The schedule for constructing the Uranium Processing Facility has been bouncing around about as much as the projected cost of the UPF and, of course, the two are closely intertwined. The longer the project gets stretched out, the more it’s going to cost.
It’s not easy to get a fix on the evolving schedule because the National Nuclear Security Administration has said nothing’s official until the project design is 90 percent complete and that, of course, has been delayed (until sometime in 2014) because of the failure of the initial design effort (which didn’t provide sufficient space for the equipment).
The most recent information comes from the Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2014 report to Congress in June on the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan.
The report provides a 25-year plan “to revitalize and sustain the nuclear security enterprise,” citing some of the short-term and longer-term improvements under way, and it shows Phase 1 of UPF being completed in 2025 and Phases 2 and 3 being accomplished by 2038.
The report addresses physical infrastructure improvements, with shorter-term and longer-term projects on the horizon.
The shorter term capital projects are at Kansas City and Pantex.
“In the long term, NNSA will complete two major capability improvements for uranium and plutonium activities,” the report states. “The first is the plutonium strategy, which is composed of a number of subprograms and projects that will result in a 30-pit-per-year capacity by 2021. The second is the Uranium Capabilities Replacement Project (the budget terminology for the UPF), which will complete Phase 1 in 2025.”
That’s just Phase 1, which is currently focused on relocating the work that places place in the 9212 complex to the UPF.
Phases 2 and 3, which will incorporate the work currently conducted at Building 9215 and 9204-2E (Beta-2E), won’t the completed until 2038, according to a “nominal schedule” on a chart in the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has been reluctant to put anything in stone – schedule or cost – until the design is complete or nearly so.
A briefing package put together by the Government Accountability Office this spring outlined some of the UPF cost increases that have occurred so far and – using data from previous analyses by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NNSA – tried to address where the project costs and schedule might be headed given the risks still around.
According to that briefing report, the NNSA said it wouldn’t have a true cost baseline for the big project until June 2014 or thereabouts.
For much of the planning effort of the Uranium Processing Facility, there have been mixed dates for completion of construction and first operation of the big facility – usually accompanied by the NNSA’s statement that accelerating the schedule was important in order to get out of old and deteriorated production facilities at Y-12 – especially the 9212 uranium processing complex.
For a few years, there was talk of completing the project around 2020 with first operations as soon as possible thereafter. That date floated a bit, but there were obvious schedule setbacks associated with the 2012 decision to re-do the design to correct the space/fit issues.
The GAO briefing package said, “NNSA Documents state that addressing this space/fit issues will require substantial design re-work, cost an additional $540, delay the start of construction, and delay the start of facility operations by 13 months.”
There have been reports that the UPF may end up costing $10 billion or even more, but the NNSA has not confirmed that.
The GAO document suggested that the current best estimate is $6 billion and that’s just for Phase 1 of the project. The GAO also noted there are lots of risks and uncertainties that could drive the price higher.