Monthly Archives: October 2008

Thousands of containers of HEU ready for Y-12 move

According to an Oct. 3 report by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, about 450 Rackable Can Storage Boxes were loaded by Y-12 workers during FY2007 and ’08 to prepare for the move into the new Oak Ridge storage facility for weapons-grade uranium.
Based on previous information released by NNSA and B&W, the managing contractor, each of those boxes holds a half-dozen cans, and each of those cans holds up to 44 pounds of highly enriched uranium (HEU). The defense board memo said B&W plans to begin loading material into the new $549 million storage facility in fiscal year 2010.

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The four-day week at Y-12

AP photo/Wade Payne
About 800 hourly workers at Y-12 and a couple of hundred supervisors will begin their 4/10 schedules on Monday, joining the salaried workers who went to that schedule back in 2005.
The unions approved the switch in mid-October as a part of a four-year contract extension with B&W Technical Services, the government’s managing contractor at the nuclear defense complex.

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The sirens of First Wednesday

sirens.jpgPer usual, the Dept. of Energy will test its emergency warning system on Nov. 5, the first Wednesday of the month. the sirens will sound between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., at the East Tennessee Technology Park, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.
If you hear the sirens at other times, DOE advises locals to take action. “When citizens hear the sirens they should go inside, close all windows and ventilation systems, and listen to radio or television for public health and safety-related information,” the agency’s statement said.

More downblending of enriched uranium stocks

logblog.jpgTodd Jacobson of the Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor newsletter reported that the NNSA plans to seeks commercial help on downblending 12.1 metric tons of highly enriched uranium. The federal site office at Y-12 will help oversee the actions.
Here’s a copy of the notice that indicates a request for proposals will be issued in November with proposals due in December.

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‘Year for Nonviolence’

Twenty-three groups have joined a movement to declare 2009 “A Year for the Celebration of Nonviolence in East Tennessee.”
It’s sort of an adjunct to UN declaration of this decade, 2000-2010, as a Decade of Nonviolence for Children. A “media kickoff” is planned for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. The annual Walk for Nonviolence will follow at 3.

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The latest non-news on Y-12’s oxide conversion

The Oxide Conversion Facility, which supports the processing of highly enriched uranium at the Y-12 weapons facility, has been operating since early summer — perhaps the longest sustained period since the end of the Cold War. But officials have been relucant to say how long that operation will continue because of the tenuous funding situation.
Here’s a new (sort of) statement released today by NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt:

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Mann on the Mouse House

At the tail of a phone interview with Reinhold Mann, ORNL’s associate lab director for biological and environmental sciences who heading to a new job in Malaysia, I asked him about the status of the lab’s Mouse House — where there have been multiple reports of financial troubles and speculation that it might even close.
He didn’t give a very explicit answer, but he did respond.

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Reinhold Mann’s exit interview

reinhold.jpgOK, maybe not the traditional exit interview, but I did have a chance to talk to Reinhold Mann on Wednesday as he was leaving Battelle HQ in Columbus, Ohio, on his way back to ORNL for a farewell shindig before heading to Malaysia.
Mann will head the technical capabilities for the new renewable energy research lab that’s being developed by Battelle under a contract with PETRONAS, a government-owned oil and gas company in Malaysia. He called it an exciting challenge, an opportunity to be part of something new in a part of the world where energy ought to be a priority.

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Quote from Defense Secretary

In his remarks Tuesday at the Carnegie Endwoment for International Peace, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said:

“Currently the United States is the only declared nuclear power that is neither modernizing its nuclear arsenal nor has the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead. To be blunt, there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program.”

Hail, hail, Mr. Wilcox

photos/Amy Smotherman Burgess
billwilcox2.jpgBill Wilcox has spent precious time and enormous effort educating folks about the history of Oak Ridge and trying to save Oak Ridge’s historic treasures. Wilcox himself, of course, is an Oak Ridge treasure, and the Dept. of Energy recognized him as such on Monday.
He received the Secretary of Energy’s Appreciation Award, and more than 100 of his admirers were reportedly on hand for the presentation.

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The budgets of ORNL and Y-12

I suppose I could make a mint right now if I had some solid information on what the federal budgets will look like for the second half of FY 09 and beyond. I might actually be able to comtemplate a retirement plan. But, of course, I don’t and I can’t. So I’ll just join the chorus of folks who say the budget forecast for the Oak Ridge facilities is mighty cloudy at the moment, with a good chance it’ll rain on future spending plans.
What I can provide is a little background information on budgets for the past five years, thanks to data from the contractors at ORNL and Y-12, and you can figure out in your own minds how much damage might be incurred if there was a 10 percent across-the-board reduction or any other fill-in-the-blank budget scenario.

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