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Building deactivation progress paves way for demolition at Y-12

ucor electricians oak ridge facility
Electricians with Oak Ridge cleanup contractor UCOR discuss isolating electrical hazards at the Beta-1 facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Image courtesy of UCOR

OAK RIDGE, TN – EM is moving forward with full-scale deactivation of an unused, deteriorating facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge after workers successfully isolated potentially hazardous energy sources inside the building.

“Reaching this phase is an important step that enables deactivation crews to safely enter the building and begin preparing this large excess, contaminated facility for its eventual demolition,” Brian Henry, the Y-12 portfolio federal project director for EM, said of the Beta-1 facility.

The project is part of EM’s larger effort to address and remove numerous excess contaminated facilities at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to eliminate potential hazards and environmental risks. Together, these sites contain DOE’s largest inventory of high-risk buildings.

beta-1 street view ucor
A street view of Beta-1. The facility was built in 1944 to perform uranium enrichment during the Manhattan Project. Image courtesy of UCOR

The multi-level, 210,000-square-foot Beta-1 facility was one of nine uranium enrichment facilities built at Y-12 during the Manhattan Project. It was decommissioned in 1947 but continued supporting research and development operations for many years after.

Workers also isolated potentially hazardous energy sources — a crucial step before full-scale deactivation known as the “cold and dark” stage — at three other vacant 1940s-era buildings at Y-12 to prepare them for deactivation and demolition, including Alpha-2, the Old Steam Plant, and the Old Criticality Experiment Laboratory.

UCOR has achieved significant progress toward deactivating facilities at Y-12 despite challenges to acquire resources for the work related to the pandemic.

“Because of recent issues in the supply chain, we have encountered a number of shortages with materials critical to our work,” said Dan Macias, UCOR’s Oak Ridge Reservation environmental cleanup manager. “Thankfully, the flexibility and creativity of our project staff have kept us moving forward to meet our project deadlines.”

beta-1 interior view ornl
An interior view of Beta-1. The facility was decommissioned in 1947 and later supported research and development operations. In the 1980s, Beta-1 housed the Large Coil Test Facility, where Oak Ridge National Laboratory tested superconducting magnets. Image courtesy of UCOR

Earlier this year, cleanup crews with Oak Ridge contractor UCOR completed demolition on the remaining buildings in the former Biology Complex at Y-12. They cleared away the massive six-story, 255,000-square-foot Building 9207 and the three-story 65,000-square-foot Building 9210. Both were listed as high-risk buildings.

EM and UCOR are also undertaking 16 deactivation projects at ORNL to address former research reactors and isotope production facilities. The cleanup at Y-12 and ORNL is addressing risks, eliminating hazards, and opening land for research and national security missions.

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