Tag Archives: ORNL

Roane County Environmental Review Board 

{by Mary Anne Koltowich}

Our Roane County Environmental Review Board (RCERB) was established in 1989 by Roane County Commission Resolution #1975. Under Resolution #03-11-12 purpose/responsibilities of this Board was clarified as “WHEREAS it is helpful to have a committee of qualified individuals to serve as an advisory group to study matters referred to it by the County Executive and the County Commissions, having the power only to make recommendations to the County Executive and the County Commissions after studying said matters.” The RCERB is authorized by the County Commission to be comprised of “five (5) to seven (7) general members and one (1) to two (2) student members, which shall be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Commission”. Currently, the RCERB has seven (7) appointed volunteer general members and no student members. In addition, a representative from the County Executive and a representative from the County Commission interface with the RCERB. Its appointed volunteer members represent a broad professional knowledge experience base of technical and scientific knowledge, education, skills, and hands-on experience in a cross-section of environmental fields. This broad professional knowledge experience base covers the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation activities, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operations, aquatic ecology, remediation projects, hazardous/radioactive waste management, and chemistry – just to name a few.

The RCERB strives to maintain an awareness of environmental activities that affect or can affect Roane County. Some of the most intensive topics that members have been actively studying for the benefit of the Commission in order to provide recommendations include:

  1. A new DOE new hazardous waste landfill named the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) has been proposed that would house materials from the demolition and remediation of multiple contaminated Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) structures/facilities. There is a formal dispute over this facility’s design and operational basis between DOE, the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The dispute primarily concerns protective measures in order to prevent the release of contaminated waters from the landfill directly into the Bear Creek watershed (surface and groundwaters). There is a related on-going contaminated wastewater discharge problem with the current landfill, named the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), which has almost reached its capacity. 
  2. A mercury discharge into East Fork Poplar Creek that occurred at the DOE Y-12 facility in June 2018 which resulted in a large fish kill and continued over an extended (multi-month) period. Recent documentation indicates that fines for violation of groundwater quality regulations may be forthcoming as a result of this mercury release. This release is also related to the new proposed EMDF landfill where mercury-contaminated waste would be placed. There is increased concern over the proper handling of the mercury contamination constituent to prevent the creation of a potential new contamination source for releases into the Bear Creek watershed.
  3. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill has been the recent subject of legal action by site workers. Now there are concerns about the possibility of fly ash being present in and around the Swan Pond Sports Complex. The RCERB has been working with TDEC staff to develop and implement a sampling plan to test soils at multiple locations to determine if the fields and walking trails are safe for our community members and county workers.
  4. Non-native invasive aquatic plants are proliferating in Watts Bar Reservoir, along with several of the TVA river reservoirs. The County Commission named an Aquatic Weeds Committee that requested that a stakeholders group be formed to study the problem, research other affected relative bodies of water, acquire lessons learned from others with the same problem, and provide a report containing the needed information, research efforts, & recommendations as to how to proceed to address the problem. As a result, the Watts Bar Ecology and Fishery Council (WBEFC) was formed as a 501.c(3) non-profit organization a couple of years ago. A couple of RCERB members are also members of the WBEFC. The subject report was formally submitted to the Roane County Commission during its March 2019 meeting. The WBEFC is awaiting notification from the Commission as to a meeting to discuss this report. The WBEFC is also and just as importantly focusing efforts on preventing the migration of Silver (jumping) Asian Carp into the Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs.
  5. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plan Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) was extensively reviewed with comments provided in relation to the expansion of the now used landfill to dispose of and store fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum generated by the burning of coal.
  6. TDEC performed surface water sampling of creeks around Tiger Haven to determine the presence (or lack thereof) of e. coli bacteria that could affect the health of nearby citizens. Sampling has concluded, and a report from TDEC is in progress.
  7. The American Zinc Corporation (AMZ) has had a draft Title V permit in review with TDEC for the last few years. There has been a Public Meeting in the past with another one planned in April. The RCERB reviewed the recent permit update and provided recommendations to the County Commission. The Commission has accepted and forwarded the identified permit concerns to TDEC.
  8. TVA’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of almost 700 pages was reviewed with comments provided back to TVA and copied to the Commission. The IRP and EIS explore various strategies and scenarios about how TVA plans to meet the power demands of the future and to remain stewards of the environment.
  9. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released plans related to permitting TVA to build and operate Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at the Clinch River site (previously the old “nuclear breeder site”). Plans are to build one or more 150-Mw nuclear reactor power plants to generate electricity. The NRC has approved an early site permit that allows investigation and preliminary design.

Each member of the RCERB expends many hundreds of hours on studying topics, performing online research, reading subject-related procedures/permits/regulations, attending public meetings to gather firsthand information, documenting feedback for public comment requests, and more each year. These services come at no cost to the taxpayers of the county and have saved taxpayers millions of dollars during the RCERB’s years of existence as a result of not having to hire outside consultants or establish a full-time staff to perform this work effort. In fact, RCERB input is now actively being sought by other outside area environmental groups and by state regulatory agencies. In the interest of public safety and environmental protection, the RCERB provides a very valuable function to Roane county government and its citizens. RCERB meetings are held monthly, open to the public, and public comments are welcomed.

November Was Another Busy Month for County Government – Dec 2018

{Ron Woody, Roane County Executive}

The first week of the month had many County Commissioners at the Roane Alliance Gala. The Roane Alliance is the county’s economic development organization. This year’s Gala was once again well attended and supported by our local business and city governments. The Alliance was established in 2001 and has been led by four CEOs over the years. The Alliance is once again in search of a new leader as Wade Creswell has taken a position at Oak Ridge National Lab. Best wishes to Wade and thank you for your public service. The second week the commissioners honored a group of eight new Roane County Treasures. Roane County Treasures is a program started in 2007 that honors men and women who lived and contributed to the betterment of Roane County. A list of Treasures can be found on a plaque on the first floor of the Courthouse.

In the third week, County Commissioner Charlotte Bowers and Executive Ron Woody joined Oak Ridge Representatives at an intergovernmental meeting. They met with the Department of Energy (Oak Ridge Office and Washington DC Office), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and State Legislators to discuss the environmental clean up of the Oak Ridge Reservation and the challenges of cleaning the legacy DOE site.

The commission met the fourth week of November to approve a significant resolution that starts capital improvements for our county schools. For the first time in eight years, the county approved issuing debt. The debt may only be issued for large projects, and school building project qualifies as a large project wherein 7.1 Million in bonds were approved. We anticipate construction will start on the Oliver Springs Middle School conversion to a Middle and High School will begin in late Spring early Summer. This project is estimated over 5 million and another one million was approved for a new sewer plant to service the Midway elementary, middle and high schools. Part of the bond’s proceeds will be shared with the Oak Ridge School system for their county projects.

The County Commission further discussed possible legislation regarding the TVA ash spill at the County Commission meeting. More to come on these issues as a special meeting will be held on December 4th. The commissioner’s plates are full with the TVA Kingston ash spill issues, potential jail construction, and further capital education improvements. Stay tuned.

The Beginnings of Oak Ridge & The Secret City

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

There have been many important events that have occurred throughout the history of Roane County. The coming of industry to create Rockwood, the Temperance movement which brought about Harriman, the Tennessee Valley Authority which brought power to rural areas and many others made dramatic impacts in Roane County. However, the creation of “Oak Ridge” may have had the most impact. The bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese brought the United States into World War II. Here in Oak Ridge and other plants in the United States, the atomic bomb was developed which were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The development of the atomic bomb had to be kept top secret. The first code name for the project was called the “Kingston Demolition Range” but was later renamed “Clinton Engineer Works” after the city of Clinton. One of the reasons this area was chosen was that the area was isolated. It also had power provided by T.V.A., and there were two railroads. Land acquisition began in the fall of 1942. Approximately 56,200 acres in Roane and Anderson Counties were acquired for the project. An important aspect of the land was the ridges which divided the valleys. A plant was located in each valley. At this time there were only about 1,000 families in the area. The average cost of an acre paid was $45 per acre. However, many families received much less. Among the items located in the Roane County Archives are the maps of the Kingston Demolition Range showing all the owners of the different properties which were acquired by the Federal Government.

Among the acquisitions was the Wheat High School, located near the K-25 plant, which was only one of three High Schools ran by Roane County. The other two were Roane County High and Rockwood High. The Harriman High School was run by the City of Harriman. Most of the homes, barns and other outbuildings were destroyed to discourage people and others from moving into them. Those buildings not torn down were used for storage. Two churches, the George Jones Baptist church near the K-25 plant and the New Bethel Baptist Church near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (X-10), which was used for storage, were not torn down and are all that remain in the Oak Ridge part of Roane County before the building of the city.

The Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25) was the first of the three (K-25, X-10, and Y-12) plants to be built. Construction of the Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25) began in 1943 and was built primarily by the J.A. Jones Construction Co., of Charlotte, N.C. at the cost of about $500 million. Carbide and Carbon Chemical Company, later Union Carbide Corporation, became the operating contractor because of its experience in the chemical and metallurgical fields and earlier contributions to the atomic energy program. K-25 was the war code name for the plant “K” representing the Kellex Corporation which designed the plant. In 1945, about 10 percent of all the electric power generated in the United States was required to operate K-25. It consisted of five process buildings—K-25, K-27, K-29, and K-33 and about 70 auxiliary buildings covering about 640 acres. The U-shaped K-25 building was a half-mile long and was the largest building in the world under one roof at that time. Each wing is 2,450 feet long, averages 400 feet in width, and is 60 feet in height. The total area of the building covered 44 acres. Along with K-27, the K-25 process building was shut down in 1964. The plant produced large quantities of enriched uranium-235 from uranium 238 through the gaseous diffusion process to be used either in weapons or to fuel nuclear reactors.

K-25 Footprint

K-25 Aerial View

K-25 Union Carbide Corp USAEC

X10 Reactor Face

X-10


The X-10 (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) plant was built by DuPont for 12 million dollars and completed in October 1943. The letter “X” was used by the University of Chicago in its description of the area. The number 10 had no special significance. It was much smaller than the K-25 and Y-12 plants. During the war, it employed 1,513 people. The primary mission was to build a Graphite Reactor to show that the production of plutonium from uranium in a reactor could fuel an atomic bomb. Its job was to show that plutonium could be extracted from irradiated uranium slugs, and its first major challenge was to produce a self-sustaining chain reaction. And in 1944, chemists produced the world’s first few grams of plutonium. The Graphite Reactor operated from 1943 to 1963. Among the accomplishments through the years at X-10 were:

(1) Production of the first electricity from nuclear energy;
(2) The first reactor was used for studying the nature of matter and the health hazards of radioactivity.
(3) Providing radioisotopes for medicine, agriculture, industry, and other purposes.

The Oak Ridge National Lab is a world-wide known research center for energy, environment, and other things. The Graphite Reactor was declared a registered National Historic Landmark in 1966 and is Roane County’s only such National landmark.

The Y-12 plant was designed and constructed by the Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation of Boston at the cost of about $427, 000. The name of the plant has no special significance. It contained about 170 buildings and was built on 500 acres. The plant was put into use by the operating company, the Tennessee Eastman Corporation of Kingsport, TN, in January 1944. At its peak in 1945, it employed 22,000 people. Its purpose was to separate uranium atoms (U-235 from U-238) using an electromagnetic process developed by Dr. E.O. Lawrence of the University of California. It was the first and only plant of its kind in the world. Y-12 separated the uranium that was used in “Little Boy” the uranium bomb which was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. It was the first atomic bomb to be used as a weapon. The other bomb, “Fat Man,” a plutonium bomb, which was developed in Hanford, Washington, was dropped three days later on Nagasaki, Japan. After the war, the plant started manufacturing uranium components for nuclear weapons. The construction of parts for nuclear weapons by the Y-12 plant played an important part in eventually ending the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Knoxville News-Sentinel Headline

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community between June and September 2012.