IG: waste procedures at Los Alamos may have contributed to rad release at WIPP

The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General today released a “management alert” that says Los Alamos National Lab’s procedures for development and approval of waste-packaging techniques may have contributed to a February release of radioactive material at the underground repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Here’s a link to the report. Operations at WIPP have been shut down ever since the rad release. NNSA Administrator Frank G. Klotz said the IG findings are consistent with the results of internal assessments. Klotz said DOE agreed with the recommendations and has already moved to address the underlying issues identified in the IG alert.

Rich Brown is sticking around

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Rich Brown, shown here at a Uranium Processing Facility forum, is reportedly staying in Oak Ridge despite previous reports that he was taking a job in the United Kingdom. (Y-12 photo)

In one of the more unusual storylines of recent memory at Y-12, it appears that Rich Brown will stay in Oak Ridge after all and apparently continue his work in developing and carrying out the procurement strategy for the Uranium Processing Facility.

For those who haven’t been following the soap opera-ish situation over the past couple of months, Brown took a leave from his Oak Ridge duties earlier this summer for a Bechtel assignment in the United Kingdom. Even before he returned to Oak Ridge, there were rumors that Brown was going to take a permanent job in the UK, and those reports didn’t dissipate after he reassumed his role at the UPF.

Finally, on Sept. 19, Consolidated Nuclear Security’s UPF project director Brian Reilly confirmed what had become more or less old news in the UPF workforce: Brown was leaving for a Bechtel job in the UK and another Bechtelian with supply-chain experience, Mark Swager, was taking his place in Oak Ridge. Continue reading

DOE awards $4.5M waste contract to Perma-Fix

Oak Ridge-based Perma-Fix Environmental Services has received a task order valued at more than $4.5 million to do waste work at Los Alamos and at the contractor’s treatment facility, according to a Department of Energy EM announcement today.

The task order is fixed-price work under the Mixed Low-Level Waste Treatment ID/IQ (indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity) contract. There’s a one-year period of performance. Continue reading

Recovery plan for WIPP: restart in early 2016

wippThe U.S. Department of Energy today released its recovery plan for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, saying it is committed to resuming operations in the first quarter of calendar year 2016. Operations have been suspended since a series of events, including an underground fire and a release of radioactive materials at the waste repository, in February.

According to the report, the anticipated recovery costs will be about $242 million, with a couple of capital projects that could — based on some preliminary estimates — double the level of funding needed.

Despite woes, SNS will meet some 2014 goals

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Overview of the Spallation Neutron Source and affiliated facilities. (ORNL photo)

Operations were shut down early this month at the Spallation Neutron Source because of a target vessel that failed prematurely and the shutdown has been extended until mid-to-late October because of a water leak in a section of the research facility’s linear accelerator.

Despite the problems, Oak Ridge National Laboratory spokesman David Keim said the SNS will still meet some of its goals for Fiscal Year 2014, which concludes Sept. 30. Continue reading

New Y-12 guidance to protect classified info

Y12 gate_MP (2)Following a  Y-12 security incident earlier this summer — involving a potential breach of classified information due to documents being left in an unauthorized location — the DOE Office of Enforcement notified the Y-12 contractor that the incident was under investigation. An on-site visit by DOE investigators is supposed to take place in early October.

In response to reports about the incident, Consolidated Nuclear Security said an internal probe found no evidence that classified information had been compromised and noted that a new policy had been instituted to prevent a recurrence. Asked for details of the new policy, CNS spokeswoman Ellen Boatner today provided this statement: Continue reading

Cray’s $26M contract with Defense Department includes next-gen XC supercomputer

Cray Inc. announced today it had received a $26 million contract from the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program. As part of the contract, Cray will provide DOD with a next-generation XC supercomputer and a Cray Sonexion storage system. The systems will be placed at the DOD Supercomputing Resource Center at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

According to the announcement, the Defense Department will use the Cray supercomputer to run “advanced, complex simulations that deliver scientific discoveries, technological advances and analyses that provide soldiers with the capabilities to execute full-spectrum operations.” Continue reading

Moniz, Creedon, Whitney to testify at DNFSB hearing on safety culture

creedon2Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is scheduled to testify at an Oct. 7 public hearing of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in Washington, D.C. The topic is the safety culture in the DOE complex.

Others to testify include Madelyn Creedon (pictured, right), principal deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Mark Whitney, DOE’s acting assistant secretary for environmental management.

IG: Office of Secure Transportation failed to report ‘deliberate example of unauthorized access to nuclear weapons’

The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General today reported results from an inspection on “certain aspects” of the Human Reliability Program and incident reporting at DOE’s Office of Secure Transportation. OST oversees and manages the movement of nuclear weapons, warhead components and special nuclear materials around the United States.

The full report was not released by the IG, which cited the information as “official use only. However, among the findings: Continue reading

Major reorganization at UCOR

hitachiKen Rueter, who a few months ago succeeded Leo Sain as president and project manager for URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, has announced a major management reorganization at the Department of Energy contractor to address upcoming growth opportunities and also to give priority to some near-term needs — such as the demand for attention to the reactor pool leak at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In a message to employees, Rueter said he had planned to implement the new structure on Oct. 1, but decided the contractor was ready to move forward and had already enacted some changes. The reactor pool situation at ORNL also spurred the action, he said.

As regards the situation at ORNL, Rueter said Jeff Selvey had been named the 3042 (the building number for the Oak Ridge Research Reactor) Recovery Manager. Selvey mobilized the team that responded to the reactor leak. Because that’s expected to be a full-time task — at least for a while — Rueter indicated that Michelle McNutt has named acting manager of the high hazard nuclear operations group. Continue reading