The US Department of Energy (DOE) says the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and its clean-up contractor, UCOR (United Cleanup Oak Ridge) have begun tearing down the Low Intensity Test Reactor (LITR) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The training reactor, also known as Building 3005, was built in 1951 and operated until 1968. It was built as a mock-up of the Materials Test Reactor that was being constructed at the Idaho National Laboratory.

“We’re pleased to make headway on the removal of this old reactor facility, which is an EM priority for 2023,” said Nathan Felosi, ORNL portfolio federal project director. “Our progress is helping eliminate hazards and open land for reuse at ORNL.” The project follows the recent demolition of the Bulk Shielding Reactor, which marked the first removal of a former reactor from ORNL’s central campus area. It was adjacent to LITR.

The demolition required nearly five years of planning and deactivation work. Employees identified structural concerns associated with the facility that posed significant challenges to standard deactivation and demolition practices. As workers removed the concrete shield blocks around the reactor, they discovered the slab floor structures were not adequately supported, creating a potentially unstable work environment.

“Great kudos to our workers in the field for discovering the structural concerns, pausing the work, and bringing it to the attention of our management team and engineers, allowing the project to remain safe,” said Dan Macias, ORNL site integration and clean-up manager.

Additional factors complicated the process. In some cases, the facility’s original drawings did not include all the information necessary to help inform workers as they undertook characterisation. This determines the types and levels of contamination in and around a facility to support work planning, worker safety and waste management. High-tech equipment was used to detect radiological material that had not been previously documented in some areas of the facility.

Crews are currently taking down ancillary facilities. The goal is to demolish all structures surrounding the reactor, remove and sample additional shield blocks to support waste disposal and tear down and package the reactor for transport and disposal. This work will continue through the spring and summer with completion set for later this year. To date UCOR workers have completed demolition on the west side of the LITR including the west laboratory and two water tank structures on the north side. They are now working their way around the east side to pull down the east laboratory.

Images courtesy of OREM