NNSA confirms UPF slowdown

Uranium Processing Facility

Uranium Processing Facility (B&W Y-12)

As reported last week, the Department of Energy’s Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan states that the First Phase of the Uranium Processing Facility project will be completed in 2025, which indicated a rather significant delay from previous reports that — just a couple of years ago — had the entire project completed before then. The First Phase is focused on moving the operations now housed in the 9212 uranium processing complex at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. Phases Two and Three, incorporating the work now done in Y-12’s 9215 building and 9204-2E (Beta-2E), would not be completed until around 2038.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, in a response to earlier questions about the plan, this week confirmed the schedule in the Stockpile Stewardship report as being the most up-to-date assessment of the work plan for the multibillion-dollar project.

In response to questions, NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt said the FY 2014 document “contains the most current estimate on the operational date for UPF. ” He added: “This is based on current design and planned funding.  The schedule and cost will be fully refined when the formal baseline is completed.”

There have been reports circulating that the Uranium Processing Facility’s price tag — previously estimated at a range between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion — has grown in a big way, possibly to $10 billion or more. The NNSA has not confirmed those reports, but the federal agency has repeatedly noted that if the schedule for the new facility gets stretched out, the cost of the project will go up. Sen. Lamar Alexander also expressed similar views about the UPF planning and expressed his concerns about cost growth.

Wyatt would not address the current cost estimate for the UPF, but he acknowledged that the biggest factor in the changing schedule is the forced redesign of the building due to a “space/fit” issue — the original design would not accommodate all of the needed equipment.

“The delay is primarily related to the space fit issue,” Wyatt said via email.

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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.