Consortium based at Vanderbilt to help set environmental priorities at Oak Ridge

About two million pounds of mercury dating back to the early days of the Cold War is still trapped inside old process buildings at the Oak Ridge, Tenn. nuclear facility and saturating the ground around them, according to a Dec. 18 article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Process Building

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office, with the concurrence of environmental regulators, has invited an independent group — the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP), which is based at Vanderbilt University — to participate in discussions to help establish environmental priorities based on risk.

David S. Kosson and Charles W. Powers are CRESP’s co-principal investigators. Kosson, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Engineering, is chair of the department of civil and environmental engineering. Powers is a professor of environmental engineering at Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt is the lead institution of CRESP, which also includes Georgia Tech, Howard University, New York University School of Law, Oregon State University, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers, University of Arizona, University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The objective of CRESP is to advance cost-effective, risk-based cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons production facility waste sites and cost-effective, risk-based management of potential future nuclear sites and wastes.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant at Oak Ridge used enormous quantities of mercury — about 24 million pounds — to process lithium for hydrogen bombs. About 2 million pounds of the mercury were lost or unaccounted for during the large-scale production effort.

Knoxville News-Sentinel: Cold War component remains messy, potentially dangerous and hugely expensive