Mul Wyman, who in 1969-70 was a Minuteman II Missile launch control officer at Whiteman Air Force Base, said he’s concerned about security at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. Very concerned, he said, by events of recent vintage — including the break-in by peace protesters last year and other embarrassments.
“What they need (at Y-12) is the same thing they do in the military,” Wyman, who’s retired in Farragut, said earlier this week. He called and emailed me to find out the status of retired Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, who’s reported to be President Obama’s upcoming nominee to be head of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The existing management contracts at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants have been extended through September, giving the government more time to try to work out a solution to a $22 billion contract squabble and ease the uncertainty for thousands of workers. The GAO’s deadline for ruling on the latest protest on the Y-12/Pantex contract award is Sept. 25.
More on this later.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory this past week announced some new working relationships with the DOE-funded Carbon Fiber Technology Facility in Oak Rdige. The lab said it is accepting proposals from companies that “want to try out the low-cost carbon fiber to develop new products and tap markets in such areas as transportation, energy production and infrastructure.”
The announcement on the plan is available here.
The construction of K-31 gets under way at Oak Ridge, May 24, 1950. (Dept. of Energy archives/Photo by Ed Westcott)
Gary Wisdom, security chief in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office (overseeing Y-12 and Pantex), left federal service last week and has been replaced by Arnold Guevara. Guevara has served as director of the DOE’s Office of Headquarters Security Operations in Washington, D.C. and is transitioning to the NNSA Production Office. He’s expected to be full time by September.
It’s not immediately clear where Guevara will be based, Oak Ridge or Amarillo. Wisdom, who was a part of the NPO leadership team from its inception in June 2012, was based in Amarillo but spent a lot of time in Oak Ridge — particularly because of the last year’s security breach and all of the attention paid to that event and the subsequent improvements.
The plants are a thousand miles apart but the people who work there are asking the same kinds of questions, similar to the one in the headline above. The combined management contract for the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants is pretty much where it’s been for a while, in a land called unresolved. It seems like it’ll stay right there for at least a few more months, but I won’t claim to be an expert — not on this, of all things, for goshsakes. The National Nuclear Security Administration has not been talking a lot, so that complicates things.
Sept. 25 may be a key date. That’s when the 100-day clock at the Government Accountability Office is supposed to run out on the second-stage protest that was filed back in June by B&W-led Nuclear Production Partners, one of the losing bidders on the contract (which was awarded in January to Bechtel-headed Consolidated Nuclear Security).
The National Nuclear Security Administration is still not saying much about the incident early Sunday morning at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, in which a firearm reportedly discharged accidentally and slightly injured two security police officers. “Right now we have no further comment,” Fed spokesman Steven Wyatt said this evening. Various reports have circulated, apparently many of them wrong or not exactly right. Wyatt confirmed that the incident was not part of a force-on-force type exercise, and he also said that MILES (multiple integrated laser engagement system) gear was not involved. The spokesman said the investigation is continuing.
Robert Jubin of Oak Ridge National Laboratory has received the 2013 Robert E. Wilson Award from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. “The (institute) recognized Jubin’s considerable contributions in the areas of nuclear fuel reprocessing and radioactive waste treatment and his chemical engineering achievements in the nuclear industry,” the laboratory said in announcing the honor. Jubin works in ORNL’s Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division.
I’ve posted this archival film from World War II a couple of times previously, but I never cease to be amazed at the early construction activity on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge.
Mikhail Sokolov, a senior researcher in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Materials Science and Technology Division, has received the Award of Merit from the American Society for Testing and Materials International. Sokolov was recognized for his contributions to symposia on nuclear technology and his work on “transition range fracture toughness standards.”
Much has been written about the problems incurred while the folks at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant try to bring microwave casting into the production units at the 9212 complex, where highly enriched uranium is processed.
Not nearly as much has been written about why the use of microwaves is useful, desirable and what’s being achieved with this technology at Y-12. In an unusual sort of post, the staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board essentially provided a primer of sorts on microwave casting in its June 21 weekly report to board headquarters in Washington.
USEC Inc. this week announced a number of milestones associated with its ongoing effort to build a new uranium-enrichment plant employing advanced centrifuge technology at its Piketon, Ohio, site. (Oak Ridge is a key manufacturing location supporting that project.)
Among the notable part of the announcement was the Department of Energy, as part of a cost-sharing agreement to support the Research, Development and Demonstration program for the American Centrifuge Project, has provided another $29.9 million — which USEC said is enough to fund the work through Sept. 30. DOE’s total contribution on that program (in which the federal agency is supplying 80 percent) is up to $280 million, and DOE has now contributed $227.7 million.
B&W Y-12 President and General Manager Chuck Spencer delivered a message to Y-12 employees on the one-year anniversary of the July 28, 2012 break-in at the Oak Ridge plant.
Here is the text of Spencer’s message: