Y-12’s Darrel Kohlhorst: ‘We’re not going to do anything . . . that would degrade the safety’

Note: original post has been updated with additional information at bottom.
In an earlier post, I reported that Peter Winokur, chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, has raised concerns that moves under way at Y-12 would degrade the safety of the Oak Ridge plant’s uranium storage facility.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has not responded to questions, but Darrel Kohlhorst, the president and general manager of B&W Y-12, the Oak Ridge contractor, said there is nothing afoot to reduce safety in any way.


“Well, safety is No. 1 at Y-12,” Kohlhorst said. “and we’re not going to do anything or recommend anything that would degrade the safety. Now we believe that working with NNSA and the defense board, DNFSB, working together we’ll come to some common ground and conclusion on what we need to do there. I mean, we’re always looking at the operating budget and the safety record to make sure we have it properly balanced. But we’re not going to do anything that’s going to degrade the safety.
“Although I know DNFSB likes the way we put it in play and wants us to maintain it at that level, we believe we’ve made a good case, and we think that maybe just sitting down and talking to them we’ll be able to get through this.”
Here’s more of Kohlhorst’s comments, which I added this morning, on the possible change in some safety-related controls associated with the HEUMF.
Asked why consider changes in the rules or guidelines that have been in place since the planning of HEUMF, he said, “Every year we update our safety basis….and now that we’re operating it we’re getting actual numbers and some of those numbers may be driving some of the conservatism out of the system. (But) we still have safety that we have to maintain.”
The defense board chairman indicated the board liked the conservatism.
“We understand where they’re at,” Kohlhorst said, “but at the same time we have to make sure we’re meeting all the regulations.”
Is there a money issue here?
”In this case, it’s not money driving the thing,” the Y-12 GM said. “It’s just that if we can meet the requirements, and not be — I don’t want to say not be conservative — but if we can meet the requirements and it ends up saving us money then we kind of get a double benefit there. And then we’re able to do something else that improves Y-12.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.