About 50 kilograms of fresh fuel HEU (highly enriched uranium), reported to be enough to build a couple of nuclear bombs, was removed from three sites in Ukraine and relocated to said-to-be safe quarters in Russia, establishing another milestone in efforts to secure dangerous nuclear materials worldwide.
Public attention is currently focused on EnergySolutions’ plan to import up to 1,000 tons of Germany’s radioactive waste to burn at the company’s Oak Ridge incinerator. The residual ash from that project would then be shipped back to Germany for disposal. The project is very much up on the air at this point, pending action on the import/export license by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Because of the “burn-and-return” strategy for Germany’s waste, I asked EnergySolutions if the company was revisiting its earlier proposal to bring up to 20,000 tons of low-level rad waste from Italy to Oak Ridge for treatment. That proposed project, which was hugely controversial in part because of plans to dispose of the post-treatment waste at the company’s landfill in Utah, was abandoned by EnergySolutions earlier this year.
Many Oak Ridge folks, and their elected representatives in Washington, have opposed and continue to oppose the NNSA’s plan to consolidate the management contracts at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge and the Pantex Plant in Texas (posssibly later adding the tritium work at Savannah River).
There are multiple reasons for the opposition, but one that’s being pushed in Washington is that the contract procurement and transition could significantly delay the development of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12.
The Dept. of Energy will hold its monthly test of the Oak Ridge emergency warning system on Wednesday, Jan. 5.
Sirens will be tested 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the East Tennessee Technology Park, Y-12 National Security Complex, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Discussion about plans to incinerate tons of Germany’s radioactive waste in Oak Ridge is starting to heat up.
At least one group has requested a public hearing before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules on EnergySolutions’ application to import up to 1,000 tons of radioactive waste from German hospitals and universities.
The deadline for public comment on the application was due to expire Thursday (Dec. 30), but the NRC extended that deadline until at least Jan. 18, following requests by 10 individuals seeking more time to file comments or to ask for a public hearing.
Utah-based EnergySolutions, which opposed the extension, wants to burn the low-level radioactive waste at its Oak Ridge plant on Bear Creek Road and then return the ashes to Germany for disposal.
Department of Energy contractors are wrapping up a four-month, $3.7 million project to widen and strengthen White Oak Dam — which constrains radioactively contaminated White Oak Lake — to make sure the earthen-and-rock dam can withstand extreme weather events.
Following a 2008 inspection, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that a super-heavy rainfall over a short period could compromise the dam’s structural integrity, and the FERC report recommended a number of enhancements.
DEMCO Inc. has been working on the dam improvements since August under a subcontract to Bechtel Jacobs Co., DOE’s environmental contractor in Oak Ridge.
“White Oak Dam is being upgraded to withstand a rainfall event similar to what was experienced in the Nashville area this past year,” Dennis Hill, a spokesman for Bechtel Jacobs, said in response to questions. “The dam is being widened both upstream and downstream to an approximately total width of 200 feet. The slopes are constructed with gravel aggregate, compact clay, shot rock, and armored with rocks large enough to withstand the projected water currents.”
Oak Ridge Associated Universities received an “outstanding performance” review from the Department of Energy and earned a fee exceeding $3.25 million for managing and directing programs at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education in fiscal year 2010.
According to a Dec. 17 letter from Department of Energy Manager Gerald Boyd, ORAU received 97 percent of the available award fee for its performance.
I posted earlier the award fee WSI-Oak Ridge received from the NNSA for its security work at Y-12. The protective services company also has a contract with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge operations for security at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, East Tennessee Technology Park and the Federal Office Building. For that work during the final half of fiscal year 2010, WSI received an “oustanding” rating and a total fee slightly of about $1.06 million.
DOE Manager Gerald Boyd notified WSI General Manager Lee Brooks of the performance award in a letter dated Dec. 9.
Building 9720-5, known as the Warehouse, is getting a new mission.
B&W Y-12 photo
One of the much reported accomplishments this year at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant was completion of a new high-security storehouse for the nation’s primary stockpile of bomb-grade uranium.
That allowed workers to begin transferring stocks of uranium from old (and presumably more vulnerable) storage sites at the Oak Ridge plant, including Building 9720-5 — known simply as “the Warehouse” — which contained the bulk of Y-12’s inventory of highly enriched uranium.
The first phase of the five-phase, uranium-loading effort at the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility focused on getting the special nuclear materials out of the Warehouse, and that work was reportedly completed ahead of schedule in April.
The Warehouse is a big place, with nearly 70,000 square feet of floor space, and an old place (built at the tail end of World War II).
Even though there was a rush to get the weapons-grade uranium out of the Warehouse and into the new storage facility, that doesn’t mean Building 9720-5 has been abandoned or demolished.
UT-Battelle, the Dept. of Energy’s managing contractor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, received an overall rating of 94 (out of 100) for Fiscal Year 2010 and a fee of $10,058,000. That overall score was the same as the one for FY2009, with the fee the same also.
DOE’s report card had eight different categories, and UT-Battelle received A- in five of the categories, including one for Mission Accomplishment (which carries the most weight), and B+ in three of the categories. During last year’s ratings, UT-Battelle received A- in every category.
For the six-month period ending Sept. 30, WSI-Oak Ridge, the government’s security contractor in Oak Ridge, earned a rating of 93 (good) and a fee of about $1.61 million. That rating was down from the previous month, when WSI (formerly known as Wackenhut Services inc.) got a rating of 99 (outstanding) and a fee of about $1.57M
There’s a changing of the guard upcoming at the Atomic Trades and Labor Council.
Garry Whitley, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council for the past four years and a 42-year veteran of the Oak Ridge plants, is ready to move on. On Jan. 13, Steve Jones will succeed Whitley at the ATLC helm.