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Preservation of K-25 Plant: "A Deal is A Deal"

Preservation of K-25 Plant: "A Deal is A Deal"

The K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge

On Tuesday, April 3, 2007, Steve McCracken, Assistant Manager for Environmental Management for Oak Ridge Operations (ORO), said that “a deal’s a deal.” The Department of Energy (DOE) will stand behind its commitments in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed in March 28, 2005 for preservation of the north end of the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. The Partnership for K-25 Preservation, co-chaired by Bill Wilcox, Mayor David Bradshaw and Cindy Kelly, and other interested stakeholders were pleased by this public assurance of DOE’s continued commitment to the preservation of the K-25 plant.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed by DOE for K-25 Site (also known as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP)) in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Among the provisions, the MOA stipulates that a portion of the original K-25 Site will be preserved to interpret the site’s history.

The principal parties to the MOA are DOE-ORO, DOE-Headquarters, the State of Tennessee, and the Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation. The City of Oak Ridge and the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association (ORHPA) signed as concurring parties. The terms were negotiated by all the parties in a series of meetings over two years but some feared that the problems that DOE has uncovered in the course of demolition of the K-25 plant might put the agreement in jeopardy.

The MOA provides that DOE will retain the North End of the K-25, provide a new roof, and mark the corners of the “footprint” of the 44-acre structure, 94 percent of which will be demolished. Portal 4 (an original entry building), artifacts and some equipment will be retained. In addition, two half-mile long, ten foot-high basement walls will be retained for possible murals depicting the history of the facility, the Wheat Community it replaced, and other aspects of Oak Ridge’s heritage.

The Department of Energy’s contractor, Bechtel Jacobs, is scheduled to start the demolition of the K-25 building’s two half-mile long “wings” in 2008 and complete work at the K-25 plant in 2009 or 2010, depending upon the funding appropriated for this work. Decisions on how to leave some of the equipment in the North End building need to be made within the next year to enable DOE to meet its demolition schedule.

Because of the deterioration of the operating floor, no one is allowed on the operating floor without special permission. Underneath, the demolition crew is using armored “mules” and $10 million in meshing to protect them from falling debris. At the vault level, structural weaknesses are being addressed. The original November 2006 date to evaluate the possibility of decontaminating some diffusion equipment (one unit of the 3,000 identical units or six converters and connecting pipes) for public display and potential future interpretation is now November 2007.

The schedule for future meetings is: July 17, 2007 to review issues concerning the operating floors and mural walls; September 18, 2007 to review the decontamination of equipment and the building; and November 6, 2007 to evaluate whether the equipment can meet standards for future interpretation and public display.