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Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management Pursues Vision of Future While Remembering Past

December 27, 2012 - 12:00pm

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Demolition of K-25, DOE’s largest-ever demolition project, is ongoing.

Demolition of K-25, DOE’s largest-ever demolition project, is ongoing.

This graphic shows the status of activities at the East Tennessee Technology Park as of this month. Various colors note sites where facilities have been demolished, demolition is under way, or structures are ready or being prepared for demolition. It also identifies buildings that will remain there.

This graphic shows the status of activities at the East Tennessee Technology Park as of this month. Various colors note sites where facilities have been demolished, demolition is under way, or structures are ready or being prepared for demolition. It also identifies buildings that will remain there.

Demolition of K-25, DOE’s largest-ever demolition project, is ongoing.
This graphic shows the status of activities at the East Tennessee Technology Park as of this month. Various colors note sites where facilities have been demolished, demolition is under way, or structures are ready or being prepared for demolition. It also identifies buildings that will remain there.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – What a difference a year makes.

In 2012, DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (EM) surged ahead on the agency’s largest-ever demolition project, the K-25 building. Due to effective federal oversight, and the efficient work of the site’s prime contractor, URS|CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR), the 44-acre Manhattan Project-era superstructure is disappearing quickly.

Currently, portions of the east wing and north tower remain from the U-shaped building. EM anticipates demolition on the north tower finishing in February, with all debris disposed by April. That leaves only six of the building’s 54 original units to be demolished. These six units are all that remain of the east wing, but they require further deactivation due to the presence of technetium-99, a slow-decaying radioactive metal.

What was once the world’s largest building is only a small fraction of its original size, vastly improving safety and advancing EM’s mission for the site.

“The level of success our federal and contractor team accomplished this year has us very excited about the future,” said Jim Kopotic, federal project director for East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) cleanup. “The great efforts from the K-25 work crews have put us in a place where we can look beyond K-25 to other cleanup projects and the extended future of ETTP.”

The work at ETTP is the largest environmental remediation project in Tennessee’s history. Decades ago, ETTP was the site of enriched uranium production. The property is being turned into an industrial park for future economic development.

One of the greatest factors contributing to K-25’s continued demolition was the signing of a historic preservation memorandum of agreement (MOA). Past plans called for the north end of K-25 to be preserved. But this summer, federal, state and local historic preservation groups signed an agreement establishing an alternative plan that allows the north tower to be demolished while still recognizing the historic significance of the site. The final plan lays out a multi-year approach to commemorate the K-25 complex, which contained more than 500 facilities, including the world’s largest building, and employed 12,000 workers who accomplished countless technological and scientific discoveries.

Under the terms of the agreement, DOE will undertake three broad initiatives to commemorate and interpret the history of the K-25 complex. The projects include constructing a three-story equipment building that recreates a scale representation of the gaseous diffusion technology and contains authentic equipment used in the original facility. In addition, the EM program agreed to place a K-25 History Center at the site that exhibits equipment, artifacts, oral histories, photographs and videos. Also, DOE provided a $500,000 grant to preserve the Alexander Inn, a historic structure in Oak Ridge where visiting scientists and dignitaries stayed during their visits to the area.

Through a decade-long negotiation process, EM was able to incorporate desired elements from multiple parties that allowed the organization to honor the successes of past employees while cleaning the site and preparing it for eventual private industrial use.

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