More on the UPF analysis

The root-cause analysis report on the space/fit design failure was interesting and very detailed, with much more detail that I could report in an earlier post that was quite lengthy. The report, of course, was done by a team of experts from Bechtel and B&W, the two companies in the managing partnership at Y-12 and ultimately responsible for the problems with UPF.

In the analysis report, the authors at one point tried to put the UPF problems — which ultimately forced a redesign effort — into some context.

“It should be noted that, despite its advanced design state, the UPF design is still pre-CD-2. A performance baseline has not yet been established. DOE O 413.3, in Appendix C. recommends that, for process facilities such as UPF, a high level of design maturity be attained before going to CD-2. Demonstrating design maturity should flush out major issues before the baseline is established. The problem on UPF is that the discovery seemed late because the building design was advanced relative to the process design maturity needed to establish a performance baseline.”

That assessment makes sense, except the blame still seems the same. The UPF had been in development for more than a decade — and it was in the hands of B&W Y-12 (a partnership of B&W and Bechtel) since late 2000. There was a ton of time. Many of the people working on the design had been working on the design for years. Whose fault was it that the process design was lagging so far behind the building design? (The argument was to have the most advanced technology possible for the facility of the future, thus taking more time.)

And, the last line in the previous paragraph quoted above was this, “The potential adverse impact of publicity to the project was not recognized.”

I’m not sure what to make of that. Does that mean nobody realized that if the UPF team acknowledged that the design wasn’t going to accommodate all the equipment needed, that the UPF building would have to be redesigned and that it would probably cost taxpayers in excess of $500 million that there would likely be some negative press?


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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.