Monthly Archives: May 2009

Looking at ORNL’s Recovery Act futures

Late last week, during a rush of events associated with the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, I had a brief opportunity to talk with ORNL Director Thom Mason.
Mason had just participated in a groundbreaking for the new $95 million Chemical and Material Sciences Laboratory, which is mostly funded by Recovery Act funding, and I asked him what other things are on the horizon in terms of stimulus-related projects up for grabs.

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W76 never delivered?

The NNSA announced Feb. 23 (press release copied below) that “the first refurbished W76 nuclear warhead has been accepted into the U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile by the Navy” following a decade-long effort.
However, the Los Angeles Times reports today, quoting a Navy spokesman, that the Navy has not received a single refurbished W76 warhead from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

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Summer bus tours at Oak Ridge

Yep, it’s that time of year, and the Department of Energy’s public bus tours of the federal facililities — some of which date back to the WWII Manhattan Project — will begin Monday (June 1) in Oak Ridge.
The daily three-hour bus tour gets started at the American Museum of Science & Energy, with off-the-bus stops at the New Hope Center (at the Y-12 National Security Complex); the Spallation Neutron Source; the Graphite Reactor at ORNL; and the East Tennessee Technology Park (the former K-25 uranium-enrichment plant).

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Get out the ear plugs

Oh, wait, that might defeat the purpose of the monthly testing of emergency sirens in Oak Ridge.
On Wednesday, June 3, the Dept. of Energy will test the sirens between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at its major sites — Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex and East Tennessee Technology Park.

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Y-12’s big project could be in trouble

The Obama administration’s requested 2010 funding ($54 million) for design of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 is only about half of what was expected, and Congressman Zach Wamp said unless that’s increased during the appropriations process the UPF design team could fall apart.
“We’re going to lose some of the best and brightest people,” Wamp said.

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Sensitive info on ORNL copiers was vulnerable

Federal inspectors found that sensitive, unclassified information was potentially vulnerable at ORNL because the lab wasn’t purging information accessible via storage devices on leased printers and copiers.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General also found that one of the lab’s printers had been used to print material from multiple pornographic websites — although it could not be determined who printed the porn.

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Funding DOE pensions: Any relief for retirees?

Well, DOE reportedly is facing an enormous shortfall in its pension funds as a result of the economic downturn, etc., and NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino talked about requesting money for pensions during the recent press briefing on the fiscal 2010 budget proposal.
Is this of any relevance for Oak Ridge contractor retirees, who have been raising heck for a while in hopes of getting a pay increase to offset the eroding effects of inflation? Congressman Zach Wamp offered just a hint of optimism when I asked him about the issue this week at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit.

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Congressman takes a turn with the big gun

Congressman Lincoln Davis at Oak Ridge training facility.
After reading the earlier blog post, Rep. Lincoln Davis’ staff sent a photo of the congressman firing the Dillon Aero Gatling Gun at the Oak Ridge Central Training Facility. A spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration said the Tennessee Democrat received some safety training before being turned loose with the high-powered weapon.

Was Wamp miffed? Says not

Before joining Congressman Zach Wamp in Oak Ridge to deliver the keynote address at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, Sen. Lamar Alexander this morning spent time with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam — who, like Wamp, is seeking the Republican nomination for Tennessee governor — on a media-accompanied tour of the River Bluff Wildlife Area to discuss conservation issues.
Some observers suggested the event might divert attention from Wamp’s stage at the long-planned Oak Ridge summit. But Wamp said he wasn’t bothered, and he elaborated on the issue.

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Paducah passes $500M in sick worker comp

On the same day that the Labor Dept. announced that Tennessee had passed the $1 billion milestone in compensation and medical benefits from the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, the federal agency announced that more than $500 milion had been paid to current and former employees (or their surviving relatives) at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky.

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