AIKEN, S.C. – EM is funding research at the Savannah River National Laboratory to develop a material to safely contain the radioactive waste generated by a planned multi-year decontamination project at the Savannah River Site (SRS) while the waste is being shipped for disposal.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the nation’s largest multi-program science and technology laboratory. ORNL's mission is to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs that will accelerate the development and deployment of solutions in clean energy and global security. Today, ORNL pioneers the development of new energy sources, technologies, and materials and the advancement of knowledge in the biological, chemical, computational, engineering, environmental, physical, and social sciences.
The Y-12 National Security Complex is one of the nation’s most important national security assets. The 811 acre site contains the nation’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium and also performs nuclear non-proliferation missions. Historically, Y-12’s operations focused on a uranium enrichment method that used vast amounts of mercury. Over the years, nearly 700,000 pounds of mercury leaked from machines and pipes into the environment.
For 40 years, the 2,200-acre East Tennessee Technology Park was home to a complex of facilities that enriched uranium. The site dates back to the World War II Manhattan Project. In addition to defense missions, the plant produced enriched uranium for the commercial nuclear power industry from 1945 to 1985. In 1987, DOE terminated uranium enrichment operations in Oak Ridge and closed the site. As a result of these operations, ETTP has a legacy of contaminated buildings, soil, sediment, and groundwater that require remediation for the protection of human health and the environment.
The low-level radiological and hazardous wastes generated from Oak Ridge’s cleanup projects are disposed in the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF). The EMWMF is comprised of six disposal areas that have a total capacity of 2.2 million cubic yards. EM ensures waste is accurately characterized so materials sent to the disposal area comply with all of the regulations included in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
Transuranic waste, or TRU, is one of several types of waste handled by Oak Ridge’s EM program. This waste contains manmade elements heavier than uranium, hence the name “trans” or “beyond” uranium. Transuranic waste material generally includes objects and materials associated with the human manipulation of fissionable material such as clothing, tools, soil, and debris.
Oak Ridge’s EM and reindustrialization missions are closely connected. As cleanup advances, the Department of Energy is able to open more facilities and land for reuse and development. Together, these programs save taxpayer dollars and spur economic development in the region.
Years of diverse research and uranium and isotope production led to numerous forms of waste in Oak Ridge. However, our EM program has worked to identify, characterize, and safely store all of the waste as we develop strategies to process, secure, or remove it. Waste ranges from highly radioactive uranium isotopes to building debris and personal protection equipment.