Monthly Archives: February 2012

Tennessee Science Bowl set March 3

Forty-eight teams are scheduled to compete Matrch 3 in the Tennessee Science Bowl, with the winning team getting an all-expenses-paid trip to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The state event will be held on the Blount County Campus of Pellissippi State Community College in Friendsville, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

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Eschenberg’s plan for cleaning up Y-12 mercury: characterization and tech development need to come before demolition

I talked recently with John Eschenberg, the Department of Energy’s interim Oak Ridge manager, about the cleanup plans and, more specifically, about dealing with the very significant mercury problems at Y-12. Eschenberg laid out a plan, although his plan is not specific in terms of months or years.
Basically, he talked about the good progress that’s being made demolishing K-25. He reemphasized its priority and how there are plans to move forward with work at the nearby K-27 uranium-enrichment plant. Once those gargantuan buidlings are down or under control, there’ll be a lot more funding leverage to tackle the mercury-laden buildings at Y-12 and other problems associated with Cold War mercury spills and discharges, he said.

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It’s 1944 in Oak Ridge, marked by the frenzied construction of Alpha-4 and Alpha-5 at Y-12

Y-12 archives via Ray Smith
Looking west in this 1944 aerial photograph, that’s Alpha-5 on the left and Alpha-4 on the right, more complete. Notes Y-12 Historian Ray Smith, “Beta-4 has not been started. It will be built west of Alpha-5.” The whole thing is about producing the enriched uranium for an atomic bomb that doesn’t yet have a completed design or a target but will eventually be dropped over Hiroshima, Japan.

Y-12’s Graham honored for tech transfer

Tammy Graham of Y-12 recently received two awards for her work in technology transfer. According to info released by B&W Y12, the government’s managing contractor at the Oak Ridge plant, Graham received a Tech Commercialization Champion from Tech 2020’s Tennessee Valley Technology Council. She also shared an award for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium Southeast Region.

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Union chief says Y-12 contract change could bring ‘perfect storm’

I had a chance a few days ago to talk with Steve Jones, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council. After talking for a bit about the contaminated respirators at Y-12, I asked Jones if he had any new information regarding the upcoming contract change — which will combine the management of Y-12 and Pantex (and possibly a piece of Savannah River).
Basically, he said, nothing had changed, and he didn’t consider that to be good news. “Of course, our concerns are the same concerns that we’ve always had. Through this whole process they’ve done nothing to mitigate our concerns,” Jones said.

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NNSA’s Tom D’Agostino testifies on FY 2013 budget request

National Nuclear Security Administrator chief Tom D’Agostino testified today before the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water development on the FY 2013 budget request. Here is the prepared text of his opening remarks.

“We are not resting on old ideas to solve tomorrow’s problems – we’re shaping the future of nuclear security, and we’re doing it in a fiscally responsible way. Budget uncertainty adds cost and complexity to how we achieve our goals. You have been supportive of our efforts in the past, I ask again for your help in providing the stability we need to do our jobs efficiently and effectively.”


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GAO looks at how the Dept. of Energy’s Office of Science sets priorities

The Government Accountability Office on Feb. 24 released a review of how the Dept. of Energy’s Office of Science uses a “multilayered process” for prioritizing research. “With a budget of nearly $5 billion in fiscal year 2011, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science has historically been the nation’s single largest funding source for basic research in the physical sciences, energy sciences, advanced scientific computing, and other fields,” the report states.
The Office of Science funds 10 national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Here’s a link to the GAO report on the Office of Science.

K-1070B cleanup also near end

The cleanup of K-1070B, an old landfill that contributed to groundwater contamination at the East Tennessee Technology Park, is nearing completion. Leo Sain, president and project chief for federal contractor UCOR, said work on the K-1070B landfill should be wrapped up in a matter of days. Workers are currently backfilling the excavation area with clean dirt.
“We’re close to being done,” Sain said.

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Tank W-1A now a Nevada resident

It took more than a decade, but Tank W-1A is not only out of the ground, washed off and chopped into smaller pieces. It’s also been delivered in lead-lined boxes to the Nevada National Security Site, where it’ll be disposed of in a landfill there.
Leo Sain, the president and project chief for URS-CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR), the Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge cleanup manager since August 2011, recently talked about the wrap-up of the Tank W-1A saga that UCOR inherited.

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VIP guest at Y-12’s Ed Westcott Gallery

Y-12 photo/Scott Fraker
Ed Westcott, whose photographs have told the Oak Ridge story in such a special, lasting way, was a visitor last week at the Ed Westcott Gallery in the Jack Case Center at Y-12. Here, he’s enjoying a moment with B&W Y-12 General Manager Darrel Kohlhorst. Westcott was accompanied on the visit by daughter Emily Hunnicutt; son-in-law Don Hunnicutt; friend Barbara Lynch Martin; and son John Westcott.

‘Best workforce I’ve ever seen in my life’

Some of the leadership team from UCOR (URS-CH2M Oak Ridge), the Dept. of Energy’s cleanup manager in Oak Ridge, met last week with the News Sentinel’s editorial board. Included in the group was Mark Ferri, manager of the K-25/K-27 D&D project — the centerpiece of the massive cleanup effort. Ferri talked a bit about his background at CH2M Hill and previous stints working with UCOR President Leo Sain. He said he brought a team of 20 (including himself) to the K-25/K-27 effort, with a collective 500 years of experience in the nuclear business.
“It’s easy to get people to Tennessee from Idaho Falls, from Hanford, some of these others places, because it’s a nice place to live,” Ferri said. While he brought some key team members to the project, Ferri said UCOR benefited from the existing workforce in Oak Ridge.

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