Category Archives: Oak Ridge EM

Before they tore old K-25 down

27225999143_f853665d3d_kHere I am getting prepped with protective gear before going inside the K-25 plant, which was being readied for demolition. Before the May 1, 2004 tour, there was a bit of a confrontation. Not only were we not allowed to bring any electronics into the classified facility, but at the last minute a classification officer also wanted to review my handwritten notes following the tour. I refused and was ready to walk away. Ultimately, the contractor relented. But, to be honest, while wearing gear and breathing protection, it was kind of hard to take notes anyway. (Department of Energy photo/Lynn Freeny)

Smith named North Wind communications chief

annesmithAnne Smith, who previously held public affairs roles with Safety and Ecology Corp., Perma-Fix Environmental and URS/CH2M Oak Ridge, has been named the communications chief at North Wind Group.

North Wind is a small business on the rise, recently taking over management of the Department of Energy’s Transuranic Waste Processing Center in Oak Ridge. The company is based in Idaho Falls. Smith will be located in the company’s Knoxville office. Continue reading

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

Mercury cleanup at Y-12 could cost $3B


A sample of soil from Y-12 shows the presence of elemental mercury, a legacy of the plant’s Cold War work on thermonuclear weapons.

The cleanup of  mercury contamination at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant could ultimately cost up to $3 billion, according to a Department of Energy report.

The report, dated February 2016, states that the estimated cost for mercury remediation at Y-121 is between $1 billion and $3 billion. The report was prepared to outline the technology plans for mercury cleanup at Y-12, as well as DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Here’s an excerpt about the Y-12 situation: 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

A mercury research facility at creekside

A Field Research Station where Oak Ridge scientists can study mercury in East Fork Poplar Creek is still in the works, even though the Department of Energy recently pulled back its proposal to construct the facility at a natural area in Horizon Center.mercurycreek-thumb-310x175-24360.jpg

“We are currently in the process of identifying alternatives that will meet the needs of the Department of Energy and the City of Oak Ridge,” Mike Koentop, the executive officer of DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, said.

The research facility will be relatively small and cost in the range of $1 million, according to estimates. But it’s important that it be located adjacent to the lower stretches of East Fork — the creek that was historically polluted with tons of mercury discharged during Cold War operations at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Continue reading

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

The word on U-233 at Oak Ridge

The old stockpile of uranium-233 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been an ongoing concern for years, with twists and turns in the planning process and always questions about the ultimate cost of the project. How many hundreds of millions of dollars is it going to take to get these fissionable and highly radioactive materials disposed of safely?3019

The Department of Energy, after protracted negotiations with the state of Nevada, is apparently proceeding with direct disposal of some of the U-233/U-235 stuff — characterized by its former life as “CEUSP” or Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project — at the Nevada National Security Site. But there hasn’t been much said about those shipments from Oak Ridge to the Nevada desert, apparently because of security concerns regarding the cross-country transportation of sensitive materials. It’s not clear how much progress has been made in completing the CEUSP work.

There are, of course, other U-233 materials in storage at ORNL’s Building 3019 that have to be dealt with, and DOE has said it plans to downblend those materials with depleted uranium, apparently to eliminate the weapons-making potential, and dispose of them as low-level radioactive waste. Continue reading

Demolition moving rapidly at K-27 uranium site

k27patrickA safety officer overlooks the demolition activities taking place at the historic K-27 gaseous diffusion plant, the last of five uranium-enrichment facilities to be taken down at the Oak Ridge site. (KNS photos/Michael Patrick)

On a chilly morning in early February, workers maneuvered their heavy equipment to take a ceremonial “first bite” out of K-27 — a four-story, 383,000-square-foot industrial facility that once processed uranium for the nation’s Cold War nuclear arsenal and helped fuel early generations of power reactors.k27new

A small group of onlookers applauded the moment.

In the 10 weeks since then, the demolition project has progressed mightily, thanks to an experienced workforce and an unusual run of good weather in East Tennessee.

The project is already approaching the halfway point, and it looks like the U.S. Department of Energy’s cleanup contractor — URS-CH2M Oak Ridge — will have no trouble meeting its year-end completion goal. Continue reading

Near-term happenings

Members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, which includes more than 30 activists groups at DOE sites around the country, will be in Washington this week for the annual “DC Days.” The activists plan to meet with congressional staff members and decisionmakers in Washington to discuss issues of interest — especially funding for nuclear weapons and related projects and priorities for environmental cleanup at Cold War nuclear sites. IMG_5674As part of the event, the ANA will present awards to Sen. Dianne Feinstein “for extraordinary leadership to constrain destabilizing new warheads, support global nonproliferation and provide for cleaning up U.S. nuclear weapons sites”; Rep. Adam Smith “for supporting a rigorous, safe cleanup at the Hanford nuclear site by fighting to ensure that workers are protected from exposure to toxic vapors”;  Chuck Montaño “for tireless efforts as an activist, author and personal exemplar of courage to hold the nuclear weapons complex accountable for waste, fraud, and whistle-blower retaliation”; and  Kay Cumbow, who will receive the Judith Johnsrud Unsung Hero Award in collaboration with Beyond Nuclear  “for demonstrating tireless dedication and stubborn determination, despite daunting odds, in her creative, visionary work for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes. ” Continue reading