Final Biology Complex building demolished; first project ridding Y-12 of ‘old, vacant’ sites

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“It does bring me great joy every day to be able to see this,” Teresa Robbins, deputy manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office, told reporters. She explained that NNSA plans to use the Biology Complex site in the future for a new lithium processing facility. It will replace Y-12’s current one, which is currently housed in another older building.

Dan Macias, manager of UCOR’s Oak Ridge Reservation Environmental Cleanup Program, said there were no structural issues with the building being demolished, Building 9207. However, he said it might have eventually posed a problem. “The longer you leave these old structures in place, the longer and more costly it is to take down,” he said.

Jay Mullis, manager of the DOE Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, told the reporters it would save taxpayers’ money to demolish the building rather than leaving it standing. Later, in a response to a question, he said he did not believe the building had been used since the 1980s. He thanked Congress for giving $120 million to complete the demolition. He also thanked the contractor, UCOR, and the workers involved.

Mullis said the UCOR workers have been working on the demolition project for a year, and they should be finished by the end of this year. The UCOR information sheet specifically stated it will be this summer.

He said the demolition represented the beginning of demolishing “old, vacant” sites at Y-12. Last year, he said, cleanup ended at the former K-25 Site, now called East Tennessee Technology Park.

How’s it being done?

Macias gave details on the process of demolition at the press event.

“I want to give a lot of credit to the workers that we see here,” he said, referring to the workers working behind him on the demolition.

The Biology Complex originally had 11 buildings, the information sheet stated. The project marks the removal of the final structure.

Crews finished demolishing an adjacent three-story, 65,000-square-foot building in February, Building 9210. Then they began tearing down Building 9207, a six-story, 255,000 square foot structure and the last one of the complex.

Before the start of demolition, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and its contractor UCOR conducted preparation work, including removing all of the asbestos, Macias stated. He said the asbestos material weighed 800 tons. While signs in front of the demolition site warned of radiation hazards, Mullis said there was the amount of radioactive material was small. He said asbestos was a more common hazardous material at the site. He also said nothing at the site could be reused.

Crews started the demolition itself by removing the brick exterior and will then tear down the three sections of the building. During the current demolition efforts, misters sprayed the site with liquid to keep debris from flying out into the air.

Macias stated after the demolition the company will have to check for radiological contamination, asbestos and other hazardous materials in the soil.

Mullis said the debris will go to four onsite landfills and only some of it will go to landfills offsite.
He said none of the debris will go to the proposed Environmental Management Disposal Facility, as that proposed facility hasn’t been authorized yet.

The EMDF was proposed to continue the current Environmental Management Waste Management Facility, which currently handles low-level hazardous waste. Ben Williams, communications specialist for Oak Ridge Environmental Management, said the EMWMF is currently at 75% capacity and has enough room for waste from the Biology Complex demolition, but not for future demolition projects at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Work was underway Monday to demolish the last building in the Biology Complex at Y-12 National Security Complex. Building 9207 was a six-story, 255,000 square foot structure. The Biology Complex was the site for important genetics research work after World War II.

History

The Biology Complex has a history that ties it to milestones in genetic research.
An official Y-12 blog stated the federal government created the site in 1945 for uranium preparation.

After the war, Clinton Laboratory, now Oak Ridge National Laboratory, began using the site for research. Alexander Hollaender, the director of the biology division, led research there.

Liane and Bill Russell, two of the complex’s most famous researchers, did work on the effects of radiation on mice at the “Mouse House,” which later moved to ORNL. The Complex also led to the discovery of messenger RNA (mRNA).

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