Skip to section navigation

ORISE supporting Oak Ridge reservation cleanup activities through recovery funding

ORISE technician performs an environmental scan

Disposing of old and contaminated buildings, and remediating soil and groundwater across the Oak Ridge Reservation has long been a priority for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-Oak Ridge Office (ORO). Though much of the work wasn’t expected to begin for another three to four years according to ORO Manager Gerald Boyd, the acquisition of $755 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding for the ORO Environmental Management Program has served to jumpstart preliminary remediation activities that involve the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education’s (ORISE) independent environmental assessment and verification programs.

In support of the project, ORISE is performing characterization surveys at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and independent verification activities at ORNL, East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) and the Y-12 National Security Complex. ORISE’s $8.5 million scope of work involves support to DOE in the accelerated cleanup and disposition of deteriorated facilities that will also pave the way for greater footprint reduction across the reservation.

ORISE’s role at ORNL involves performing waste characterization and developing waste handling plans and profiles at 34 facilities—most of which were used for offices, storage and research. ORISE survey staff are also conducting literature reviews to determine which chemicals or radioactive isotopes were used in the facilities targeted for disposal.

Once characterization surveys begin at ORNL, additional ORISE staff will commence support to DOE by reviewing waste management plans and profiles, as well as performing independent verification of cleanup activities at Y-12. High-risk legacy facilities Alpha-5 and Beta-4, which housed calutrons used for uranium enrichment, are two of the more notable structures scheduled for remediation. ORISE will also provide independent characterization services to help prepare gaseous diffusion building K-33 for demolition at ETTP.

“Across the reservation, one of the primary benefits to the Integrated Facilities Disposition Project is supporting ongoing modernization by eliminating risks involved with legacy buildings,” explained Sarah Roberts, director of ORISE’s independent environmental assessment and verification programs.

The additional work has also meant a greater need for experienced staff. According to Roberts, one of the positive effects ARRA is already having on the area is the creation of new jobs—especially at ORISE. “We’ve added five new staff members and 16 contractor personnel to support the ARRA projects, as well as other environmental cleanup and verification commitments to DOE and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” she said.

Though ORISE’s role is focused on the short-term disposal of high-risk facilities, the overall Oak Ridge ARRA project is expected span up to 29 years and will likely involve hundreds of facilities built during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War eras. ORISE's current involvement is expected to conclude by 2011.