreement with the stat of Tennessee and EPA on some issues (that reached formal dispute at one point) that will allow us to proceed with design,” the DOE official said. “So I’m very pleased with the progress that we’ve made.”

The federal agency has released the proposed plan for the mercury-treatment facility and will receive comment through Sept. 18. A public information session will be held Sept. 2, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m., at the DOE Information Center in Oak Ridge. The address is 1 Way (adjacent to the Office of Scientific and Technical Information).

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.