An important link to Oak Ridge’s nuclear history no longer exists.
This morning, crews completed the demolition of the K-25 plant, the giant U-shaped building that once served as the nation’s main source of bomb-grade uranium. At the time it was built, the K-25 plant was the world’s largest building under one roof.
Construction began on K-25 in 1943 to accommodate the new “gaseous diffusion” process of enriching uranium. Despite an enormous investment of money and resources into the facility, scientists didn’t even know if the gaseous diffusion process would work when crews began construction. The plant would eventually open in early 1945, only 18 months after the the project began.
For the next forty years, most of the bomb-grade uranium in the US stockpile came from the K-25 site, which had grown to include several auxiliary buildings. When more efficient processes came on-line in the mid 1980’s, the government ceased uranium enrichment at the site.
Demolition of the original K-25 facility began in 2008 and concluded with this morning’s destruction of the east wing, the last piece standing. Removal and disposal of the contaminated debris will wrap up sometime next year.