Final demolition starts at Oak Ridge diffusion facility

12 February 2016

Demolition work has begun on building K-27, the last of five gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment facilities at the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The US Department of Energy (DOE) plans to remove all gaseous diffusion buildings from the site by the end of the year under its Vision 2016 project.

Demolition begins at K-27 (Image: DOE Office of Environmental Management)

K-27 is a four-story, 383,000 square foot (36,000 square metre) building at the site, now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park, where four other uranium enrichment process buildings - K-29, K-33, K-31 and the mile-long K-25 - have already been demolished. The facilities produced highly enriched uranium for US defence programs and commercial energy production from the Manhattan Project of the 1940s until the DOE terminated uranium enrichment operations in Oak Ridge in 1987.

Deactivation of K-27 was completed by URS-CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR), the DOE's clean-up contractor, in January. This involved removal of hazardous and radioactive materials, isolation of utility systems and ensuring structural stability. The removal of all materials that could cause a nuclear criticality enabled the DOE to declare the building in a Criticality Incredible status, one of the final key steps before demolition.

UCOR president Ken Rueter said that demolition of K-27 would complete the first-ever cleanup of a complete gaseous diffusion project anywhere in the world. "It also adds to the inventory of clean land that can be made available for economic development purposes," he said.

Sue Cange, manager of the DOE Office of Environmental Management Oak Ridge Office, said start of demolition work at K-27 was a milestone for the site. "A tremendous amount of work has occurred during the past two years to get us to this point," she said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News