Cleanup of K-25 nearing completion

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - Cleanup of a former nuclear construction site is moving into the final phases.

Most of the K-25 building, a milelong, U-shaped structure that was the world's largest building at the time of its construction during World War II, already has been demolished. All that remains is one section of what was the building's east wing, and workers last week started removing the transite panels from its exterior.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that more than 2,800 of the transite panels, which contain asbestos, must be removed before demolition can begin on the final section sometime this fall. Each of those panels measures 8 feet by 4 feet.

Bechtel Jacobs Co., UCOR's predecessor as cleanup manager, began the demolition of K-25 in December 2008. All told, more than $1 billion has been spent on the cleanup project that generated massive volumes of radioactive and hazardous waste - most of which was trucked to a landfill on a $20 million haul road constructed specially for this project.

K-25 was the world's first gaseous diffusion plant, which processed uranium in a gaseous form to separate isotopes and concentrate the fissionable U-235 for use in atomic bombs and fuel in nuclear reactor.

The historic facility was shut down in the early 1960s, because other uranium-enrichment facilities were in operation and the U.S. had a surplus of bomb-grade uranium in storage.