What October 2015 means

Uranium Processing Facility

Uranium Processing Facility (B&W Y-12)

October 2015 has acquired significance with the Uranium Processing Facility because that’s when the National Nuclear Security Administration says it expects to gain approval of Critical Decision 2 and Critical Decision 3 — establishing a firm cost and schedule for the multibillion-dollar project, as well as starting construction of the nuclear facility.

What wasn’t necessarily clear in the NNSA’s recent statement on that issue was whether the cost to be released at that date would be for the entire UPF project or just the first phase — which focuses on construction of the building and transitioning the work now done in the World War II-era 9212 complex. (Phase Two and Phase Three will transfer work currently done in Building 9215 and Beta-2E at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.)

In response to questions, NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt confirmed that the cost and schedule to be released at that time will be only for Phase One.

That seems to mesh with some earlier statements from NNSA, and so it’s not clear now when the federal administration — a part of the U.S. Department of Energy — plans to release the overall cost for the Uranium Processing Facility.

John Eschenberg, the federal project director of UPF, earlier this year confirmed that some of the information contained in GAO documents — including the current “best estimate” of the cost, $6 billion — was associated with Phase one, not the entire project.

At last report, the NNSA expects to complete the first phase by 2025, with Phases Two and Three coming sometime in the mid- to late-2030s.

Eschenberg earlier indicated that one of his biggest concerns about UPF was the transition of contractors and the potential impact on workers. Although he made the statement in late May, it’s likely still a concern because the transition of contractors is still pending. The National Nuclear Security Administration selected Bechtel-led Consolidated Nuclear Facility to manage Y-12 and Pantex, as well as take over the lead on the UPF. CNS and two losing bidders (Nuclear Production Partners and Integrated Nuclear Solutions), who filed protests on the contract award, are supposed to get debriefed late this week on the NNSA’s recent decision that reaffirm the earlier award to Consolidated Nuclear Security. The timetable for transitioning has not been set, although a NNSA spokeswoman said it would begin as soon as the protests are no longer in play.

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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.