On Aug 30, 2016, longtime EM employees stood attentively near the demolition site watching the final portion of Building K-27 crash to the ground.
Their faces showed the recognition of this historically significant moment. Each played a role in the effort to achieve the ambitious vision to remove all of the site’s uranium enrichment gaseous diffusion plants (GDP) by the end of 2016.
“It is difficult to accurately convey just how much planning, preparation and execution was involved to get our program to this very special moment,” said Sue Cange, Oak Ridge’s EM program manager. “Today is a testament to what is possible when you create strong partnerships with employees, regulators, and the community, and pursue a meaningful vision together.”
Through four contracts and a decade of demolition, Oak Ridge was able to successfully remove all of its GDPs — K-25, K-27, K-29, K-31, and K-33 — a world first. K-25 was constructed in 1943, K-27 in 1945, K-29 and K-31 in 1951, and K-33 in 1954. Together they produced highly enriched uranium for national defense and energy production.
The road to Vision 2016 began many years before the Aug. 30 events celebrating the demolition of all Oak Ridge GDPs.
In 1997, Oak Ridge’s EM program awarded its first contract to BNG America to decontaminate and decommission K-29, K-31 and K-33, which amassed nearly 2.5 million of the GDPs’ 4.5 million total footprint. During the multi-year project, workers dismantled, removed and dispositioned more than 159,000 tons of materials and equipment, paving the way for their future demolition.
In 2006, Oak Ridge demolished its first gaseous diffusion building, K-29. Bechtel Jacobs was on contract to tear down the 290,000-square-foot facility.
In 2008, the contractor began work on K-25, an unprecedented task that presented an entirely new size and scope. The facility stood four stories tall with a base footprint of 1.6 million square feet. Crews began taking down what was once the world’s largest building when it was constructed in 1943.
As demolition continued on K-25, Oak Ridge received an infusion of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The additional funds allowed EM to advance its demolition schedule by contracting LATA Sharp Remediation Services to remove the second largest building at the site — K-33.
LATA Sharp completed K-33’s demolition in 2011. Demolition of the sprawling 1.4-million-square-foot facility was completed five months ahead of schedule, and debris removal was completed three months ahead of schedule. During the nine-month project, workers moved 164,000 tons of steel and concrete, accounting for 13,000 shipments. The contractor also removed the building’s concrete slab, resulting in more than 3,600 shipments totaling 61,300 tons and 125 cubic yards of disposed contaminated soil.
In 2011, Oak Ridge’s EM program awarded a contract to URS|CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR) to complete the remaining cleanup scope at the East Tennessee Technology Park — K-31, K-27 and a portion of K-25. The ongoing K-25 project presented challenges due to the building’s increasingly contaminated units as demolition progressed along the mile-long facility. By 2013, the demolition was complete.
In 2015, UCOR achieved success again with completion of K-31. The 750,000-square-foot facility, emptied years earlier by BNG, was demolished almost four months ahead of schedule. Focus then shifted to the last building required to accomplish Vision 2016 — K-27.
Crews began tearing down K-27 in February 2016. Demolition of the four-story, 383,000-square-foot building was completed Aug. 30, 2016, signifying the successful completion of Vision 2016. Crews finished demolition four months ahead of schedule, removing one of EM’s highest cleanup priorities due to its contamination levels and deteriorated condition.
“I’m very proud of what our employees were able to accomplish after more than a decade of commitment to this milestone,” said Cange. “The men and women who built and operated these facilities certainly have their place in history with what they accomplished, and today, I think we were able to add another chapter with what our employees achieved.”