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October 15, 2002

CLEANUP WORK BEGINS
AT ORNL'S MELTON VALLEY

Melton Valley.jpg (134933 bytes)OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The U.S. Department of Energy has begun a major effort to clean up an area of the Oak Ridge Reservation that was used for radioactive waste disposal for over 50 years.

The area, known as the Melton Valley Watershed, is the location for a large number of burial grounds, liquid waste seepage pits and trenches, and experimental facilities associated with research and development activities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). These former waste sites are the primary contributors to offsite spread of contaminants.

The project will be completed in 2006 at a cost of approximately $275 million – a savings of approximately $85 million and 10 years sooner than earlier projections.

"A combination of remedial actions will be used to address these problems," said ORNL Team Leader David Adler, "such as containment, stabilization, removal, treatment, monitoring, and land-use controls."

The Melton Valley Watershed Record of Decision was signed by the Department of Energy (DOE), the State of Tennessee, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in September 2000. It calls for most of three Solid Waste Storage Areas (SWSA’s) (4, 5, and 6) to be capped. Some areas not capped will be excavated and disposed in either onsite or offsite disposal locations. The plan also calls for the demolition of several structures.

"This will facilitate SWSA 4 cap installation," Adler said, "And reduce radiological exposure to workers during that project." Excavated material is being disposed in the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility, near the Y-12 National Security Complex.

SWSAs 4 and 5 are the primary contributors to off-site migration of contaminants, and Melton Valley is the source of 90 percent of strontium and tritium discharged from DOE property into the Clinch River. Excavation of contaminated floodplain soils is being done adjacent to SWSA 4, in the north-central portion of Melton Valley.

Spent nuclear fuel within SWSAs 5 and 6 has been retrieved, repackaged, and is awaiting shipment to the Idaho National Environmental Engineering Laboratory for disposal.

Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) of the Old Hydrofracture facility has been completed, as well as the design for D&D of the New Hydrofracture facility. By the end of September, more than half of the 118 Hydrofracture wells will be plugged and abandoned.

"The actions outlined in the ROD are the same as they were before the accelerated cleanup plan," Adler said. "But under that plan, we will accomplish it much sooner at a significantly lower cost."

-DOE-

Photo Caption: The final phase of the Metal Recovery Facility (Building 3505) D&D Project was the demolition of the hot cell structures.   Workers spray water during the demolition to suppress any dust.

R-02-041