It seems like lately information about the Recovery Act-funded mercury cleanup project at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant has proved as elusive as the liquid metal itself.
A couple of weeks or more after I asked for an update on the West End Mercury Remediation project, B&W Y-12 spokesman David Keim provided a brief overview. Keim said the project remains on schedule and within budget so far and that Safety and Ecology Corp. of Knoxville has been selected as subcontractor to remediate old storm lines and sewer piping. The company also will process sediments captured from the lines to eliminate that as a potential source of mercury into the environment, he said.
Marisa Moazen, a 33-year-old education project manager, post-doc recruiter and social media leader at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, will be among 150 participants in NASA’s two-day Tweetup surrounding Tuesday’s scheduled launch of the Discovery space shuttle.
Moazen will be sending out regular Tweets — perhaps as many as 500 over the course of the Monday-Tuesday event — to followers at her Twitter account (@GovInternships).
Members of the Tennessee Delegation issued a press release this week expressing their continued concerns about a plan to consolidate the management contracts for the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons facilities (and possibly include the tritium work that’s done at the Savannah River Plant).
The missive was the combined effort of U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and U.S. Reps. Zach Wamp, Lincoln Davis, John Tanner, John Duncan, Jim Cooper, Marsha Blackburn, Phil Roe and Bart Gordon. The delegation earlier this year wrote a letter to NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino saying they feared that combining the management contracts would jeopardize the ability of the sites to do their national security missions and create other problems.
On Wednesday, the Dept. of Energy will conduct its monthly test of the Oak Ridge warning systems. Folks in the vicinity of the DOE facilities (ORNL, Y-12 or the East Tennessee Technology Park) may hear the sirens between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The sirens are intended to provide immediate notification of an emergency to people who are within an approximate two-mile radius of DOE’s ORR. The 33,725-acre ORR is located in Anderson and Roane Counties.
The Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge facilities did more than $450 million in work for non-DOE agencies in fiscal 2010. The work was done either at Oak Ridge National Laboratory ($269M) or the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education ($163M).
According to DOE, the money comes to Oak Ridge through two avenues, either through the Work for Others program that’s done through federal integagency agreements, or through so-called CRADAs (cooperative research and developments agreements) and/or work for the Dept. of Homeland Security.
In a statement, DOE’s Oak Ridge manager Gerald Boyd said, “The DOE recognizes the importance of making its unique capabilities available to other federal agencies and private industry. Supporting cutting-edge research performed locally, with the Work for Others program, benefits everyone involved.”
One of the CRADAs is a $336 million multi-year agreement between ORNL and USEC Inc. for development work on the “next‐generation gas centrifuge uranium enrichment technology.” the CRADA is the largest in the lab’s history, DOE said. (Photo at right is from the American Centrifuge Project.)
With elections at hand and U.S. political fervor in full swing, the Dept. of Energy confirmed that the agency recently investigated allegations of inappropriate political activities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and found evidence to substantiate at least one of those concerns.
“While most of the allegations could not be substantiated, the investigation found that some conversations about fundraising had occurred in the workplace, which was simply inappropriate,” DOE spokesman John Shewairy said in an e-mail response to questions.
New Chemical and Materials Science Lab taking shape.
ORNL photo/Curtis Boles
McCarthy Building Companies Inc., which is constructing the new Chemical and Materials Science Lab at ORNL, announced this week that it had achieved a significant milestone on the project. According to info from the St. Louis-based company, the construction and design team celebrated the “dry-in” or enclosure of the big $95 million facility.
“A dry-in ceremony marks the permanent completion of the building enclosure, including all sub-grade, building skin and roof components,” McCarthy said in the release. “As a result, it is no longer necessary to rely on temporary protection measures to avoid water from entering the building enclosure.”
About a year ago, I reported on the budding negotiations of historic environmental consequences on the Oak Ridge reservation as “Equalizing DOE’s good deeds and bad deeds,” and now a deal is done.
The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office announced earlier this week that DOE and the Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation had signed a “natural resources damages settlement agreement.” The document establishes DOE’s plan to compensate the state for the ecological and “human use” impacts associated with pollution released from the government’s nuclear facilities on the Oak Ridge reservation.
The Project On Government Oversight today claimed that a “key rationale” for building the multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 has been undermined by information suggesting that second-stage nuclear warhead components don’t need to be remanufactured to extend the life of the nuclear arsenal. Citing what was termed a “knowledgeable” and “impeccable” government source, POGO said hundreds of nuclear warheads have gone through a Life Extension Program and “not a single secondary has had to be cut apart and remanufactured.”
The NNSA responded this evening, calling the POGO assertions ridiculous and ludicrous and totally without a factual basis.
From left: Jacob Barhen, Wigner Fellowship Committee member, Thomas Zacharia, deputy for science and technology, Mark Berrill, Aloke Kumar, Songhua Xu and Xiaoshan Xu.
ORNL photo/Curtis Boles
A mechanical engineer, a computer scientist, an electrical engineer, and a condensed matter physicist are the newest members of the Eugene Wigner Fellowship Program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
Aloke Kumar, Songhua Xu, Mark Berrill and Xiaoshan Xu have joined the prestigious two-year fellowship program, which was named for Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner — the first research director at the Oak Ridge lab.
Here’s their background info provided by ORNL:
Oak Ridge Associated Universities has contributed $25,000 to the Emory Valley Center capital campaign. ORAU said the money would be used to construct a new building for the Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge.
The center “will become home to a variety of programs and services supporting more than 140 adults with mental, physical and emotional disabilities,” ORAU said.
The National Nuclear Security Administration hasn’t released its Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant –, a precursor for the planned construction of a new multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility — so it’s not clear what changes have been made since the draft was released late last year. However, a spokesman for NNSA said the federal agency did consider comments that were submitted after the draft comment period and after information became public about plans to build a haul road at the UPF site and disrupt wetlands in the area.
The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance submitted lengthy comments regarding the haul road project in July and has repeatedly called for a public hearing to address the potential impacts of the government’s plans.
USEC Inc. today said the Dept. of Energy had informed the company that it had “largely completed” the technical review of the application for a $2 billion loan guarantee for the American Centrifuge Project. USEC said DOE is now proceeding with the next stage of the loan guarantee program.
“DOE has provided USEC with a draft term sheet that will serve as a framework for discussions between USEC and the DOE,” the company said in info distributed to the news media.