Demolition began last week on the Bulk Shielding Reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It marks the first teardown of a former reactor at the site. The project is slated for completion this year. (Photo submitted)

OREM launches reactor demolition, marking first at Oak Ridge

(UCOR) For the first time in Oak Ridge history, EM crews have begun demolishing a former reactor facility, reaching another important milestone for cleanup at the site.

EM Oak Ridge cleanup contractor UCOR began tearing down the Bulk Shielding Reactor, also known as Building 3010, at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) last week.

“While this project is not the biggest demolition we’ve undertaken, it carries a lot of significance,” said Laura Wilkerson, acting manager for the Oak Ridge Office of EM. “It is the first removal of a former reactor at ORNL, and it is a signal of much more to come at the site in the immediate future.”

The Bulk Shielding Reactor complex was built in the 1950s for radiation shielding studies as part of the federal Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Program. It included a 27-foot-deep reactor pool filled with water to shield the radioactive components contained in the pool. Its mission changed to a general-purpose research reactor in 1963 and was shut down permanently in 1991.

“A great deal of prep work was necessary to ensure this facility could be demolished safely,” said Dan Macias, UCOR site integration and cleanup manager. “As with all cleanup work we do, safety is the top priority, and crews have been working diligently during the past few years to eliminate hazards and ensure successful demolition of the reactor facility.”

One of the most important pre-demolition activities was removing and disposing of irradiated components from the reactor pool. Once those components were removed, workers drained the 130,000 gallons of the water from the pool and sent it to an onsite treatment facility. Then the pool area was decontaminated and filled with a concrete mixture.

In addition to stabilizing the reactor pool, workers removed various wastes as well as asbestos from the facility.

The reactor was one of more than a dozen research reactors constructed at ORNL over multiple decades. Each contributed to ORNL’s reputation as a world leader in cutting-edge nuclear research and development. The facility is one of 16 inactive research reactors and isotope facilities EM is addressing at ORNL.

“UCOR is proud to be part of another significant cleanup milestone on the Oak Ridge Reservation,” said Ken Rueter, UCOR president and CEO. “From completing the first-ever cleanup of a gaseous diffusion plant to this notable milestone, the landscape at the Oak Ridge Reservation is changing dramatically, providing essential land for continuing federal missions and economic development. We look forward to continuing cleanup progress at ORNL and across the reservation.”

Crews will complete demolition on the facility this year before transitioning to the teardown of the nearby Low Intensity Test Reactor, known as Building 3005.

About Jim Harris

Jim Harris has been WYSH's News & Sports Director since 2000. In addition to reporting local news, he is the play-by-play voice for Clinton High School football, boys' and girls' basketball and baseball. Catch Jim live weekdays beginning at 6:30 am for live local news, sports, weather and traffic plus the Community Bulletin Board, shenanigans with Ron Meredith and more on the Country Club Morning Show on WYSH. Jim lives in Clinton with his wife Kelly and daughter Carolina, and cats Oliver, Bow and Libby.

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