Evaluating risks of extending the life of Beta-2E and 9215 uranium facilities at Y-12

photo/B&W Y-12
The heart of Y-12’s current production complex, with Beta-2E in the foreground.
Federal and contractor “subject matter experts” earlier this year took another look at a 2007 Facility Risk Review for Buildings 9204-2E — also known as Beta-2E — and 9215 at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The reason for the review of the old facilities is because relocation of their work to the new multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility is being deferred, postponed, in order to place greater urgency on getting operations out of the existing 9212 complex — where the risks of working with highly enriched uranium are greatest.
The new risk review, according to a newly released May 18 memo of staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, has been completed. The review team’s assumption was that the enriched uranium operations would continue at Beta-2E and 9215 until at least 2030. The earlier risk report in 2007 assumed that the work at those facilities would be transitioned to UPF by 2021.

Here, according to the board staff, are some of the “noteworthy items” in the review team’s final report:
• The load-out of the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (which was completed a couple of years ago) resulted in a 60 percent reduction in the material at risk in Building 9204-2E and a 90 percent reduction in the material at risk in the 9215 Complex.
• The team recommended that 28 projects be executed to address the risks of continuing
enriched uranium operations in these facilities until at least 2030, including replacing
electrical equipment (e.g., switchgear and electrical panels), safety-significant sprinkler
heads, and ventilation equipment (e.g., fans and ductwork). The Y-12 Site Office directed that contractor B&W provide a funding strategy for these projects by June 15th.
• In 2030, Buildings 9204-2E and 9215 will be 60 and 70 years old, respectively. The team highlighted that these facilities do not meet current standards for seismic capability and confinement ventilation and concluded that, to ensure the safety of enriched uranium operations beyond 2030, it is imperative that future UPF project planning support transition of enriched uranium operations from these facilities to UPF in the 2030 timeframe.

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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.