Monthly Archives: May 2012

NNSA supports Y-12 suspension of activities

Steven Wyatt, a federal spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the NNSA “fully supports” the B&W Y-12 decision to suspend lock out/tag out activities at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant until problems there can be corrected.
“It is an appropriate action to take to enable the contractor to fully implement a comprehensive corrective action plan,” Wyatt said by email.

USEC faces another deadline; seeks short-term credit extension to continue work

USEC Inc. today said the company and the Department of Energy are “continuing to make good progress) on a cost-sharing proposal that would let USEC move ahead with its American Centrifuge research and demonstration program. In order to do that, however, USEC apparently will need another credit extension.
Here’s the USEC statement:

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Y-12 suspends lock out/tag out activities following series of incidents and continuing safety concerns

B&W Y-12, the government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, today announced it had suspended all lock out/tag out activities at the plant for all plant employees — including subcontractors — because of continuing incidents at the plant. While no one was reportedly injured during the incidents, the new order underscores the ongoing nature of safety issues at the Oak Ridge plant.
Lock out/tag out procedures are set up to disable equipment and machinery in order to help protect service and maintenance employees from electrical and other hazards. The plant’s lack of adherence to proper lock out/tag out procedures has reportedly been a problem for years. In a memo earlier this year, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said there have been continuing issues with lock out/tag out at Y-12 since at least 2007.

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Revisiting Rickover

1669.jpgI got a note the other day from Tim Gawne, who in recent years has uncovered some wonderful old documents and photographs in whatever archival stashes he can find at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and he seemed pretty excited about the additional 1940s material (including a photograph, right) of Hyman Rickover and his nuclear training activities at Oak Ridge. “I was looking around the year 1946 and found this photo in the ORNL photo negatives — it is none other than Captain Hyman Rickover The photo log appears to place this around the late fall of 1946. As stated earlier, then Captain Rickover who is considered the father of the nuclear Navy, attended the first reactor training school at the Laboratory with a cohort of 9 officers, enlisted, and civilians to probe the possibilities of nuclear propulsion for naval use.”
I asked Gawne, whose past work included a stint as a research librarian, about the origin of the photgraph and whether it was taken at ORNL, as well as some other questions. He responded:

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ATSDR issues final Y-12 mercury report, the last of its Oak Ridge public health assessments

mercurysign.jpgThe Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry has issued the final report on the impact of mercury releases from the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. It appears that the report’s conclusions are the same as those in the draft report released last September. At that time, the agency concluded that the current-day releases from Y-12 do not pose a threat to public health, although the ATSDR indicated there were periods of health risk for certain groups in the past.
The new 341-page report details the history of mercury releases from 1950 to 2009, resulting from Y-12’s Cold War work on development of hydrogen bombs, and evaluates the impact of the toxic discharges into the environment — notably East Fork Poplar Creek — and potential health consequences for local communities.

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DOE board to hear Y-12 cleanup update

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge environmental advisory board will hold its monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 13. Laura Wilkerson of DOE will provide an update on cleanup activities at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, according to information provided by the Site Specific Advisory Board. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the DOE Information Center, 1 Way, Oak Ridge.
Here’s the agenda:

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New research instrument at SNS

BL14b_First Users-3 (2).jpg
ORNL photo/Genevieve Martin
Igor Zaliznyak, right, and David Forbes, both of Brookhaven National Laboratory, are among the early users doing experiments at the HYSPEC instrument at the Spallation Neutron Source.
A new research instrument, the Hybrid Spectrometer (HYPSPEC), is online at the Spallation Neutron Source (at Beam Line 14-B) and being commissioned for experimental use. According to infor released by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the new instrument “combines the time-of-flight technique used at pulsed sources such as SNS with the advantages of crystal spectrometers that use continuous neutrons,:”
ORNL spokesman Bill Cabage said HYSPEC was developed by a team that included participation from top U.S. universities, as well as national labs and an international user group. “HYSPEC is a new concept in high-flux inelastic neutron spectrometry,” he said.

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ORNL halfway on retiree signups

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is halfway home in the outreach to get the lab’s over-65 retirees to sign up for new medical insurance plans.The lab announced the changes back in April, which affect about 3,500 retirees and spouses, and the new program takes effect July 1. ORNL has said the changes will give retirees more flexibility and choices, but not everyone has been thrilled.
“As of Tuesday morning, 50 percent of over-65 retirees have signed up,” ORNL spokesman David Keim said today. “We expect more activity as we get closer to July 1.”

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B&W, the omission

Thanks to readers for pointing out that, in an earlier posting and in today’s column over at, I left Babcock & Wilcox out the listing of bidders on the consolidated Y-12/Pantex contract. B&W reportedly heads the team that includes URS, Northrop Grumman, and Honeywell, with support from Shaw and EnergySolutions. I’m correcting that in both locations.
B&W, of course, currently manages Y-12 in a partnership with Bechtel National.

Y-12 guards have these weapons

As part of the May 17 Oak Ridge site briefing for would-be bidders on the NNSA/DOE Protective Force contracts for the Pantex/Y-12 nuclear weapons facilities and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge facilities, there was a rundown on the weapons systems currently used by Security Police Officers at Y-12.
Here’s the list:

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