Y-12 ‘meets expectations’ on nuclear criticality safety

9212The aged 9212 complex is Y-12’s main processing facility for highly enriched uranium. It is scheduled to be replaced by 2025 by the Uranium Processing Facility. (NNSA photo)

According to the Department of Energy’s annual report on nuclear criticality safety, the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant — which houses the nation’s principal supply of bomb-grade uranium — “meets expectations” in its overall performance.

The 76-page report addresses issues and improvements made during Fiscal Year 2014, and one of the key issues at Y-12 was increasing the staff needed to deal with criticality safety. A chart indicates that Y-12 staff is 26 FTEs (full-time equivalents) and notes that Y-12 had a shortage of about 12 FTEs “relative to identified work scope” in Fiscal Year 2015. It noted at the time that Y-12 was actively hiring 10 new crit-safety engineers and that three had already been hired. “General improvements were noted from FY 2013,” the report stated. Continue reading

UCOR’s email outage

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy’s cleanup manager in Oak Ridge, reportedly won’t have email service for the rest of the week as the company migrates to a new computer server. Spokeswoman Anne Smith said the outage will be in effect until 5 a.m. Monday. The fact that this is a holiday week may be a factor in the length of the outage.

After the earthquake

upfbldgpicIn a June 25 letter to the federal oversight boss at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, Jessie Roberson — vice chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board — asked for more info on the planned design for a “confinement ventilation system” at the Uranium Processing Facility.

According to Roberson letter, the safety board’s staff evaluated the safety design strategy for the multibillion-dollar UPF — which would house the plant’s future operations with bomb-grade uranium — and noted that it may not be up to standard if the confinement system is needed to provide “defense-in-depth.” If that’s the case, she wrote, the design may not meet DOE’s own requirements for confining radioactive materials following a design basis earthquake. Continue reading

$5.9 million site-readiness contract for UPF

UPF Site RenderingDesign rendering of the three-building cluster that will comprise the Uranium Processing Facility. The UPF will be constructed west of Y-12’s Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. (NNSA image)

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing some pre-construction contracts for the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12, has awarded a $5.9 million “site infrastructure and services” contract to Emerald-A&H Joint Venture LLC.

Emerald-A&H is based in Nashville. The Corps of Engineers is managing work on the Oak Ridge project under an interagency agreement with the National Nuclear Security Administration (a semi-independent part of the Department of Energy). Continue reading

‘Expore ORNL’ postponed

ORNLmrfOak Ridge National Laboratory announced that Explore ORNL, a conference for businesses in the region to get familiar with lab operations and opportunities, has been postponed. It was originally scheduled for July 14-15, and it has been moved to Sept. 23-24 “to coincide with a larger industrial outreach event,” the lab said.

ORNL said more info on the September event will be released later.

Mining uranium at K-27

16593256243_cbd867aa8a_kOnce demolition starts at the K-27 building — the last of the big gaseous diffusion plants still standing at Oak Ridge — it’ll take about 9 to 11 months to do the job, according to contractor estimates.

In the meantime, hundreds of workers are preparing for the high-profile demolition work by reducing or removing the hazards at the 383,000-square-foot nuclear facility. A lot of that activity involves extracting deposits of highly enriched uranium, and much of the work has been done already.

“One of the principal things we do is called hazard abatement,” said Ken Rueter, the president of URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, DOE’s cleanup manager. That involve the removal of asbestos, etc., from the decades old facilities, he said. Continue reading

DOE exercises UCOR’s contract option to 2020; contractor says it has saved the government $122M

IMG_3489Here’s the scene shortly before the heavy equipment took down the last section of the former K-31 uranium-enrichment building in Oak Ridge.

Praising UCOR’s safe, efficient and cost-effective cleanup work in Oak Ridge since 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy has exercised the option that extends the contractor’s role until mid-2020.

Sue Cange, DOE’s environmental cleanup manager in Oak Ridge, and Ken Rueter, the URS-CH2M Oak Ridge president, confirmed the contract actions during interviews at Friday’s K-31 demolition ceremonies.

“It demonstrates our confidence in UCOR and the great job they’ve done to date,” Cange said. “And we look forward to them finishing the job.” Continue reading

Cleanup pals

IMG_4356Mark Whitney, left, the Department of Energy’s acting assistant secretary for environmental management, and Gerald Boyd, former manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Operations and now an exec with S.M. Stoller, share a moment at Friday’s ceremony marking the demolition of the K-31 uranium-enrichment facility.