Category Archives: Cleanup

IG report raises flags on UCOR cost claims

An assessment by the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General raised questions about hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs incurred by DOE’s Oak Ridge cleanup contractor — URS/CH2M Oak Ridge — but UCOR said it resolved all of the issues before the report was made public this week.ucorpic

The IG regularly conducts reviews of DOE’s managing contractors to evaluate whether costs claimed under their federal contracts are allowable and properly accounted for during internal audit. The report released Wednesday looked at UCOR’s first three years on the job — Fiscal Years 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The report also said more than $250 million in subcontractor costs had not been audited for those first three years under UCOR’s leadership and those, too, are considered to be unresolved until the audits are completed. Continue reading

Rad levels down significantly at sewer plant

radsludgeLevels of radioactivity at a city of Oak Ridge sewage treatment plant have been reduced by 90 percent over the past two years, according to a Department of Energy contractor in charge of the cleanup.

Anne Smith, a spokeswoman for URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, said the contractor recently completed its 18th shipment of radioactive sludge — totaling 90,000 gallons — to a treatment facility in Washington state.

Sludge has been removed periodically from the Rarity Ridge Wastewater Treatment Plant to help reduce the levels of radioactive technetium-99, which infiltrated pipelines leading to the sewage plant during demolition activities at the former K-25 uranium-enrichment facility. Continue reading

State posts fish advisory on Bear Creek

Decades after discharges from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant polluted local waterways, the state has decided to post a do-not-eat-the-fish advisory on Bear Creek because of increasing public access to a lower stretch of the creek.

“Eating fish with elevated levels of mercury and PCBs is a risk Tennesseans can avoid,” Tisha Calabrese-Benton of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in a statement released by the state agency. Continue reading

K-27 demolition moves ahead furiously; preparations underway for other Cold War facilities

Poplar Creek MapAerial view with some of the Poplar Creek Facilities in the foreground. Below is recent photo of K-27 demolition. (DOE/Lynn Freeny)

The post-Cold War cleanup is proceeding at a furious pace at an Oak Ridge site once home to the nation’s largest uranium-enrichment complex.26504269220_6547c787a4_k

With K-27, the last of five gaseous diffusion plants, coming down quicker than expected and likely to be demolished before the year-end target date, the U.S. Department of Energy has started making preparations to tear down a bunch of other old buildings that once supported the nuclear program.

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, DOE’s cleanup manager, has taken advantage of favorable weather conditions to accelerate the demolition of K-27, which ceased operations in 1964. The four-story, 383,000-square foot building is highly contaminated and equally deteriorated. Continue reading

Y-12 wins six Sustainability Awards

WETFThe Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge recently won six of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Sustainability Awards. The awards recognize individuals and teams on projects that help conserve resources, reduce discharges or otherwise protect the environment. One of the honors was received for innovative operations at the Waste End Treatment Facility. The project allowed processing of 718,000 gallons of production wastewater and eliminated the generation of about 14,000 gallons of low-level radioactive sludge and the need for about 200 gallons of sulfuric acid, 4,000 gallons of ferric sulfate, 3,200 gallons of sodium hydroxide, and 4 gallons of polymer as treatment chemicals. The overall effort reduced sludge generation by about 130.5 metric tons. The West End Treatment Facility is pictured above. For a complete rundown on the Sustainability Awards, check out Y-12’s website.

UCOR announces mini-grant winners

Ken Rueter, president of UCOR.URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy’s cleanup manager in Oak Ridge, announced 20 winners in the ongoing mini-grant program that supports educational initiatives in local schools.

UCOR President Ken Rueter called the education program a “difference maker” that helps teachers and students and the community.

Here are the winning projects selected for funding in 2016: Continue reading

Rad legacies an ‘anticipated project risk’

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman in the National Nuclear Security Administration, today provided an email response to questions about the radioactive metal uncovered last month during site preparation for the Uranium Processing Facility.

“The contaminated debris was discovered on March 8 when the USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) was performing work in support the UPF Site Infrastructure and Services Subproject. The debris included two contaminated metal pallets.  Encountering contaminated items is an anticipated project risk for the UPF work scope.  The work remains on budget and schedule.”

Y-12 completes $10M upgrade at chemistry labs

661318A $10 million upgrade to the analytical chemistry facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant has been completed on time and within its budget, according to a Thursday announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Y-12’s analytical facility, also known as Building 9995, was built in 1957, and the year-long upgrade was authorized to improve the capabilities and reliability of the chemistry work.

The chemistry labs play an important role in the Oak Ridge plant’s work on nuclear weapons. Continue reading

Reviving fish population requires more than clean creek


Above photo shows weir that controls water flow on White Oak Creek and makes it difficult for fish to populate upper stretches. Photo below shows the weir removed. (ORNL photos)


The capping of old nuclear burial sites to stem radioactive leaks and other cleanup measures have greatly improved the water quality in White Oak Creek, which meanders through the drainage basin of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.mcmanamaypic

In some ways, however, restoration of the creek has been a disappointment.

Despite its cleaner waters, White Oak Creek doesn’t have the diverse fish population that might be expected of an East Tennessee stream that has undergone such an extensive remediation.

Ryan McManamay, an aquatic ecologist at ORNL, headed a study — published recently in the scientific journal Hydrobiologia — that looked at the some of the issues. Continue reading

Cleanup caucus to focus on DOE’s excess facilities

alpha5aerialThe House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., will participate in an event April 20 to look at the Department of Energy’s high-risk excess facilities — a topic that’s drawing concern and increasing attention within the federal agency. The Energy Technology and Environmental Business Association, the Energy Facility Contractors Group and the Nuclear Energy Institute are hosting the event in Washington, D.C.

Some of the worst facilities are in Oak Ridge, notably including the deteriorated Alpha-5 Building (pictured) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Continue reading

Big progress at switchyard project


Concrete supports for the electricial infrastructure are all that’s left of the K-732 Switchyard at the East Tennessee Technology Park. (DOE photo/Lynn Freeny)

The demolition of an old switchyard at the government’s former uranium-enrichment plant is pretty much a done deal, according to a Department of Energy spokesman, and what’s left to be done is characterization of soils at the Oak Ridge site to determine if there’s any contamination that needs to be removed. Continue reading