Former US enrichment site ready for redevelopment

09 September 2021

The former Centrifuge Complex site at Oak Ridge in Tennessee is now ready for industrial development. The complex was one of the final collections of buildings to be demolished last year as workers completed the first-ever cleanup of a former uranium enrichment complex. The footprint of the former facility is earmarked for the construction of a proposed regional airport at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP).

The former enrichment site as it looks today (Image: EM)

A large concrete slab covering more than 5 acres (2 hectares), left behind after the final buildings were demolished, has now been removed and backfilled by the US Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management's (EM) cleanup contractor UCOR. The site will remain a grassy field until it is redeveloped.

"Removal of these structures was an important step forward in completing ETTP cleanup, and now removal of the slab and restoration of the site is another significant step in transformation of the site into a multi-use industrial park," said James Daffron, Oak Ridge acting ETTP portfolio federal project director.

The Centrifuge Complex before demolition (Image: EM)

Uranium enrichment facilities were first built at the site in the 1940s to produce enriched uranium for defence purposes, under the code name K-25. Later renamed the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the site expanded and began also producing enriched uranium for the commercial nuclear energy industry and also to explore new enrichment technologies. The last of these facilities ceased operation in the mid-1980s.

EM is now working to clean up and transition ETTP to a multi-use industrial park. To date, it has transferred about 1300 acres to the community for economic development, land that now houses 20 private businesses. More than 3000 acres at the site are set aside for conservation, and the site also houses a history centre and a component of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park .

Researched and written by World Nuclear News