First ORNL research reactor demolished

16 September 2022

The Bulk Shielding Reactor - known as Building 3010 - is one of over a dozen research reactors built at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) since the 1950s, and is the first reactor at the Tennessee site to be demolished.

Demolition of Building 3010 is due to be finished by the end of the year (Image: DOE EM)

The Bulk Shielding Reactor complex was built in the 1950s for radiation shielding studies as part of the federal Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion Program. Its mission changed to a general-purpose research reactor in 1963 before it was shut down permanently in 1991.

Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) cleanup contractor UCOR has been working since 2018 to prepare Building 3010 and its neighbour, the Low Intensity Test Reactor (Building 3005), for demolition. Pre-demolition activities at Building 3010 have included removing and disposing of irradiated components from the 27-foot (8.2-metre) deep reactor pool, which was then drained, decontaminated and filled with a concrete mixture to stabilise it. Some 30,000 gallons (nearly 500 cubic metres) of water drained from the pool was sent to an onsite treatment facility.

Building 3010 is not the biggest demolition undertaken to date at ORNL but is nevertheless highly significant. "It is the first removal of a former reactor at ORNL, and it is a signal of much more to come at the site in the immediate future," said Laura Wilkerson, acting manager for EM's Oak Ridge Office.

Demolition of the Bulk Shielding Reactor facility will be completed this year, after which the teardown of Building 3005 will begin.

ORNL was established in 1943 - when it was known as Clinton Laboratories - to conduct pilot-scale production and separation of plutonium for the World War II Manhattan Project. It was also highly involved in reactor design and isotope research and production. EM is responsible for cleanup activities related to the historic operations at ORNL, including 16 inactive research reactors and isotope facilities.

ORNL is one of three sites making up the Oak Ridge Reservation - alongside the Y-12 National Security Complex and East Tennessee Technology Park - which together represent the Department of Energy's largest inventory of high-risk excess contaminated facilities.

Today, ORNL is the US Department of Energy's largest multi-programme science and energy research lab, at the forefront of supercomputing, advanced manufacturing, materials research, neutron science, clean energy and national security.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News