The East Tennessee Technology Park’s (ETTP) latest tenant, Kairos Power, is investing $100 million to build a low-power reactor demonstration project, an innovative job-creating initiative that underscores once again the value of the Department of Energy’s long-term mission to clean up the former gaseous diffusion plant site known as K-25.
Using a small, lower power reactor, Kairos is responding to the national quest for clean, lower cost electrical energy on a 185-acre parcel at ETTP that previously housed two massive uranium enrichment buildings that were demolished. I’m excited to hear that the project is scheduled for operation in 2026 and will create 55 jobs. This is excellent news for our community!
For me, Kairos Power’s decision to locate at ETTP is personally satisfying, My career in the nuclear industry began as a young co-op student at K-25, advanced into operating and managing those facilities, and more recently led to a role in the first-ever demolition of a complete gaseous diffusion complex, making way for a new, private-sector industrial park.
As a former long-time manager of the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, I have witnessed this historic site come full circle. The hard work of highly skilled men and women over decades has transformed the site from its original secretive national security mission to a thriving industrial park that is creating new jobs and contributing to our economy and quality of life.
ETTP is the perfect home for this exciting new venture. In many ways, companies like Kairos are the reason ETTP exists. It offers the full complement of attributes many industries require — located close to transportation routes with an abundant supply of water and electricity, adequate land buffer, security, and a wealth of knowledge about its soil and groundwater. The site is also close to the innovation and talent of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Kairos Power is the latest company to recognize the benefits of locating at ETTP. Last year, Coquí Pharmaceuticals announced it will build a medical isotope production facility at ETTP, joining 20 other businesses who call the park home.
These job-producing new ventures come as the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) recently completed a comprehensive multi-decade cleanup with the assistance of its lead environmental contractor, UCOR, an Amentum-led partnership with Jacobs.
Called “Vision 2020,” UCOR and its partners completed core cleanup of ETTP in 2020, making it the first of the nation’s Manhattan Project “Secret City” sites to achieve cleanup. The groundbreaking work was completed four years ahead of schedule and $80 million under budget, eliminating $500 million in environmental liabilities to taxpayers.
Through environmental cleanup of ETTP, the UCOR team facilitated DOE-OREM’s vision of transforming once-contaminated government facilities and land into a multi-use industrial park that — with projects like Kairos Power and others — will boost job creation and economic prosperity in Oak Ridge and the region for decades to come.
More than 1,300 acres of government-owned land have been transferred to the local community for reuse. With ETTP cleanup complete and ready to welcome new industries, DOE and UCOR have turned their attention to high-risk cleanup priorities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12.
Earlier this year, workers completed demolition of the Biology Complex at Oak Ridge, making way for new missions. At ORNL, work is ongoing to remove excess contaminated facilities to make way for additional modernization efforts and provide land for future research missions.
These environmental cleanup efforts are reducing risks and making a difference for the taxpayer and the local community.
Harold Conner, Ph.D., PE, has served more than 50 years in the Department of Energy Complex at various sites, including as Site Manager of the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant. He is currently a senior advisor to the UCOR president and CEO.