Monthly Archives: July 2011

Bechtel Jacobs’ farewell, DOE’s path forward

Bechtel Jacobs Co. is bowing out after 13 years as the Dept. of Energy’s environmental cleanup manager in Oak Ridge. Joe Nemec, who was at the helm in the begining and at the end, has a guest column today at
Meanwhile, John Eschenberg of DOE has a column as well, discussing the lessons learned from the enormous K-25 demolition and cleanup project and the path foward.

Archival documents shed light on how sites were chosen for Manhattan Project

There are interesting anecdotes of how East Tennessee became one of the host sites for the World War II Manhattan Project. Sen. Howard Baker often told one story during his visits to Oak Ridge, guaranteed to evoke an audience response, and Sen. Lamar Alexander (who was once Baker’s legislative assistant) had adopted a similar version, such as this one from a 2008 speech:

“In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Senator Kenneth McKellar, a Tennessean who was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to come down to the White House for a little discussion. The President asked Senator McKellar if he could hide $2 billion in the appropriations bill for a secret project to win World War II, and Senator McKellar replied to the President: ‘Mr. President, that will be no problem. I just have one question. Where in Tennessee do you want me to hide it?’ “

I can’t speak to the veracity of that bit of anedoctal history, but Tim Gawne, who’s doing quite a bit of research in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s archives, has passed along some documents that provide interesting details on how the site searches were conducted and what the government planners were seeking in terms of power, space and other requirements.

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Audio check in Oak Ridge

The sirens will sound on Wednesday, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., in Oak Ridge. The noise will be part of the Dept. of Energy’s monthly test of its emergency warning system.
The sirens are located near Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 National Security Complex and East Tennessee Technology Park. The sirens will sound for 3 to 5 minutes, according to DOE.

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How far? (and other questions)

Some folks have asked how far firefighters had to travel to put out a virtual fire during an emergency exercise last month at Building 9215 at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Well, the answer is about a city block. The Y-12 Fire Dept. is within sight of the building where the exercise was staged. It took 35 minutes for firefighters to reach the fire scene inside the building, although — as noted — they were actuallly at the building in about three minutes following notification.
A spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration said federal overseers were satisfied with the 35-minute timetable for reaching the fire, saying the firefighters followed all the necessary precautions and procedures before gaining entry.
But, real questions remain. What if there had been a real fire in this nuclear facility? Would the roof have been blown off in 35 minutes? Would the entire city be exposed to radioactive smoke if firefighters couldn’t reach a fire within half an hour? At what point does security interfere with the reality of health and safety?

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Exclusive license for ORNL’s LandScan

ORNL photo
In 2006 photo, LandScan developers Phil Coleman, left, and Eddie Bright.
Distribution rights to LandScan, one of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s higher-profile tech developments in recent years, have been licensed exclusively to Minnesota-based East View Cartographic. The global population database has been used for a number of applications, including humanitarian efforts following catastrophes such the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.
LandScan is able to refine and enhance the latest census data available by using other technologies — including geographic information systems. According to ORNL, which developed LandScan with Defense Dept. funding, the technology “has emerged as an international community standard for sustainable development, environmental protection, disaster response and humanitarian relief.”

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Debbie Booher retires from DOE

booher.jpgDebbie Booher has retired from the Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge Operations after 38 years, and she’ll be joining her former DOE boss, Gerald Boyd, at S.M. Stoller Corp.
Booher, a senior administrative specialist, has the distinction of working for four DOE managers in Oak Ridge. Besides Boyd, she worked for Joe La Grone, Jim Hall and Leah Dever.
“The best thing about my position at ORO was the variety of work and trust I was given,” Booher said in a statement. “I was privileged to be involved in every aspect of work that we do, and to understand its significance. There was never a dull moment. I will miss the people and contacts I have made over the years – they’re family, and there are tons of them! I cherish the friendship and support they have given me over the years.”

Subcontractor speaks out on HEUMF dispute: ‘This has put a heck of a hurt on us’

Roger Struble said he’s been in the construction business for more than 30 years and has never been involved in anything like the long-running cost dispute over work on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.
“This is the worst I’ve seen. It almost bankrupted us,” he said. “This has put a heck of a hurt on us.”
Struble is vice president and co-owner of Davis Rebar, based in Omaha, Neb., which was part of the Davis/Stresscom partnership that did the rebar for the high-security storehouse for bomb-grade uranium. The company’s claims are among the $64 million being sought from B&W Y-12, the government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, in federal court lawsuits in Knoxville. In turn, B&W has a $17 million countersuit against Caddell-Blaine, the construction manager for HEUMF, and its team of subcontractors. Both sides are claiming breach of contract.

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WSI lobbies to keep Y-12 security role

The draft Request for Proposals for the combined Y-12/Pantex management contract would reportedly incorporate the security function as part of the management and operations of the plants. That differs from the current arrangement at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, where WSI-Oak Ridge provides protective force services (and hundreds of paramilitary personnel). In the past, however, under Lockheed Martin, Martin Marietta and Union Carbide, security was part of the management contract, so Oak Ridge has seen both.
WSI (formerly known as Wackenhut), whose current contract at Y-12 expires in June 2012 and which employs about 500 personnel at Y-12, is not going to fade into the background quietly.

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Fishkill at Y-12

Hundreds of small fish were found dead in mid-July in the upper stretches of East Fork Poplar Creek inside the boundaries of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. B&W Y-12, the government’s managing contractor at Y-12, said it notified the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation of the fishkill on July 21.
Over a three-day period, a survey of the creek by biologists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory recovered a total of about 650 minnow-sized fish — mostly stonerollers — and other aquatic life, including crayfish and clams, B&W said.
“The cause of the fish mortality is not fully understood at this time. It is believed that a combination of factors may have contributed,” the Y-12 contractor said in a statement.

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NNSA has ‘no concerns’ with 35-minute fire response; most time on access to nuke facility

According to information provided this afternoon by contractor B&W Y-12, Y-12 firefighters participating in a June 22 emergency drill responded to a reported fire scene within three minutes of notification. However, it took another half-hour for gain access to the building and reach the area where there was a simulated fire, B&W said.
“The fire was then extinguished five minutes after the team entered the area,” B&W spokeswoman Ellen Boatner said.
Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said federal overseers were satisfied with the Fire Dept.’s role in the emergency drill. The exercise was based on a fire scenario in Building 9215 (part of the enriched uranium processing complex).

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Loading of HEUMF 99 percent complete

 Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility

Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (B&W Y-12 photo)

B&W Y-12 photo
Loading of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility is nearly complete.
The initial loading of the government’s new high-security storehouse for bomb-grade uranium, which began in early 2010, is almost done. Steven Wyatt, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said today the work is 99 percent complete.

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EnergySolutions still mum on schedule for German nuke waste coming to Oak Ridge

In early June, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved export/import licenses necessary for EnergySolutions to bring up to 1,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Germany to Oak Ridge for incineration and treatment. Before the end of June, the NRC issued those licenses to the Utah-based waste company.
However, EnergySolutions still isn’t saying when the waste shipments could begin arriving at the company’s Bear Creek waste-processing operation in Oak Ridge.

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McCarthy takes a bow

The new Chemical and Materials Sciences Building, which was completed six months ahead of schedule, is drawing rave reviews at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and McCarthy Building Companies says there were a number of firsts involved in the construction project (which was partially funded with Recovery Act money).
Among those firsts, McCarthy said, was use of CMR (“Construction Management at Risk”) project delivery method and BIM (“Building Information Modeling”).

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