Employees, Regulators and Lawmakers Celebrate Oak Ridge Milestone

More than 100 national, state and local officials, and 1,200 federal and contractor employees braved Tennessee’s summer heat on Aug. 30 to witness the culmination of more than a decade of decontamination, decommissioning and demolition work here at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). Onlookers saw Oak Ridge’s final uranium gaseous diffusion enrichment process building fall, marking the first time in the world this feat was completed.

Among those in attendance were U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), EM Assistant Secretary Monica Regalbuto, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Director Franklin Hill and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. The leaders, community members and stakeholders who helped support Oak Ridge’s EM program and its many cleanup projects received recognition at the celebration. Employees later watched the final stage of Building K-27’s demolition and listened to stories from former workers who operated the facilities. Officials and employees gathered for remarks from labor leaders and dignitaries and videos that highlighted the generations of workers and their crucial roles within the Department.

“It’s been very satisfying to look around today’s event and be able to see and meet all of the men and women who made this incredible achievement possible,” Regalbuto said. “Today is not simply about tearing down another big building. This success removes environmental risks, improves safety in the area, and paves the way for economic development. Also, on a larger scale, we are able to take lessons learned in Oak Ridge and apply them across the complex to set the stage for similar successes in places like Portsmouth and Paducah.”

The cleanup project was part of Vision 2016, an EM goal to remove all five massive uranium gaseous diffusion enrichment process buildings at the site by the end of 2016.

That goal was achieved when K-27, the fifth of those buildings, was demolished in a project that began in February 2016. With a 383,000-square-foot footprint, the plant produced highly enriched uranium for national defense and commercial energy production. Its removal was a pressing priority due to its high contamination.

Successful demolitions of four other buildings — K-25, K-29, K-31, K-33 — were completed between 2006 and 2015. Along with K-27, the gaseous diffusion process buildings produced highly enriched uranium for national defense and commercial energy production. Watch this video about workers who constructed, operated and transformed the K-25 site.

“The completion of Vision 2016 sets a standard for what is possible through a dedicated workforce and strong partnerships,”Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management Manager Sue Cange said. “It also enriches the future for our community by eliminating environmental hazards and making hundreds of acres available for future development.”

As EM cleans properties at ETTP, the program transfers parcels and infrastructure to the City of Oak Ridge and Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee. Those entities work to transform the site into a private-sector brownfield industrial complex capable of creating hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in capital investment for the region.

A major contributor to the site’s progress and momentum, URS|CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR) has served as EM’s ETTP cleanup contractor since 2011, completing demolition on K-25’s north tower and east wing, K-31 and K-27.

“Today we have much to celebrate,” UCOR President and Project Manager Ken Rueter said. “We completed Vision 2016 ahead of schedule and under budget, all while reaching almost 7 million hours without a lost workday accident. I want to give a special thanks to the men and women of the workforce who have spent many years in the field performing their craft safely and diligently. It would not have been possible without them.”

Oak Ridge’s EM program will continue ETTP cleanup to achieve its ultimate goal of completing cleanup and transfer of the site by 2020.

Watch congressional, local, state and DOE officials congratulate Oak Ridge’s EM program for achieving Vision 2016 and enabling a new chapter for the region. In another video, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz recognizes the employees who helped successfully complete Vision 2016.