Aerial view of the World War II-era 9212 uranium complex at Y-12. (B&W Y-12 photo)
A newly released memo by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board highlights key findings in the annual report by the Continued Safe Operability Oversight Team (CSOOT) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. The team performs evaluations of the condition at the 9212 uranium complex and other key production facilities and plant infrastructure at Y-12 that are growing long in the tooth and facing significant deterioration issues. The team looks at changing conditions as well as tracks the progress on upgrades taking place to try to extend the life of the old buildings.
The center of attention, as always, is the World War II-era 9212 complex.
According to the safety board memo, the new CSOOT report said Building 9212’s most significant infrastructure issues over the past year “involved roof leaks, breathing air system breakdowns, and ventilation system issues.” In addition, “Significant process equipment issues included hydrogen fluoride leaks during Oxide Conversion Facility operations, cracking in the luminous wall of the Holden Gas Furnace, and the inoperability of the Primary Extraction system’s gamma radiation monitor.”
The report also looked at concerns at 9215, which could need significant life-extension work in order to carry out the recommendations of the Red Team report, and Beta-2E, another old facility that is expected to continue operations for many years to come.
“The main ongoing issues in Building 9215 involve a steam leak in the M-Wing plenum that cannot be repaired without costly asbestos abatement actions, and challenges reducing worker radiation exposures during chip packing and machining of oxide-covered metal parts,” the staff memo stated.
The report said the ongoing Nuclear Facility Risk Reduction Project, which was established to help stall the deterioration of the old facilities and make upgrades where possible, continues to show a “strong performance” and is on schedule to complete the planned refurbishments in Fiscal Year 2015.
It was noted that despite funding challenges in FY2014, Y-12 had completed some of the risk-reduction projects.
Even though there were positive findings, it was also noted that the changes recommended by the Red Team could require changes in scope that would continue operations at 9215 and 9204-2E (Beta-2E) all the way into the 2040s.
“The CSOOT recommended that line management establish a comprehensive equipment and system preventive and predictive maintenance program for Buildings 9215 and 9204-2E,” the safety board memo stated. “The CSOOT noted that the investment needs for the existing EU (enriched uranium) infrastructure have increased since certain capabilities are no longer planned for transition to UPF. However, there is significant uncertainty in future funding profiles due to recent shortfalls in program funding for Production Support and Maintenance and Repair. As a result, the CSOOT has a growing concern that safe operations cannot be maintained within the existing EU infrastructure for the remainder of its projected operational lifetime.”
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