A newly released report by Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board staffers assigned to Y-12 reveals some information about how the government’s contractor (Consolidated Nuclear Security) plans to sustain capabilities for processing highly enriched uranium and keep operations at the Oak Ridge plant as safe as possible while transitioning out of outdated production facilities.
The Y-12 weekly activity report for Feb. 6 said CNS recently finalized a plan that was requested a year ago by Don Cook, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s deputy administrator for defense programs. Cook asked for a comprehensive strategy for the uranium infrastructure.
The strategy, according to the DNFSB report, would be accomplished in three phases, but the CNS plan only discusses specific milestones and funding sources for the first phase. The initial phase includes actions needed to get out of the antiquated 9212 uranium complex and move the capabilities to other facilities or the Uranium Processing Facility by 2025.
“This phase includes four elements -– material-at-risk (MAR) reduction, process reinvestments (e.g., enhanced maintenance strategies, electrolytic refining deployment), infrastructure upgrades, and the UPF project,” the DNFSB report stated.
The report notes that several of the early-phase activities are already underway at Y-12. That includes reducing the amount of enriched uranium in some of the key facilities.
The safety board report said CNS issued a standing order in late January that administratively reduced the limit for material at risk in Building 9215 by 88 percent. It was noted that the Y-12 contractor had previously reduced the limits for enriched uranium in Building 9212 by 40 percent.
In addition, the safety board report said that NNSA’s Uranium Program Manager (Tim Driscoll) and the NNSA Production Office Manager (Steve Erhart) issued a joint letter in early February challenging Consolidated Nuclear Security to come up with a plan that would double the purified uranium metal production in 9212 to about 1,000 kilograms per year.
“This change would aid MAR (material at risk) reduction efforts by increasing the rate at which EU (enriched uranium) is processed into forms suitable for transfer from Building 9212,” the report states.
According to the report, Phase Two in the CNS infrastructure plan would involve the replacement of capabilities at Buildings 9215 and 9995 with new building by the late-2030s. Phase Three would include the actions needed to sustain the capabilities at Building 9204-2E (also known as Beta-2E), “which is considered an enduring facility,” the report said. Beta-2E was built in 1969.
Replacing Beta-2E with a new facility is not scheduled to take place until after 2040. The facility currently houses the assembly and dismantlement of nuclear warhead components and quality evaluation of those parts.
The CNS strategy document, which is titled, “The Implementation Plan for the Highly Enriched Uranium Mission Strategy at the Y-12 National Security Complex,” has not been released publicly.
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