OAK RIDGE (WATE) — The Office of Environmental Management’s cleanup at the Y-12 National Security Complex continues to expand as workers ready one of the largest contaminated facilities for demolition.
UCOR is leading the cleanup efforts at the Alpha-4 building, which spans over 500,000 square feet and covers a 13-acre area. The four-story facility was used for uranium separation from 1944 to 1945.
In the following years, workers installed Column Exchange equipment on the west, east, and south sides for lithium separation, a process requiring large amounts of mercury. During those operations, a significant amount of mercury was lost in the equipment, building and surrounding soils making the clean-up a challenge.
In recent years, UCOR crews have retrieved more than 10,000 pounds of mercury, despite mercury being drained from the equipment in the 1960s. The mercury has remained in equipment and lines that have rusted and deteriorated over the decades.
The equipment on the west side of Alpha-4 have been demolished. Now, work is underway to deactivate the equipment on the east side of Alpha-4, and removal of equipment from the south side will follow. Planning for the rest of the deactivation work required in the facility is taking place.
“We are excited to continue moving forward with this major cleanup project,” said Brian Henry, Y-12 portfolio federal project director for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of EM. “There are a lot of steps involved in addressing a massive building in its deteriorated condition, but each step moves us closer to being able to eliminate a hazard and significantly alter the landscape in the heart of Y-12.”
While cleanup efforts continue at Alpha-4, several other 1940s-era buildings at Y-12, including Alpha-2, Beta-1, the Old Steam Plant, and the Old Criticality Experiment Laboratory are being deactivated.
To learn more about this clean-up project, click here.