Among the side shows at this week’s Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit was the signing of a cooperative research agreement to develop technology that helps administer traffic flow and could reduce the wait times at the doctor’s office.
That sounds cool, right?
The agreement was signed by reps from the University of Tennessee, the Y-12 National Security Complex and Stanley Healthcare.
The annual tour season is here, and the Department of Energy will start its public bus tours (U.S. citizens only) on June 3 and continue through August.
“The three-hour tour allows visitors to see the reservation and learn historical facts and updates on the world-class missions underway in Oak Ridge,” DOE said in announcing the tour season.
Department of Energy photo/Lynn Freeny
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason, left, Helen Hardin, senior policy advisor to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, talk during a break at this week’s Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit in Oak Ridge.
Steve Jones, president of the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, said Y-12 workers are ready and waiting for the contractor situation to be settled. It’s been months since the NNSA awarded the combined Y-12/Pantex management contract to Consolidated Nuclear Security (headed by Bechtel and Lockheed Martin), and it’s still tied up in protest, with no set timetable for the transition. The NNSA confirmed this week that the existing contracts at Y-12 and Pantex have now been extended through July.
“Of course, it concerns people,” Jones said. “Everybody’s anticipating and wanting to get back to regular business. So I thiink when a decision is made it will calm everybody down and everybody can just get back to business. There’s just so much uncertainty right now.”
Avisco Inc., a small, woman-owned business based in Oak Ridge, has received its second contract for site preparation work on the forthcoming Uranium Processing Facility. This one was awarded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing some of the early work at Y-12 for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Leo Sain, the president of URS-CH2M Oak Ridge (UCOR), said it looks like the mile-long concrete pad that once served as the foundation for the nearly-demolished K-25 buildling, is probably going to be salvageable.
UCOR is still in the process of sampling and evaluating the contamination on the pad, and still has to demolish the last remaining six-cell portion of the buildling, but so far it looks like the contamination is manageable, Sain said during an interview this week at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” Sain said. “Based on what we’re seeing now, it’s going to be salvageable.”
UPF Federal Project Director John Eschenberg acknowledged that the cost figures contained in a recently distributed briefing package put together by the Government Accountability Office are correct. Those figures show the current best estimate on the big project’s cost is $6.0 billion, and the GAO briefing package suggested there’s a likelihood of the project exceeding the high end of the official cost range for UPF of $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion.
“The facts are facts,” Eschenberg said. But he added that he didn’t necessarily agree with the way some cost figures were interpreted and the conclusions.
During an interview with Eschenberg at this week’s Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, I also sought to clarify other aspects of the cost estimates on the giant project at Y-12.
He confirmed that the $6.0 billion “point” estimate, the best available cost estimate at the moment, is only for the first phase of the UPF, which focuses on transferring the work at the existing (World War II-era) 9212 uranium complex into a newly constructed UPF. That does not include the UPF work that’s been deferred, which is the uranium machining activities now done at Building 9215 or the weapons assembly/disassembly work that’s currently done in a building known as Beta-2E. Those will be done later at Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the UPF project.
However, when the cost range ($4.2B-$6.5B) still used by NNSA was developed a couple of years back, it did include the entire project, so the fact that Phase One is now rivaling the top end of that estimate seems to give a better idea of how the cost has grown — spurred, in part, by the forced redesign to accommodate the space-fit problems with the first design effort.
The National Nuclear Security Administration confirmed that the current management contracts at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons sites have been extened through July 31. Spokesman Steven Wyatt in NNSA’s Production Office confirmed it via email, but did not elaborate. The management contracts earlier had been extended through May.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s first visit to Oak Ridge was short and busy, but he still came away impressed.
Cantor was keynote speaker today at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, offering his views on budget battles in Washington, taking a few light jabs at the White House and showing he’d done a little research on Oak Ridge before he arrived and went straight to the stage.
“From the beginning, I know that Oak Ridge has been one of America’s strongest forces for peace,” Cantor said, referencing the Atomic City’s role in the World War II Manhattan Project.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory confirmed plans for Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s visit on Monday. His visit will coincide with a meeting of national lab directors.
Details of his visit weren’t available, but Moniz reportedly will be accompanied by Deputy Secretary Dan Poneman. Moniz, who was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate May 16 and sworn-in five days later, will be making his first visit to Oak Ridge as secretary. However, he has been to ORNL numerous times in the past, including during his tenure as DOE undersecretary during the Clinton administration.
Before Sen. Lamar Alexander’s speech Wednesday at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, I asked him about the Uranium Processing Facility and reports that it’s on the verge of going over the top end of its cost range (currently set at $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion).
I asked the senator, who’s been a big supporter of UPF, if there was a price tag that is too high to support. Here’s what he said:
During a press briefing at today’s Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit, I asked Sen. Lamar Alexander what role Oak Ridge National Laboratory would play in carrying out his proposed energy plan for the U.S.
“Oak Ridge’s role is key,” Alexander responded. “Because if our goal is to double energy research in order to have cheap, clean energy, there is no more important laboratory than Oak Ridge in the world for doing that. Oak Ridge can help with small nuclear reacors, which will be as cheap and maybe safer than our current reactors. Oak Ridge can help get the cost of solar power down to $1 per watt, which costs four times that much today.”