Oak Ridge / Decades-Long Cleanup Complete At Gaseous Diffusion Plant

By David Dalton
15 October 2020

Decades-Long Cleanup Complete At Gaseous Diffusion Plant
The 1.6 km-long building known as K25 took five years to demolish. Courtesy US DOE.
A decades-long effort to clean and transform the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant in the US state of Tennessee is complete, resulting in the first-ever removal and remediation of a uranium enrichment complex.

Since cleanup operations began, hundreds of buildings measuring more have been demolished and more than 1.2 million cubic metres of waste –enough to fill up more than 500 Olympic-size swimming pools – have been disposed, including nearly 30,000 truckloads of soil.

This progress has paved the way for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management to transfer more than 500 hectares of land  at the facility, also known as the East Tennessee Technology Park, back to the community for economic development with another 40 hectares set aside for historic preservation.

In the 1940s, the Oak Ridge site produced enriched uranium to power the atomic weaponry that ended World War II.

Renamed the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the site expanded with new buildings constructed to produce enriched uranium for defence and commercial purposes and later to explore new enrichment technologies.

Those operations continued until the mid-1980s and the site was shut down permanently in 1987. This left hundreds of contaminated facilities that had to be remediated and removed – among them five large gaseous diffusion enrichment buildings including the 1.6 km-long building known as K25, which took five years to demolish.

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