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February 06, 2023 | Shannon Smith

More war-era Oak Ridge buildings set to come down in 2023

The Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management plans to remove more old buildings at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Lab this year, clearing that land for new use.

What goes up, must come down.

That’s the truth for a slew of World War II- and Cold War-era buildings still standing at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) has plans to remove several more buildings this year on both campuses, clearing land that can then be used by the DOE as well as the greater Oak Ridge area. They’ll also be doing some new construction and addressing inventories of nuclear waste stored at these sites.

OREM said in a release it is “focused on taking down excess contaminated facilities across the Oak Ridge Reservation, thereby eliminating risks and opening land for reuse to support expanding research and national security missions.”


Crews will take down the Low Intensity Test Reactor at ORNL, which operated from 1951 to 1968 as a water-moderated and cooled reactor. OREM said this reactor gained fame when a photo of a blue glow caused by radiation in the pool above the reactor was on the cover of Scientific American in 1951. The facility is now highly deteriorated and contaminated, requiring demolition.

OREM crews will also demolish the Old Steam Plant on Y-12’s campus, which dates back to 1943. It’s now deteriorated and out of use 80 years later.


Crews continue construction on the Mercury Treatment Facility at Y-12, which will allow OREM to tackle mercury-contaminated buildings and mercury sources in the soil at the site without causing increases in mercury flow offsite in the Upper East For Poplar Creek. OREM said this is crucial to enable large-scale cleanup at Y-12.

That facility will be comprised of a headworks facility and treatment facility connected by more than a half mile of piping. Crews expect to finish a key installation needed for the foundation of the headworks facility this spring, and they are set to complete the framework for the treatment facility this summer.

Also this summer, OREM is scheduled to begin site preparations for the Environmental Management Disposal Facility, which will provide adequate waste disposal capacity to maintain cleanup at ORNL and Y-12. That work will involve moving roads and rerouting utilities.


OREM aims to process and remove 25 canisters of the uranium-233 inventory stored at ORNL. That ongoing project is the highest cleanup priority at ORNL and will continue for several more years.

Officials at OREM are closing in on their ultimate vision to complete cleanup and transfer all useable land at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) for economic development, conservation, and historic preservation.

Workers expect to remediate 35,000 cubic yards of soil at ETTP in 2023, and all soil cleanup there is slated for completion next year. OREM is set to transfer more land at ETTP this year. The cleanup program has already transferred 1,300 acres of land, with hundreds of more acres planned for transfer in the near future.

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