Monthly Archives: January 2011

Out, out, hot spots

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As part of the Recovery Act-funded environmental work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, LATA-Sharp Remediation Services is excavating some surface “hot spots” around old nuclear landfills in Bethel Valley and consolidating the radioactive soils under caps to keep rainwater from redistributing the decades-old contamination. The work here is taking place in Solid Waste Storage Area No. 3.

Breaking down the cost of UPF

With such a big price tag associated with the Uranium Processing Facility (the current cost range is $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion), how is that money being spent?
What percentage of the cost will go toward designing the UPF? How much constructing the building itself? How much will be spent on the processing equipment and systems inside the UPF?
I wanted to get some perspective on how the money is being spent because some folks, when they see a project’s cost, mistakely assume that it’s all being spent constructing a building.
“Oh, no, no, no,” Y-12 General Manager Darrel Kohlhorst said during a recent interview, but he was unable to give a specific breakdown on the various cost areas.

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Guest House work back to normal at ORNL

Dorman Blaine, president of Blaine Construction, said the construction issues at the ORNL Guest House had been resolved, and work returned to normal today. Some connectors were reportedly installed incorrectly by a subcontractor — temporarily stalling the project — and had to be redone, which took about a week to complete.
“Over each window and door opening, there is a metal header, and it’s supported by four clips — two at each end,” Blaine said. “Those were installed incorrectly.”

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Science Bowl fever spreads to Middle Schools

For the first time, Tennessee will participate in the Department of Energy’s Middle School Science Bowl competition, with the state event scheduled for Feb. 5 at the Oak Ridge campus of Roane State Community College. The event has already reached its first-year maximum of 12 teams.
Participating teams will come from Annoor Academy, Blount Home Education Association, Cedar Bluff Middle School, Cedar Springs Homeschool, Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Educators Association, Cherokee Middle School, Episcopal School of Knoxville, Farragut Middle School, Maryville Middle School, Norris Middle School, and Surgoinsville Middle School.

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Y-12 GM Darrel Kohlhorst talks about the pay freeze, pay raises at the Oak Ridge plant

During a sit-down interview with Darrel Kohlhorst a few days back, I asked the Y-12 General Manager what kind of feedback he’d received about the pay freeze in effect for the next couple of years. I also asked him about his potential compensation.
“You know, I have been extremely pleased that people do recognize how blessed we are to have these jobs and not have been impacted by what’s going on out in the economy. There is no Y-12 family member that hasn’t been impacted by this economy outside, whether it’s a son or a daughter or spouse or some relation who is struggling with the economy. So, I think that has made a impact on them, because I really have not had one single e-mail or anybody stop me and complain about it.”

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Nuclear landscaping at ORNL

arratour 038.JPGWhy are there so few trees on the historic Central Campus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory? Well, simply put, they got chopped down and removed because they were radioactive or there were concerns that they might become radioactive because their roots were absorbing underground wastes in the area.
It’s another legacy of the nuclear work that began during the World War II Manhattan Project.
“We did a campaign, I guess it was about four years ago, where we went around the entire campus and surveyed trees and found some that did have contamination levels associated with them,” ORNL’s environmental manager, Dirk Van Hoesen, said during a recent visit to the site.

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The future of warhead-making at Y-12

kohl1.jpgThere’s a buzz about advanced technology under development for the Uranium Processing Facilty — the production facility of the future at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant — and one of the tech areas is what’s being called “agile machining.”
In an interview, I asked Darrel Kohlhorst, the plant’s general manager, what exactly is agile machining and how will it be used in the manufacture of nuclear warhead parts. Kohlhorst said it’s something that’s still a work in progress, but there will be multi-function machines capable of pretty much manufacturing warhead components all by themselves, with limited assistance from a machinist.
The highly automated machines in the planning will probably be able to take the place of six or seven machines currently used in the manufacture of parts, he said.

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SSAB chat

I had a chance Friday afternoon to sit down and chat with some members of the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board (Ron Murphree, board chair; Betty Jones, chair of the SSAB’s Public Outreach Committee; and David Martin, also a member of the Public Outreach Committee) and the board’s administrator, Pete Osborne. We shared thoughts on cleanup issues; future budget directions; and a little bit of everything else. I babbled on and on, as I tend to do, but I learned some things, too. It was a good time.

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It’s demolition time at old ORNL

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Dirk Van Hoesen, environmental manager at ORNL, at overlook above the Bldg. 3026 hot cells and other demolition targets in the lab’s historic Central Campus.
Earlier this week, I got a tour of the Recovery Act cleanup projects at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where much of the effort is focused on demolishing old nuclear facilities and safely disposing of the radioactive remnants. So far, according to ORNL environmental manager Dirk Van Hoesen, who showed me around the work sites, 18 buildings have been demolished (a total of about 100,000 square feet), with 27 more to go (totaling 80,000 square feet). Most of the demolition work will be accomplished this year, although some may extend into FY 2012, he said.
arratour 035.JPGThe buildings are of various sizes, some of them quite small. They also have varied backgrounds, some of them dating back to the lab’s nuclear operations during the World War II Manhattan Project. Safety and Ecology Corp. (SEC) is the biggest player in the demolition derby, performing much of the work at ORNL under contracts with the Dept. of Energy.
Perhaps the most interesting, and potentially most hazardous, work involves the Building 3026 hot cells. The superstructure for the 20,000-square-foot building was demolished early on by Clauss Construction uner a subcontract to UT-Battelle, the lab’s main contractor, but tough work is left behind — including a series of hot cells that have been covered with a sealant to keep out the rain and keep in the radioactive constituents.

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Changes in Sen. Alexander’s office

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee’s senior senator, today announced that his chief of staff, David Morgenstern, would be leaving — effective Feb. 18 — to “pursue private interests.” Details of those interests are to be announced later, according to the release.
The info from Alexander’s office said Morgenstern would be succeeded by Matt Sonnesyn, currently Alexander’s legislative director and deputy staff director for policy at the Senate Republican Conference, which Alexander chairs.

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