Good news on ORNL’s second-chance Steam Plant

2015-P05677-001An elevated view of the Boiler Operating Area at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s revised Steam Plant. In photo below right is the exterior of the Steam Plant on the lab’s Central Campus. (ORNL photos/Jason Richards)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s new steam plant may turn out to be a winner after all.2015-P05673-001

The Department of Energy’s manager at ORNL said a new high-efficiency system — which burns natural gas or fuel oil, if needed — has been installed ahead of schedule, and so far the results have been impressive. It will replace a wood-chip boiler, which was touted as an easy-on-the-environment alternative but turned out to be a flop and had to be shut down in late 2013.

A temporary boiler was put in place to provide steam for plant operations until the new system came online last month in the same facility on ORNL’s central campus. Continue reading

ORNL union workers ratify 5-yr contract; agreement includes wage increases and signing bonus

ornlaerial2014Union workers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Wednesday ratified a new five-year labor contract that will provide them with a 14 percent wage increase over the life of the agreement.

Steve Jones, the president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, which represents 13 unions at ORNL, confirmed the ratification vote this evening. Continue reading

ORNL reactor restarts after extended maintenance outage of high importance


Photograph by the Department of Energy/Lynn Freeny

The High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory was restarted Tuesday following its extended fall outage — the second longest of the year — in which several projects of importance were completed.

Tim Powers, the director of ORNL’s Research Reactors Division, provided a summary of activities carried out during the shutdown period that began in mid-August. One of the biggies was installation of a new fuel grid into the vessel, he said. Continue reading

Tajikistan gets secure vehicles for nuke transport

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced this week, in conjunction with the government of Tajikistan, the commissioning of two “secure vehicles” that will be used to transport radioactive materials “as part of a broader cooperative effort to help combat nuclear and radiological terrorism in Tajikistan and around the world.” The announcement comes about the time of a new investigation by the Associated Press about nuclear smuggling around the globe.

UPF team still moving

commerceparkAs noted earlier this year, design and engineering work on the Uranium Processing Facility was being consolidated at two facilities in Oak Ridge’s Commerce Park (Buildings 1060 and 1099, pictured right) — not far from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, where the UPF is to be constructed.

To create the “walkable campus” in Commerce Park (with room for up to 900 employees), the UPF project is vacating properties at 90 Union Valley Road in Oak Ridge and Cherhala office complex in Knoxville. Continue reading

Hutchison says terror inquiry a waste of taxpayer dollars

Ralph Hutchison, peace activist and long-time coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said he got a surprise visit Monday morning from two agents who flashed their badges and identified themselves as being with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.upfbldgpic

According to Hutchison, the officers said they’d received reports that he had been taking photographs of the Uranium Processing Facility and wanted to ask him some questions.

The UPF is a multibillion-dollar project under development at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. Continue reading

Labor negotiations coming soon to Y-12

y12signWith a new four-year contract in hand and striking workers back on the job at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant, Consolidated Nuclear Security is expected to get start soon on negotiations for a new labor agreement at Y-12.

CNS manages both plants for the National Nuclear Security Administration, and the Y-12 talks have on hold for months while CNS focused effort on the Pantex contract.

“We are working together with ATLC (Atomic Trades and Labor Council) leadership on the necessary preparations for a successful contract negotiation that results in a fair and equitable agreement,” CNS communications chief Jason Bohne said via email. “Formal negotiations will begin later this month at a mutually agreed-upon date.” Continue reading

ORNL’s Buddy Bland talks about computers taking over the world ( . . . not yet, BTW)

Buddy Bland, leader of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Leadership Computing Facility, shares some thoughts on the lab’s Titan supercomputer — the nation’s powerful machine dedicated to science research — in a CNN video. He also admits to being a sci-fi fan — especially those movies where computers take over the world. He’s apparently seen them all.

Peace activist reportedly gets visit from terrorism task force

hutchisonralphRalph Hutchison, peace activist and long-time coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said he got a visit this morning at his home from two agents who identified themselves as being with the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

According to Hutchison, most of the officers’ questions had to do with photographs taken of the Uranium Proccessing Facility or, perhaps, the office facilities that host most of the engineers and others who work on the multibillion-dollar project.

Hutchsion spells out this morning’s visit in some detail on the website of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and adds some levity to the piece, although he didn’t seem happy that his taking of photographs at Y-12 or related facilities prompted a concern. He wondered if this action was taken solely because he is a known opponent of the UPF. Continue reading