ORNL boss Thom Mason said he spent much of his first six months on the job familiarizing himself with parts of the lab he didn’t see when he was director of the Spallation Neutron Source. Like what?
“We’ve got a large national security program, which I didn’t know much about,” he said.
Honoring the U.S. commitment as a partner in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project would seem to be in serious jeopardy after the bludgeoning that took place in the 2008 budget bill.
Instead of the proposed $160 million spending level, which would cover some long-lead procurements for U.S. components in the multi-national, multi-billion-dollar fusion energy project, Congress only approved $10.7 million for ITER-related research.
ORNL is leading the U.S. involvement, and lab chief Thom Mason was clearly disappointed.
Some informed observers have suggested it was good fortune that the excess water in converters at the old K-25 uranium-enrichment plant was found in the big building’s east wing — not the west wing where higher enrichments (the percentage of U-235) were processed decades ago.
In other words, the water — always a concern when in the presence of fissile materials — might have been a bigger issue from a criticality standpoint in the west wing, where there are still deposits of enriched uranium.
Congressman Zach Wamp, in recent comments on the computer hacking event at ORNL, referred to the situation as an “asymmetrical attack.” During an interview last week with ORNL Director Thom Mason, I asked him to explain that further.
“Usually what that means is people with relatively limited resources can go against an institution with much larger resources, and they do it by these surreptitious roots,” Mason said. “The analogy would be guerrilla warfare. If you’ve got an adversary you can’t take on in direct conflict, you try some other method, and that’s what they mean in this case by asymmetric. It’s just a dedicated (group) of smart people.”
ORNL’s Jaguar, a Cray supercomputer, is due for an upgrade, and the word was that the new quad-core processors were to be installed before the end of the year — bringing the machine’s top-end capability up to about 250 trillion calculations per second.
Apparently, those processors haven’t been installed quite yet. During a visit to ORNL Dec. 20, Lab Director Thom Mason told me, “The last I heard, the CPUs were clearing customs . . . They come from AMD in Germany or Malaysia. I think it’s probably coming from Malaysia . . . I think they’re probably physically here (now), but the last e-mail I saw they were in customs.”
The NNSA will hold public hearings on “transformation” of the nuclear weapons complex on Feb. 26 in Oak Ridge. The meetings will held 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6-10 p.m. at the New Hope Center on Scarboro Road. That’s the new building near the entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Under the government plan’s preferred alternative, Y-12 will retain its distinction as the nation’s Uranium Center of Excellence and keep traditional missions of storing bomb-grade uranium and building warhead components with uranium and other materials.
photo by Michael Patrick/News Sentinel
The High Flux Isotope Reactor at ORNL was restarted Tuesday after refueling, and everything is reportedly going well at normal operating power — 85 MW.
A September contract award to ES&H Inc., will finally come to fruition in early 2008.
The contract award for maintenance and roadwork services on the Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge reservation was protested by two other bidders (GEM Technologies of Knoxville and Engineering Construction Services of Oliver Springs).
Actually, some folks are too hot. Others are too cold. There are a bunch of complaints at the new office buildings (New Hope and Jack Case) at the Y-12 National Security Complex.
Why is that? Well, here’s an explanation from a plant spokesman. It sounds like office situations everywhere (including the News Sentinel).
I asked Jeff Smith, ORNL’s deputy lab director for operations, if the laboratory management was embarrassed by the recent hacking of computer systems that reportedly exposed the personal information of thousands of lab visitors.
It’s been pretty widely circulated already, but here’s a copy of what Distinguished Scientists and others with joint UT/ORNL appointments had to say about the Mission Statement issued earlier this year by UT President John Petersen.
The contents of the letter are still valid, according to Ward Plummer, a Distinguished Prof at UT and Distinguished Scientist at ORNL and one of the letter signatories. “Nothing has changed that’s been publicly announced,” he said.
Ace photog Clay Owen captured this interesting pic during our recent visit to a Superfund cleanup site in South Knoxville. The signs are on a container of waste bound for Utah.
Maybe it’s a warning to dogs. Maybe not.
One more reason to be careful.
The National Nuclear Security Administration is studying the possibility of federalizing guards at the nuclear weapons facilities, including Y-12 in Oak Ridge. The option has been discussed for many years but never carried out.
In a Nov. 14 memo to guards unions and other stakeholders, William J. Desmond, chief of defense nuclear security for NNSA, acknowledged the study and invited comment on the issues.
The plan is to complete the study by Feb. 1, Desmond said.