Y-12 security: renovating the renovations at Post 8

y12overviewAbout a year ago, the National Nuclear Security Administration confirmed that a two-year, $5 million makeover of Y-12’s Post 8 — the main internal gateway to the plant’s high-security Protected Area — was nearing completion.

Now Post 8 is shut down again and apparently getting another makeover, although a federal spokesman shared few details and refused to comment on how much the makeover of the makeover was going to cost or say when it would be finished (except to say sometime in 2015). The work began earlier this month, NNSA’s Steven Wyatt said. Continue reading

Paul Langan to head ORNL’s neutron sciences

langanPaul Langan was announced today as Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s new associate lab director for neutron sciences, overseeing the Spallation Neutron Source and the High Flux Isotope Reactors and the slew of neutron-based research that takes place at ORNL.

Langan has been at ORNL since April 2011.

In making today’s announcement, Lab Director Thom Mason — who once held the neutron sciences job — said Langan would “further broaden our role in neutron sciences globally, expand our instrument capabilities, and prepare for a second target station at the Spallation Neutron Source.” Continue reading

Comings and goings at Consolidated Nuclear Security

I’d heard multiple reports about an unusual number of departures this month from Consolidated Nuclear Security, the contractor that took over management of Y-12 (and Pantex) in July. So I asked Jason Bohne, the communications director for CNS, about the number of people leaving  the Y-12 payroll and if it was unusual.

Basic RGBInitially, he told me it was about 40 (rather than the 400 or so that I’d heard), and then he followed up with some additional details about the comings and goings in December — including the Uranium Processing Facility project employees who are shifting from CNS to Bechtel — and even earlier personnel movements at Y-12.

Here’s what he said via email: Continue reading

Where the past meets the future in Oak Ridge

ettpaerialThis aerial photograph of the East Tennessee Technology Park — once home to the nation’s largest uranium-enrichment complex — was taken on May 20, 2014. The federal site is gradually being converted to a private industrial park. Plans are also under way for a museum and visitors center commemorating the work done at the K-25 plant, beginning in the World War II Manhattan Project, and its national security contributions. It’s supposed to be part of the planned multi-site Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Double-click on photo to enlarge. (photo by Jason Richards)

Doing tech transfer in a classified environment

637009mou-001Following Thursday’s event at New Hope Center, where Y-12 and UT officials re-upped their partnership by signing a new Memorandum of Understanding, I had a chance to talk briefly with Tom Berg. Berg is director of technology development and tech transfer for Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons facilities.

I asked him about the challenge of doing technology transfer in a highly classified environment.

“It’s actually much easier than people think,” Berg said. Continue reading

Hack elected fellow of Meteorological Society

Hack200_hrJames Hack, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s National Center for Computational Sciences, has been elected a fellow of the American Meteorological Society. According to information distributed by the lab, Jacks was recognized for outstanding contributions to advancing the atmospheric and related sciences, technologies, applications and services for the benefit of society.” Hack joined the team at ORNL in 2007, having previous appointments at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“His research interests have included physical parameterization techniques, the construction of numerical methods and their implementation on high-performance computers, and the development of diagnostic methods for evaluating climate simulation quality,” the announcement stated.

A brown and radioactive burp at Y-12

9212In late October, an environmental sampling crew with Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant — noticed some abnormal brown stains on the exterior of ventilation stacks at the plant’s 9212 uranium-processing complex.

The stains were reportedly from stacks tied to a ventilation system for operations that dissolve uranium metal for processing. Continue reading

Contractor chief expects restart of Y-12’s Purification Facility within a matter of days; says team ‘responded brilliantly’ to spill

photo-011Jim Haynes, the president and CEO of Consolidated Nuclear Security, praised the worker response to Monday’s chemical spill at Y-12’s Purification Facility and said he expects to resume operations within a matter of days.

“I think we’re talking about days, not weeks or months or something like that,” Haynes said during a brief interview Thursday before a ceremony at the New Hope Center.

Asked about a report that a maintenance activity had been performed at the Purification Facility shortly before operations resumed and the leak was discovered, Haynes said, “There were some maintenance operations in that facility . . . I don’t know. The investigation is under way to determine if it was in the exact location of the leak. They’re trying to get to the root cause of what caused the leak.” Continue reading

Y-12 and UT plan for the future

photoConsolidated Nuclear Security President and CEO Jim Haynes at Y-12’s New Hope Center before today’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee and the Y-12 National Security Complex renewed their vows Thursday, promising to work together to help each other and accomplish things they can’t do apart.

The result was a newly signed Memorandum of Understanding, an umbrella agreement for partnerships and projects, shared personnel appointments, educational opportunities, and a whole range of activities planned for the future. Continue reading

EPA releases enforcement results

The Environmental Protection Agency  today released its annual enforcement results. According to EPA, the agency’s enforcement actions forced companies to invest more than $9.7 billion in actions and equipment to better control pollution and support cleanup projects. EPA also said its enforcement of environmental laws resulted in about $163 million in fines and penalties.

A view of life

During a recent conversation, I asked ORNL Director Thom Mason about plans for an annual family skiing trip. Somehow, to my ears, his response sounded more like a comment on life than a vacation tidbit.

“I can still make it down the hill, but my kids are getting faster than me.”

U-233 shipments to Nevada remain on hold

tru2Controversial shipments of U-233 materials, notably the CEUSP (Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Program) stuff, from Oak Ridge to Nevada have been on hold for more than a year, and there doesn’t appear to be any near-term change regarding the waste containining fissile material that’s currently housed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Asked for a status report on the project, Mike Koentop, executive officer in the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management in Oak Ridge, provided this brief response: Continue reading