‘No Fear of Heights is a Good Quality’: Oak Ridge Inspects Towering Stack

The Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s first climb of the 3039 Stack since 1995 began in February and is expected to be completed in the weeks ahead.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Performing work on tall structures presents unique challenges. But when they’re also aging, they bring an even greater dimension to planning.

That’s the case for EM crews responsible for inspecting the 3039 Stack at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The 250-foot-tall chimney-like structure dates to 1949. It is still in use today, providing ventilation to operations at ORNL. The inspection helps the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management (OREM) and contractor UCOR determine what repairs are needed to support the stack’s remaining years.

“We’ve got a 74-year-old stack with some degradation,” UCOR Project Manager Ben Belyea said. “We’re doing an inspection to figure out what the lifespan of the stack is and determine what repairs are required to keep it operational in the future.”

In recent years, OREM and UCOR have used drones to conduct inspections to avoid having employees climb the towering structure, which could cause wear and tear on it.

However, information gathered from aerial photos proved the necessity for a full physical stack inspection. The latest climb, which began in February, is enabling the first physical inspection of the stack since 1995.

OREM expects the 3039 Stack to remain in place for 10 more years before it’s taken down, prompting the need to assess its condition and check for any needed repairs.

Still in use today, the 250-foot-tall 3039 Stack dates to 1949. It provides ventilation to operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“We will find a small portion of the motor joints that need repair,” Belyea said. “After reviewing drone footage from a few years ago, we expect to see more repairs required as we move up the structure.”

After a yearlong planning effort, UCOR selected the International Chimney Corporation (ICC) as the vendor to conduct the inspection.

“Absolute no fear of heights is a good quality,” said Joe Brower, an ICC employee who climbs the stack. “We have good personnel with our company. We train our individuals well, and we have a training stack at our office.”

OREM and UCOR considered four options before determining the safest, most effective method to climb the aging structure. The selected method offers hands-free fall protection that increases worker mobility, safety and productivity.

The climb is taking place above a permanently installed platform 50 feet above ground. Stack inspectors are currently at the 208-foot level. They’ve installed 33 structural bands around the exterior of the stack and 16 ladder sections.

The crews inspect an average of five feet of the stack per day. They are scheduled to finish the inspection in the weeks ahead.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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