New members of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board toured major cleanup projects across the Oak Ridge Reservation during their recent orientation. They are pictured next to the Experimental Gas Cooled Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where deactivation efforts are underway. Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management Regulatory Affairs Specialist Roger Petrie is also pictured at far left in the background.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – New members of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (ORSSAB) are benefiting from a return to an in-person orientation and tour of major cleanup across the Oak Ridge Reservation for the first time since the coronavirus.
“We’re thrilled to be able to hold the new member orientation tour again," said Melyssa Noe, ORSSAB's deputy designated federal officer. "Many of our members have little or no prior knowledge of EM’s work on the Oak Ridge Reservation when they first join the board, and this gives them an opportunity to see that work firsthand and see how it relates to the site as a whole.”
More than a dozen attendees joined board staff and Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) representatives on April 6 for the event, which included an informational overview followed by a guided tour of the 32,000-acre site.
OREM Regulatory Affairs Specialist Roger Petrie discussed the program's history, ongoing projects and future plans before the group loaded a bus and headed to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
New members viewed a transformation in progress in ORNL’s central campus due to current cleanup projects there. They saw the footprint of the recently demolished Bulk Shielding Reactor, ongoing demolition on the Low Intensity Test Reactor and deactivation work underway at the Oak Ridge Research Reactor.
The tour also took ORSSAB members by Building 3019, the world’s oldest operating nuclear facility, where the nation’s inventory of uranium-233 is stored. They also saw Building 2026, where uranium-233 processing and downblending is taking place to prepare that material for permanent disposal offsite.
At the Experimental Gas Cooled Reactor, which is presently in the decontamination and decommissioning process, the group got a better idea of the scale of the project when they stepped off the bus and walked the area.
For new member Mary Butler, the tour gave her a new appreciation of the sheer scale and challenge of EM’s work in Oak Ridge.
“It’s just mind-boggling how much work has been done already, and how much needs to be done,” she said.
Members also went inside the Graphite Reactor. The facility was built in 1943 to test the feasibility of producing plutonium for use in atomic weapons on a scale larger than laboratory experiments. Once a pilot for the larger B Reactor on the Hanford Site in Washington state, the facility is now part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which features educational displays illustrating its past use.
For the last portion of the tour, the group traveled to the East Tennessee Technology Park.
While there, Petrie identified the areas where soil remediation is wrapping up and other areas where EM will address groundwater to complete all cleanup required at the site.
He also highlighted parcels of land that have been transferred to the community — and those slated for transfer in the near future — for economic development. Petrie also discussed companies that have announced plans to locate and build at the site.
New member Atilio Anzellotti said the tour gave him new insights into the history of the site.
“It’s very educational,” he said. “Living here in Oak Ridge, you hear about those sites, but it’s a mystery. It’s a secret like that, but now you can point there and actually see all the story and the background.”
Tours like the one for the ORSSAB help educate area residents about the scale and importance of EM and DOE’s other missions in Oak Ridge as well.
-Contributor: Sara McManamy-Johnson