Demolition of US Bulk Shielding Reactor complex begins

21 September 2022

Demolition has begun on the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Bulk Shielding Reactor Complex (BSRC). US Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management (EM) crews began demolishing a former reactor facility, reaching another important milestone for clean-up at the site.

EM Oak Ridge clean-up contractor UCOR began tearing down the Bulk Shielding Reactor, also known as Building 3010. “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.”

BSRC was built in the 1950s for radiation shielding studies as part of the federal Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Programme. 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 clean-up manager. “As with all clean-up 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 stabilising 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 clean-up milestone on the Oak Ridge Reservation,” said Ken Rueter, UCOR president and CEO. “From completing the first-ever clean-up 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 clean-up progress at ORNL and across the reservation.”

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

Image: Demolition begins on the Bulk Shielding Reactor at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (courtesy of DOE)

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