OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Hazardous waste management and cleanup in the Oak Ridge Reservation, which includes the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex, and East Tennessee Technology Park site, will see new improvements to automate waste tracking and disposal.
Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) contractor UCOR said it's modernizing the process of managing all the construction debris, sanitary industrial waste, and low-level radioactive and chemical waste it disposes of by upgrading waste trucks with radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking hardware and software.
The trucks will be equipped with a unique card that tracks movement, logging important data as drivers move between cleanup sites on the federally owned Oak Ridge Reservation to dispose of contaminated debris and waste.
UCOR said the RFID system will save time at disposal sites because waste management personnel will no longer have to spend time manually inputting all that data by hand.
“The new system reduces manual processes through automation considerably,” said John Wrapp, UCOR waste management manager.
Officials said the entire fleet of vehicles that transport waste to Oak Ridge Reservation landfills will be upgraded by the end of December.
Another upgrade added is a truck scale that can fit full-size semi-trucks. When the RFID technology is paired with the scale, it can deliver information like weight directly to OREM database. Afterward, the RFID information is used to monitor which trucks are empty and loaded.
OREM and UCOR have been ramping up cleanup efforts at Y-12, ORNL, and the East Tennessee Technology Park, which used to enrich uranium from the World War II Manhattan Project through 1985. The ETTP site was closed permanently in 1987, and in 1989 the Department of Energy formed OREM to cleanup the site so it could be transformed into a privately-owned multi-use industrial park.
Core cleanup of ETTP site was completed in 2020, which saw more than 500 structures demolished and areas of major soil contamination addressed. It was the first time in the world that an entire uranium enrichment complex had been removed, and remains the DOE's largest environmental cleanup effort to date.
There is still work to be done, but the DOE anticipates cleanup will continue through at least 2024 to address remaining soil and groundwater contamination. The government is also still in the process of transferring the land, with some of it being used for a conservation and historic preservation efforts.
Much of the low-level radioactive debris and soil from that cleanup has been disposed of in the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility since 2002, which UCOR said was nearing capacity at 2.2 million cubic yards within the next decade and is unable to be expanded further.
The DOE has been working to create a new landfill for hazardous demolition debris and soil in the Oak Ridge Reservation -- named the "Environmental Management Disposal Facility" or EMDF -- before it runs out of capacity. The DOE has proposed building it near the Bear Creek Valley area of Oak Ridge.
Higher-level radioactive waste is transported out of the area to the Nevada National Security Site.