IG identifies more than 200 high-risk facilities that are dirty and degraded; ‘worst of worst’ is at Y-12

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This 2013 photo shows degraded conditions in Y-12’s Alpha-5 buildling, where contaminated equipment sits in standing water associated with roof leaks. (DOE photo)

The Department of Energy’s Inspector General has identified more than 200 high-risk buildings around the nuclear complex that are dirty and degraded and have no definitive schedule for cleanup, and the “worst of the worst” is the Alpha-5 facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.

The audit report released today by Inspector General Gregory Friedman found serious weaknesses in DOE’s efforts to deal with these old and deteriorated facilities — some of which have been out of operation for decades — that loaded with radioactive and hazardous materials. The schedule for turning these facilities over to DOE’s Environmental Management program for cleanup is getting pushed more and more into the future, the report said, indicating that many of these facilities won’t be designated for cleanup until 2025 or possibly even a decade later.

Building 9201-5, also known as Alpha-5, is a former uranium-enrichment facility that dates back to the World War III Manhattan Project. The IG report said the National Nuclear Security Administration, the semi-independent part of DOE that oversees the nuclear weapons complex, had characterized Alpha-5 as “the worst of the worst” even though about $24 million has already been spent to reduce risks at the big building. The reports notes that in addition to hazardous and radioactive contamination being spread by water from leaking roofs, there is a risk of explosion from materials housed there.

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High-level visits at Y-12

creedon2Three congressmen visited the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant last Friday, and Madelyn Creedon, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s principal deputy administrator, was at Y-12 on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the NNSA’s Production Office, did not provide details regarding the high-level visits, but said they involved tours of multiple facilities and briefings on Y-12 activities and future plans. Continue reading

Production activities at Y-12

photo-011Periodically, I request information on Y-12’s production activities in dismantling old bomb components and refurbishing or replacing parts for existing weapon systems as part of the so-called “life extension programs” (LEPs). The National Nuclear Security Administration has generally provided some details on each of those efforts, although occasionally there have been some issues regarding the sensitivities of the work.

In response to my latest request, NNSA released a statement that combined the two categories of work, listed three systems in process and said that was “primarily” the work taking place at Y-12, without being conclusive or definitive. Continue reading

Manufacturing Sciences may submit interest to Y-12’s depleted uranium query

mscManufacturing Sciences Corp., a specialty metals company, is located just a few blocks from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, and MSC could be a factor in Y-12’s upcoming search for 6,800 tons of high-purity depleted uranium for its production missions.

Tim Waddell, manager of business and facility operations at MSC, who also serves as the company’s secretary/treasurer, confirmed the company is considering a response to Y-12’s posting that seeks expressions of interest in the project. The responses are due by Feb. 5. Continue reading

High-level job postings at DNFSB

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has posted job openings for two executive positions, deputy general manager and chief counsel. Both positions are in the government’s Senior Executive Service and require U.S. citizenship and top-secret security clearances.  Both positions have a salary range between $121,956 and $168,700, unless the applicants are already members of the SES and earn more than the top-end salary listed. In that case, they would retain their current salary.

Oral arguments set in Plowshares appeal


Transform Now Plowshares members, from left, Greg Boertje-Obed, Sister Megan Rice, and Michael Walli. (KNS photos/Saul Young)

Oral arguments have been set for March 12 for the appeal filed on behalf of the three Plowshares protesters — Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed — convicted of sabotage for the Aug. 28, 2012 break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. The three are currently incarcerated in federal prisons in New York, Pennsylvania and Kansas. Continue reading

Centrifuge demonstration extended

centrifugemachCentrus Energy Corp. (formerly USEC) announced this week that Oak Ridge National Laboratory had exercised the option to extend the American Centrifuge Technology Demonstration project by another six months to Sept. 30, 2015. ORNL had previously extended the work agreement through March 31.

The Department of Energy, which developed the centrifuge uranium-enrichment technology decades ago, has placed ORNL in charge of preserving the technology for national security reasons and keeping alive the potential for a domestic source of enrichment. Continue reading

Hot wheels in Oak Ridge (1945)


OK, it’s April 10, 1945, and the war has made everybody nervy, crazy in the Manhattan Project encampment known as Oak Ridge. So what do you do to regain your sanity? Well, you head to the roller-skating rink, of course, and that’s just what these Oak Ridgers are doing. (Department of Energy archives/Ed Westcott photo)

WEPAR chronology at Y-12: promising project put on hold, postponed and now canceled

y12overviewThe West End Protected Area Reduction (WEPAR) project, once a part of preparations for the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, has been canceled, according to the latest addendum to the plant’s 10-Year Site Plan. it earlier had been put on hold and then postponed.

The WEPAR project was a victim not only of multiple setbacks involving UPF — which had gotten totally out of control from a financial standpoint — but also part of the fallout from the July 28, 2012 break-in by an 82-year-old nun and two other senior peace protesters. After that, there was no way that Y-12 was going to do anything that gave the appearance of reducing security at the Oak Ridge plant. It just took a while to make it formal. Continue reading

Security contractor gets $1M fee


Security guards check vehicles entering Oak Ridge National Laboratory via the lab’s East Portal. (KNS photo/Michael Patrick)

NSPS (National Strategic Protective Services), the Department of Energy’s security contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, East Tennessee Technology Park and other Oak Ridge facilities, received a “very good” rating, a performance score of 96 and a fee of slightly more than $1 million for its work in Fiscal Year 2014.

The company was informed of the evaluation in a Dec. 9 letter from Joseph McBrearty, DOE’s fee determination official. The total fee was $1,046,449. Continue reading

Y-12 looking for tons (thousands of tons) of high-purity depleted uranium

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KNS photo/Michael Patrick

According to information posted last week on its website, Consolidated Nuclear Security needs to acquire up to 6,800 metric tons of high-purity depleted uranium “and related material and services.”

CNS is the contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and a spokeswoman said the depleted uranium would be used in production of nuclear weapons. “That’s what we do,” Ellen Boatner said in response to questions.

“The DU will be used for production purposes,” she said. Continue reading