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Crews clean up reactor pool to prepare for ORNL facility demolition
August 20, 2021

ornl waste disposal
Employees at Oak Ridge place a waste disposal liner into an 88,000-pound transportation cask to safely ship irradiated materials from a reactor pool offsite for disposal. Image by DOE

OAK RIDGE – EM crews at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have removed highly radioactive components from a reactor pool in a facility slated for demolition.

This effort is a crucial step that allows EM to drain the pool and move forward with demolishing the Bulk Shielding Reactor, also known as Building 3010 — an aging, contaminated facility that no longer supports DOE’s research missions.

UCOR, EM’s prime cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge, is leading the project. The reactor pool cleanup activities are scheduled to be complete by the end of the year. That work includes draining the pool. The next step will involve grouting the pool before the reactor facility can be demolished.

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Oak Ridge workers reduced the size of irradiated materials and placed them into a 6,100-pound waste transfer liner set 21 feet deep in the reactor pool. Image by DOE

“This is a big step toward getting Building 3010 demolition-ready,” said Nathan Felosi, EM’s ORNL portfolio federal project director. “This is one of several research reactor facilities we are currently deactivating in the heart of ORNL, and that area of campus will look drastically different in the coming years because of our progress.”

To remove the irradiated materials, UCOR moved a 6,100-pound waste transfer liner to a 21-foot depth in the pool. Workers placed the irradiated materials into the waste transfer liner and sealed it, lifted it from the pool, and placed it in a waste disposal liner. Workers then transferred that liner to an 88,000-pound transport cask, which was shipped safely for off-site disposal.

“All of this work was done inside the building led by radiation protection professionals and specialists certified in completing each step of the cask evolution,” said Dan Macias, the UCOR manager of the Oak Ridge Reservation environmental cleanup. “The cask evolution process required 16 UCOR workers, weeks of preparation, hours of focused labor, and well-coordinated efforts with our specialty subcontractor.”

The Bulk Shielding Reactor was constructed in 1950 to lead groundbreaking aircraft radiation protection research as part of the federal government’s aircraft nuclear propulsion program. The program was one of the earliest research and development initiatives to identify peaceful uses of atomic energy after World War II. Workers researched designs and configurations to protect crew members from radiation in a proposed nuclear-powered aircraft.

ornl specialized equipment moves transportation cask
Workers use specialized equipment to move and lift an 88,000-pound transportation cask onto a trailer to ship it for off-site disposal. Image by DOE

The facility also housed a low-power reactor used to train reactor operators and provide hands-on experience for college students until it was shut down in 1987.

ornl specialized equipment moves transportation cask
A view of a transportation cask containing irradiated components from the Bulk Shielding Reactor pool being hauled away from Oak Ridge National Laboratory for off-site disposal. Image by DOE

The facility 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. EM’s current phase of cleanup at ORNL is focused on safely removing these excess contaminated facilities to eliminate risks and clear land for future research missions.

The Bulk Shielding Reactor is one of 16 inactive research reactor and isotope facilities EM is currently addressing at ORNL.

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