Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 has been a busy, rewarding year at Atomic City Underground, and I am truly grateful for the strong readership growth and so much positive feedback from readers and participants.
I can’t imagine 2010 being anything but bigger and better. Cheers, and Happy New Year!

DOE’s Jeanette Miller retires

Jeanette Miller, audit liaison program manager at DOE’s Oak Ridge office, has retired. She frequently served as the Oak Ridge liaison to the Office of Inspector General, Government Accountability Office and DOE headquarters.
The Mississippi native began her DOE career in 1976 as an office manager, DOE said. Prior to working at DOE, she worked at the General Services Administration as a building operations assistant.

IG finds conflicting info on alleged misconduct

DOE’s Office of Inspector General today released a summary of a special inquiry report on allegations involving a “Senior Office of Environmental Management Official.” Although the report does not name the official, Weapons Complex Monitor, the Aiken Standard and other reports have said the allegations involved Cynthia Anderson, head of Recovery Act efforts in DOE’s EM program.
The report found no basis for at least one of the allegations of misconduct, and got lots of conflicting testimony and information on others. “In short, regarding many of the events and activities which were key to the allegations, witnesses’ testimony was conflicting and irreconcilable. Perceptions, interpretations and recollections of these events as well as views on the intent of the individuals involved varied dramatically,” Inspector General Greg Friedman wrote.

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Deep inside ORNL’s Holifield research facility

Jason Richards/ORNL
The Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility is one of the signature research facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the above photo gives a pretty neat look at the innards of the facility’s Tandem Accelerator. The Holifield accelerator is used for astrophysics research and studies of all sorts of short-lived radioactive nuclei.
This is some of the equipment inside the “column structure” of the Tandem Accelerator, and I asked Jim Beene, the Holifield facility manager in the lab’s Physics Division, if he would provide me a description. He kindly consented.

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A Pantex/Y-12 contract in the works?

A spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration today said “no decisions have been made at this point,” but a Washington-based newsletter has reported that the NNSA “appears set” to consolidate the management and operating contracts at the Pantex warhead assembly/disassembly plant in Texas and the Y-12 production facility in Oak Ridge.
Damien LaVera of the NNSA said he could not comment further on the report by Todd Jacobson of Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor.

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ORNL’s work for National Security Agency

I reported earlier that the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill contains $8 million for advancing supercomputing at Oak Ridge National Lab, according to info released by Sen. Lamar Alexander’s office. “Funding will be used to expand the supercomputing facility at ORNL to meet the needs of the National Security Agency,” the senator’s release said.
ORNL, home to several of the world’s best computers, including the top-ranked Jaguar, did not immediately provide elaboration. Lab spokesman Billy Stair today confirmed the NSA project, but said he could provide few details because of the “classified nature” of the program.

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A look back at the Kiriyenko visit to Y-12

kiriyenko.jpgI have a story today over at about the evolving role at Y-12, with new emphasis on non-proliferation efforts under the Obama administration. Some folks say the Sept. 28 visit by Russian nuke chief Sergei Kiriyenko was a significant symbol of the changes taking place.
During that visit, Kiriyenko got a tour (see photo, with Y-12 GM Darrel Kohlhorst) of the new $549 million Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility — where the U.S. stockpile of weapons-grade uranium will be stored.
Kohlhorst talked about Kiriyenko’s visit during a recent interview, sharing a few behind-the-scenes tidbits and insights. “It’s always interesting to look at the entourage that come along with those folks when you have that kind of visitor from a foreign country coming to a place like Y-12,” he said. “You’re not only going to have the DOE agency, with NNSA represented, but you’re also going to have people like the State Department represented and maybe even congressional offices.”

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DOE’s Boyd: 2011-12 budgets could be ‘tough’

As he looked back on Fiscal Year 2009 in Oak Ridge, DOE Manager Gerald Boyd couldn’t help himself. He just gushed.

“I could not have asked, I don’t think, for a better year for the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge than the year we’ve had in 2009 given the economic situation that exists in the country. We’re very, very glad we’re in a position where we could continue to operate through our science mission, our cleanup mission and stay on track and even increase.”

Indeed, money flowed into Oak Ridge like a swollen creek escaping its banks. The 2009 base budget for Oak Ridge was up by a couple of hundred million dollars to about $3 billion, and then there was an additional $1.8 biillion Recovery Act money. Whew.

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The rapidly evolving cleanup scene in Oak Ridge

demolition.jpgWho’ll be the Dept. of Energy’s next cleanup manager in Oak Ridge? I have a story today at and in the News Sentinel about DOE’s plans to move ahead with a contract competition to find a successor to Bechtel Jacobs Co. to complete the K-25 demolition and do other work.
DOE Manager Gerald Boyd acknowledged it’s “sort of doubtful” that BJC will complete the K-25 work as planned by the end of 2011, and that work apparently will be the core of a new contract. However, Boyd wouldn’t say for sure what other work will be included in that contract or whether it’ll be limited to work at the East Tennessee Technology Park (Bechtel Jacbos currently has other cleanup jobs on the Oak Ridge reservation).

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A big, big question: What to do about 9212?

9212 was a topic during interview with Y-12 boss Darrel Kohlhorst.
photo: Kathy Fahey/B&W
One of the strongest arguments for constructing a multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant is the deteriorated state of the plant’s 9212 production center — a Cold War relic if there ever was one.
But even if the Obama administration and Congress decide UPF is worthy of support and funding, there still is a lengthy transition — probably a decade — in which 9212 would continue to be the main uranium-processing center for the U.S. weapons program.
There are plenty of questions yet to be answered, and 9212 was a major topic during a recent interview with Y-12 General Manager Darrel Kohlhorst.

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