Category Archives: Oak Ridge things

Oak Ridge council to vote on DOE contract extension

water treatment plantUndated photo shows the Oak Ridge Water Treatment Plant on Pine Ridge adjacent to the Y-12 National Security Complex. (Y-12 photo)

Oak Ridge City Council will hold a special called meeting late this afternoon to vote on a proposed one-year extension of the city’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide water to the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The city took over the former DOE water plant 15 years ago and provides potable water to the two federal facilities, in addition to the local community.

The aged facility is in need of repairs, and Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said a contract extension will give the city more time to consider whether to build a new facility or engage in long-term and extensive repairs. Regardless, the existing facility on Pine Ridge near Y-12 will need some repairs in the next few years, he said. Continue reading

Oak Ridge city manager has a solution: Hire Oak Ridgers

watsonI asked Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson if he wanted to comment on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s tightening of requirements for use of Bethel Valley Road through the lab by commuters who work in the Bethel Valley Industrial Park (outside of the federal reservation’s east side).

Watson said Thursday he wasn’t aware of the issue, but he said he had a solution:

Hire workers who live in Oak Ridge. Continue reading

Insider stories from ORNL’s unique test site

I got a lot of response from a recent piece on the Tower Shielding Reactor and the many projects carried out at the ridge-top test site in Oak Ridge.57711-001

Among those with stories to tell was J. Wayne Paul, a former field engineer who worked at Tower Shielding for much of his career. “I was intimately involved with most everything that occurred there for 34 years (1960-1994),” Paul said via email.

Paul worked with the operations staff, researchers and folks from outside agencies to assist in getting the necessary hardware to carry out the many — and varied — projects.

“Some of the unclassified projects consisted of constructing fallout shelters with varying concrete thickness exposed to the reactor at elevation, fabricating some huge sodium-filled tanks to simulate the coolant lines of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor, and the construction of a separate reactor handling system and control area for the SNAP 10 studies to test the effectiveness of the ‘shadow shield’ for the space program reactor.” 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

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

Signing up for jobs (1944)

24647176570_2458c0133a_kThe current hiring campaign at Y-12 and Pantex has attracted attention, signaling changes in the mission work at the nuclear weapons plants in Tennessee and Texas. But today’s post-Cold War hiring surge pales in comparison to the urgent job hires that took place in Oak Ridge during the World War II Manhattan Project. The above photograph show workers processing the paperwork for a crowd of applicants on June 5, 1944. (Department of Energy archives/Ed Westcott photo)

Where the action was (1945)

8723456150_66cc650ef3_kThis photo, taken Nov. 7, 1945, shows the operators desk in the master control room for the K-25 and K-27 uranium-enrichment plants in Oak Ridge. The gaseous diffusion operation had earlier provided the partially enriched uranium that fed processes at Y-12 late in World War II and helped accelerate production of materials for the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. K-25/K-27 were later essential in building the enriched uranium stockpile for the nation’s Cold War nuclear arsenal.  (Department of Energy archives/Ed Westcott photo)

Study touts economic impact of Oak Ridge cleanup

k27A new economic impact study says the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge cleanup program was responsible for about 6,200 jobs — direct and indirect — in Fiscal Year 2014.

The study, which was conducted by the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, also said the cleanup-related activities in Oak Ridge added $545 million to the state’s gross domestic product — value of what the state’s economy produces in a single year.

Most of the economic impacts were felt in Anderson and Roane Counties, where the DOE facilities are located, and Knox County, where the greatest number of Oak Ridge workers live. Continue reading