CNS exec on cost cuts: ‘I think we’re doing well’


National Nuclear Security Administration officials Teresa Robbins and Anne Harrington, from left, and Morgan Smith, chief operating officer of Consolidated Nuclear Security, cut a ribbon at the grand opening of the new Alarm Response Training Academy at Y-12 on Thursday. (Photo by Adam Lau/News Sentinel)

At this week’s grand opening of a new training facility at Y-12, I had a chance to talk briefly with Morgan Smith, the chief operating officer for Consolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor for Y-12 and Pantex.

The company won the combined Y-12/Pantex management contract largely based on its promise to cut costs in a big way and save the government more than $3 billion over the next decade.

So I asked Smith how those cost-efficiency plans were going in the first few months of the contractor’s tenure. He didn’t offer a lot of detail, but he responded. Continue reading

Halfway home on the W76 life-extension project

pantexAt the same time the National Nuclear Security Administration was hosting Thursday’s media shindig at Y-12 to celebrate a new counter-terrorism training facility, another event was being held at Pantex to commemorate a milestone — 50 percent finished — on the life-extension project for the W76 (Trident) warheads.

Y-12, of course, also has a significant role in the W76 refurbishments, and there was a celebration at the Oak Ridge site as well. The primary goals of the program are to extend the life of the warheads from 20 to 60 years and to address any aging issues. Continue reading

Y-12’s counter-terrorism training


Participants in a training class at Y-12’s Alarm Response Training Academy study security cameras that capture some of the action during an exercise Thursday. The scenario involved the attempted theft of radioactive source material from an animal research facility.

IMG_0990The threat of nuclear terrorism is real, perhaps inevitable, but — fortunately — Thursday’s security exercise at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant was just a drill.

The lessons learned, however, may someday help training participants avert the theft of radioactive source material and put the kibosh on a “dirty bomb” before it can be used to disperse fear and radioactivity across a populated landscape. Continue reading

Government responds to Y-12 protesters’ appeal; argues that sabotage convictions were justified


Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melissa Kirby, left, and Jeff Theodore, who prosecuted the Y-12 break-in case, leave the Federal Courthouse on May 8, 2013, after a jury found three Plowshares protesters — Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice, and Greg Boertje-Obed — guilty on all charges. (KNS photo/Saul Young)

On Wednesday evening, the federal government responded to the appeal seeking to overturn the conviction of three Y-12 protesters on sabotage charges. The response was filed in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore, who led the prosecution of the case in U.S. District Court in Knoxville and argued in his response to appeal that the Y-12 intruders did try to injure or interfere with the nation’s defense and that their convictions were justified.

In their motion filed with the federal appeals court in early August, attorneys for the Plowshares protesters — Michael Walli, Sister Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed — said it was only through “distorted and unmoored interpretation of the Sabotage Act” that the government was able to obtain convictions on the most serious felony charge related to the July 28, 2012 intrusion at Y-12.

Theodore refuted that statement and others in a point-by-point, 53-page response to the appeal. Continue reading

ORNL: up-close look indicates material may be ideal for some battery applications

ImageJ=1.46r unit=pixelOak Ridge National Laboratory this week said a scientific team has discovered “exceptional properties” in a garnet material that could bolster development of lithium battery designs with higher energy.

According to the lab, the team used scanning transmission electron microscopes to look at the material — known as LLZO — at the atomic level.

“The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations,” the labs news release said. Continue reading

Inside cocooned ‘F’ Reactor at Hanford

The U.S. Department of Energy released some B-roll footage of the recent inspection of the F Reactor at the Hanford (Wash.) Site. The F Reactor is one of multiple old reactors at the site that have been “cocooned” for safety reasons. Last week’s inspection was reportedly the first time workers have been inside the F Reactor since 2008.