Category Archives: Oak Ridge EM

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

DOE’s secluded site has unusual history

IMG_5422The entrance to the Department of Energy’s Tower Shielding Reactor site off Highway 95 has lots of warning signs. (KNS photo/Frank Munger)

Atop Copper Ridge near the southwest border of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge reservation is a remote site that’s been used for a series of unusual — and sometimes secret — projects over the past 60 years.503971-001

Most recently, Oak Ridge National Laboratory used the ridge-top location for a project that’s associated with government efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials. However, the Department of Energy will not provide details because the “non-proliferation-related” research is classified.

DOE declined a request to visit the site, and the entrance gate off Highway 95 is locked and barricaded, with lots of signs warning would-be trespassers.

The site is best known for its 1950s role in a government program to develop nuclear-powered airplanes. Two-hundred-foot towers were constructed at the ridge-top facility, and a small nuclear reactor was hoisted high into the air to allow radiation measurements and to evaluate the effectiveness of cockpit shielding for the pilot and crew. (Archived photo, above right, shows the tower operation in 1960.) Continue reading

Not what you want to hear about your basement

y12overviewThe Department of Energy, of course, is battling lots of obstacles in trying to clean up what once were the engineering jewels of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. Not the least of the problems is water pouring through the disabled roofs of old, old buildings. In many cases, DOE is simply trying to stem the tide — so to speak — until the day comes when there’s enough money and manpower to tear down the buildings and clean up the mess.

One of the roofs targeted for repairs is at Alpha-4, a mercury-laden building at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Asked how much rainwater had accumulated in the building’s basement, DOE cleanup manager Sue Cange replied:

“The volume of the water fluctuates because of the season and the amount of rainfall.” Continue reading

220 tons down . . . 110 to go

The second of three 110-ton condensers being transported from an old electrical switchyard at the East Tennessee Technology Park to a landfill on the Dept. of Energy’s reservation has arrived safely at its destination. Thee third one is supposed to be moved on Thursday — weather permitting. That’s according to info from DOE spokesman Ben Williams. Because of their size and weight, the shipments require a special trailer and escort on public roads.

Sharing resources within DOE: a good thing

ypictureAs noted in earlier post, the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management is using a $28 million pool of money to stabilize old facilities at ORNL and Y-12 until such time that bigger money and resources are available to tear them down and complete the cleanup.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is doing some work on its own to keep bad situations from getting worse. And, in at least one case at Y-12, EM and NNSA — two organizations within DOE — are working together to reduce the risks. Continue reading

Big and slow

25583645381_5670c75b4e_kAs part of the demolition project at the K-732 switchyard at the East Tennessee Technology Park, workers on Thursday transported a 110-ton condenser to a landfill on the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge reservation. Because of the size and weight, a special trailer was required for the task. Two other condensers will be moved in the days ahead, which may slow traffic on sections of Highways 58 and 95. (DOE photo/Lynn Freeny)

Oak Ridge cleanup chief to speak at ETEBA

IMG_5337Sue Cange, the Department of Energy’s environmental cleanup manager in Oak Ridge, will be the guest speaker at the May 24 meeting of the Energy Technology and Environmental Business Association.

The dinner meeting will be held at the Double Tree Hotel in Oak Ridge, with social time beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the presentation at 7. Cost is $30 for members, $40 for nonmembers.

DOE warns of traffic-clogging shipments

switchyardThe Department of Energy said three slow-moving shipments of oversized components over the next couple of weeks could clog traffic on Highways 58 and 95. The shipments involve large condensers — each weighing about 110 tons — from an old electrical switchyard at the East Tennessee Technology Park. They are being transported to a landfill off Bethel Valley Road on DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation.

The shipments are scheduled to occur beginning March 10, depending on the weather. Continue reading

DOE spending $28M to reduce risks at Y-12, ORNL

????????????????????????????????????The exterior of the Homogenous Reactor Experiment, a research reactor that was operated in the 1950s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A DOE project will attempt to stabilize conditions at the site to reduce risks until money is available to tear it down and complete the cleanup. Below are photos of the reactor facility’s interior. (Department of Energy photo)

7500 interior 2The U.S. Department of Energy is spending $28 million this year to reduce the risks at several old facilities at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory until enough money is available to tear them down and complete the cleanup.

The special fund was part of a congressionally approved “plus-up” in funding for the cleanup effort in Fiscal Year 2016.7500 interior 3

DOE is attacking one of its biggest concerns in Oak Ridge: excess facilities that are rapidly deteriorating but not yet scheduled to demolition. In some instances, it could be decades before enough the federal agency has enough money to get rid of the crumbling and contaminated sites once and for all. Continue reading

Setting cleanup priorities for 2018

ssabThe Department of Energy will host a March 9 public meeting to discuss priorities and planning for the Oak Ridge cleanup budget in Fiscal Year 2018. The meeting of DOE’s Site Specific Advisory Board will begin at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center, 1 Way, in Oak Ridge. That’s the location of DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information on the east side of town at the intersection of the Oak Ridge Turnpike and Athens Road. Continue reading

Mercury treatment facility enters final design

mercurysignOne of most anticipated projects on the horizon is the new mercury treatment facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The big project, with a price tag approaching $150 million, is extended to help reduce discharges of mercury into East Fork Poplar Creek.

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy’s chief cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge, is working on the design.

Asked for an update on the design effort, UCOR spokeswoman Anne Smith provided this response via email: Continue reading