Work has begun to demolish the last two buildings that once supported the gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment process at Oak Ridge in Tennessee. Buildings K-131 and K-631 are the most contaminated structures remaining on the 2,200-acre (890 hectare) site.

Demolition work under way at K-131 (Image: OEM)

The two buildings were constructed in 1945 and were part of the Poplar Creek facilities at the site, which was home to a complex of facilities dating back to the Manhattan Project. Oak Ridge also produced enriched uranium for the commercial nuclear power industry from 1945 to 1985. The site has been undergoing deactivation and decommissioning since the US Department of Energy (DOE) terminated uranium enrichment operations and closed the site in 1987. The site was then re-named the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP).

K-131 was originally built to provide uranium hexafluoride to the uranium enrichment cascade, while K-631 was used to withdraw gaseous depleted uranium from the cascade, convert it to liquid and transfer it into transport cylinders. Demolition has begun on the five-story K-131, with the two-story K-631 to be demolished next. The buildings, which are connected to one another and have a combined floor space of more than 83,000 square feet, are the most contaminated structures remaining at the site, the DOE Office of Environmental Management (OEM) said.

K-131 and K-631 before demolition began (Image: OEM)

James Daffron, Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) acting project director James Daffron, said removing the final structures from the Poplar Creek area would be a major achievement.

"Just a couple of years ago, this area was populated with numerous dilapidated and contaminated facilities. Now, we’ve safely removed those structures, and we will be able to open new areas for industrial development and reuse," he said.

The demolition of the two buildings by OREM and cleanup contractor UCOR is scheduled for completion this summer. All demolitions at ETTP are expected to be completed in 2020, with the site converted into a multi-use industrial park. To date, OREM has demolished nearly 500 facilities, transferred 1300 acres for economic redevelopment and created at 3000 acre conservation area for public use at the site.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 23 May 2019
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