View of the Centrifuge Complex area as initial stages of demolition begin in fall 2019. Courtesy/ORNL
View of the Centrifuge Complex area after demolition at the end of July. Courtesy/ORNL
EM is working to complete significant cleanup at ETTP this year — an EM 2020 priority — and tearing down the sprawling 235,000-foot complex marks one of the final demolition projects at the site.
“Completing this project brings us significantly closer to achieving our ambitious goal at ETTP,” said Jay Mullis, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM). “Our employees have accomplished so much, and their hard work has resulted in an amazing, visible transformation that will benefit the community for years to come.”
The Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, now called ETTP, was closed permanently in 1987. EM has been conducting large-scale demolition at the site since 2006, resulting in the removal of hundreds of old, contaminated facilities totaling more than 13 million square feet.
The Centrifuge Complex — one of the most recognizable structures in ETTP’s skyline — was built to develop, test, and demonstrate the capability of centrifuge technology for uranium enrichment. The last of these facilities ceased operation in the mid-1980s.
OREM and its cleanup contractor UCOR began tearing down the Centrifuge Complex in October 2019. This task presented challenges due to the structures’ size and height. Some buildings stood at 180 feet in height, which is too tall to be knocked down by conventional demolition equipment.
The Centrifuge Complex contained four major sections. The K-1004-J lab section was an original Manhattan Project facility built for research and development in 1944. The K-1200 section, known as the Advanced Machine Development Laboratory and Component Preparation Laboratory, was used from 1975 to 1985 to develop machines and manufacturing processes for centrifuges.
The K-1210 section was referred to as Component Test Facility and Advanced Equipment Test Facility. It operated from 1975 to 1985 to test the reliability and operability of centrifuge machines. The facility also served as a pilot plant for testing feed, withdrawal, and depleted uranium hexafluoride transfer systems.
The fourth section — the K-1220 Complex Centrifuge Plant Demonstration Facility — was used from 1981 to 1985 primarily to test production centrifuges to be used in the Gas Centrifuge Enrichment Plant.
OREM and UCOR are working together to transform ETTP into a multi-use industrial park, national park, and conservation area for the community. That vision has already started to become a reality. OREM has transferred almost 1,300 acres at ETTP for economic development, with another 600 acres slated for transfer in the years ahead. OREM has also set aside more than 100 acres for historic preservation and placed more than 3,000 acres in conservation for community recreational use.
Demolition of the Centrifuge Complex presented challenges due to size and height of structures. Some buildings stood 180 feet tall, too tall for conventional demolition equipment designed buildings of 100 feet. Courtesy/ORNL
The Centrifuge Complex was one of the most recognizable structures in the ETTP skyline. Courtesy/ORNL