K-25 Demolition Worker
Worst Science Jobs II: Number 6
by Peter Stemmler
“Asbestos, radiation, plutonium and other bad boys of the chemical realm” are PopSci reader Will Clark’s bread and butter. After reading last year’s
inaugural “Worst Jobs” countdown, Clark nominated his own work tearing down
the grand 1.4-million-square-foot K-25 building at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The giant U-shaped structure was the place where scientists enriched the uranium for our first atomic bombs–and they kept making the hot stuff here until 1977. The building practically glows with radiation, and it’s jam-packed with asbestos, the cancer-causing fire retardant of choice in the ’40s. Now Clark and his tortured coworkers are, in a meticulous and sweat-drenched fashion, bringing it down.
“You start off wearing scrubs and a paper suit,” Clark says, “two pairs of latex gloves, skullcap and rubber boots, a hard hat and a full-face respirator with dual filters. At the end of the day, you scrub and shower so you doN’t contaminate your car, your family or anything else.”