UCOR provides safe, cost-effective and innovative solutions to support environmental cleanup for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environmental Management. Our work has focused primarily on cleanup of the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), former home of the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. As this cleanup has progressed, government land and buildings have been transferred to the private sector for new job-creating ventures as part of DOE's reindustrialzation program.
At the same time, UCOR is shifting its attention to cleanup on other parts of the Oak Ridge Reservation, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex. Even as UCOR moves toward completion of the cleanup mission at ETTP, we are working with DOE to address excess contaminated facilities on other parts of the Oak Ridge Reservation. As part of that work transition, UCOR is relocating personnel to office space away from the ETTP site.
Our services include:
Why is Environmental Cleanup Necessary?
The Oak Ridge Reservation’s nuclear research and production facilities played key roles in our nation’s defense and energy innovations. However, past waste disposal practices and unintentional releases contaminated land and facilities with industrial, chemical, radioactive, and hazardous wastes.
The contaminated portions of the Reservation are on the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Priorities List (NPL). By federal law, inclusion on this list requires cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). The Federal Facility Agreement for the Oak Ridge Reservation provides a legally binding interagency agreement among agencies to establish timetables, procedures, and documentation for cleanup of federal sites on the National Priorities List.
East Tennessee Technology Park
ETTP, formerly the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, covers almost 2,200 acres. The site, which produced enriched uranium, was permanently closed in 1987 and is undergoing cleanup and conversion to a private sector industrial park.
Since 2011, UCOR’s primary mission has been to safely remove buildings, address contamination, and conduct site closure activities. Our work includes:
In 2016, UCOR brought down the last of five massive gaseous diffusion buildings that served the nation’s nuclear and energy needs for almost 40 years – accomplishing a major milestone and a first in the DOE complex.
The site is already seeing significant transformation. Since cleanup began, DOE has transferred over 1,300 acres for private development. The area is home to approximately 23 private sector businesses and has generated a new era of workers. UCOR is leading the design and construction of a new history center expected to open in the coming weeks. The center will honor the achievements of the men and women who were part of the site’s historic past.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ORNL is an active site that operates the largest open science laboratory in the DOE complex. While its current mission is to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs, it also has an important environmental mission. Buildings on the ORNL campus include several old nuclear research and testing facilities built in the 1940s and 1950s. Excessive contaminated facilities and essential wastewater systems are still in use today after more than 60 years of operation.
UCOR is providing critical cleanup and operations work in three areas:
Y-12 National Security Complex
The Y-12 National Security Complex is an active federal facility that maintains the nation’s nuclear stockpile, protects against global security threats, and fuels the U.S. Nuclear Navy. The site was once involved in uranium enrichment and lithium isotope separation to develop nuclear weapons. These practices resulted in the contamination of facilities, soil, and groundwater.
UCOR is tasked with environmental cleanup of two major areas:
Mercury Treatment Facility
UCOR designed and performed site preparation for the new Mercury Treatment Facility that will be located near old mercury-contaminated buildings. The Mercury Treatment Facility is designed to capture, treat and store water from the nearby East Fork Poplar Creek and guard against mercury releases during facility demolition. The construction of the facility is being carried out by another contractor.
Managing the immense waste from demolition activities is a large part of UCOR’s successful cleanup operations. It involves proper identification, segregation, removal, transportation and storage. UCOR has developed a cost-effective, streamlined approach to ensure waste is safely and properly disposed of while meeting federal criteria. Waste is disposed of in four ways:
UCOR operates the onsite waste facilities where the majority of the ETTP cleanup waste is stored. This proven method of onsite disposal reduces the risk of transporting waste on public roads and leads to significant cost savings. Our waste management operations continue to be recognized as world class. The waste factory concept which relies on on-site transportation and storage of low-level waste and demolition debris continues to be a major factor in our ability to finish jobs ahead of schedule and under budget.
The Oak Ridge Reservation traces its origins to the historic World War II defense initiative, the Manhattan Project. The secluded hills of East Tennessee proved the ideal location for the covert military operation. Starting in 1942, three major industrial, research, and production sites, given special code names, were created to develop nuclear technology:
By 1945, one of the Reservation’s signature facility, K-25, was enriching uranium using a gaseous diffusion process. Its footprint spanned 44 acres and its product fueled one of the two atomic bombs that ended the war. Over the next decade, another four uranium enrichment plants joined K-25: K-27 in 1945, K-29 and K-31 in 1951, and K-33 in 1954.
For four decades, the Oak Ridge gaseous diffusion facilities produced the nuclear fuel for weapons and reactors. Over time the gaseous diffusion process was replaced by more energy-efficient processes and in 1985, uranium enrichment activities ended in Oak Ridge.
The Reservation’s industrial processes left behind radioactive and chemical contaminants in buildings, soil, sediment, and groundwater. Since the late 1980s, DOE has focused on restoration of the environment in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, a citizen-based advisory board, and other interested stakeholders.
To learn more about the history of cleanup at ETTP, visit the History of the Oak Ridge EM Program.
Visitors to Property Protection Areas at East Tennessee Technology Park, as well as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex, must be sponsored by a UCOR team member. Badging will be required. Visits by foreign nationals (non-U.S. citizens) will take extended time to process. Please work with your UCOR contact about any upcoming visits.
Visitors Center: 150 Americus Avenue, Oak Ridge, TN 37830