Monthly Archives: July 2015

DOE’s response to Tennessee’s concerns

tru2In a June 11 response to the state of Tennessee’s concerns about funding for cleanup at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge operations, Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Whitney — who once headed the cleanup program in Oak Ridge — said the FY 2016 budget request would be sufficient to “continue cleanup progress” at Oak Ridge and other sites. And he listed a number of Oak Ridge projects that would be supported by the funding request — including work on U-233 disposition, design work on a mercury treatment facility at Y-12 and the first project in a new groundwater strategy.

In a letter to Robert Martineau, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Whitney said he wanted to “assure” Martineau that the state’s willingness to extend milestones for the transuranic waste program “did not result in a decrease of site cleanup activities in FY 2016.” Continue reading

State warns DOE of ramifications of Oak Ridge cleanup funding concerns

tru3The state of Tennessee has historically worked cooperatively with the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge operations on cleanup issues and has adjusted project schedules and milestones because of technical complexities and budget shortfalls.

However, a state official earlier this year warned DOE that the agency’s Oak Ridge budget request for Fiscal Year 2016 puts the deadlines in the Federal Facilities Agreement “in jeopardy” and may force the state to take actions — such as adding more enforceable milestones — to “assure an acceptable level of funding” for cleanup in Oak Ridge. Continue reading

Choosing superintendent, site managers for park

graphitecontrol.jpgAccording to a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, the NPS hopes to have a superintendent for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park in place by early 2016. As reported earlier, the superintendent will be located in Denver, Colo.

The site managers for Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford — the three locations for the multi-site national park — would likely be named in 2017, said Kathy Kupper of the National Park Services in Washington, D.C. Continue reading

OREPA wants to combine Y-12 environmental reviews; cites DOE’s increasingly ‘opaque’ operations

y12security2The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance has submitted comments on the government’s draft environmental assessment for a new emergency operations center (EOC) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The group says the EM is based on outdated and insufficient seismic data and doesn’t integrate the project into the overall plans for the site. OREPA argues that the EA for a new emergency ops center at Y-12 should be folded into work on a supplement to the outdated Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement, which was done in 2011.

The comment deadline for the draft EA on a new emergency facility planned for Y-12’s east end is tomorrow, July 30. Comments may be submitted to James Donnelly, the National Environmental Policy Act compliance officer for the project, at

The National Nuclear Security Administration has not yet confirmed whether it intends to do a supplement to the Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement for Y-12. But earlier, NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt said the agency was doing an analysis to determine if the supplement is needed (reportedly to address issues with changing plans for the Uranium Processing Facility etc., although NNSA has not confirmed that). Continue reading

Mercury-tainted soil removed at Los Alamos

losalamosmercuryIn a news release, the Department of Energy said Los Alamos National Lab had completed the removal of about 160 cubic yards of mercury-contaminated soil from the side of a canyon, using a “specialized telescoping crane and spider excavator” to do the deed. Here’s a link for more information. Mercury-laden soils have been removed over the years from the floodplain of the East Fork Poplar Creek and other Oak Ridge sites, and much more can be anticipated as the cleanup of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant progresses. Tons of mercury were released into the environment during Y-12’s Cold War work on hydrogen bombs.(DOE photo)

City officials excited about park prospects

9731The choice of Denver as the headquarters for the three-site Manhattan Project National Historical Park was the biggest news to come out of Tuesday’s release of the Memorandum of Agreement.

But City of Oak Ridge officials didn’t fixate on that issue, even though they — like their counterparts at Los Alamos and Hanford — would undoubtedly have preferred that the HQ be located at their home site in the park.

City government affairs and information chief Amy Fitzgerald said the release of the draft memorandum was ahead of schedule and was exciting news. Continue reading

How much does a security clearance cost?

Weapons Plant IntrusionThe answer to the above question depends on what type of security clearance you’re talking about.

In the Department of Energy’s Request for Proposals for the contract to manage the Oak Ridge Institute for Science & Education, would-be bidders are given information to estimate the number and cost of security clearances. Continue reading

Third anniversary of Y-12 break-in


Today is the third anniversary of the Y-12 break-in by three Plowshares protesters — Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed. The three cut through four fences and ultimately reached the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, which they splashed with baby bottles of human blood. The event turned the security world upside down and resulted in multiple changes in the nuclear weapons complex. It also galvanized supporters of nuclear disarmament and anti-nuclear activists and drew increased attention to plans for a multibillion-dollar production facility at the Oak Ridge plant.

50,000 curies of cesium-137 recovered from Mexico

radioactivesignThe National Nuclear Security Administration today said the NNSA, in conjunction with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, United Mexican States and other agencies, recovered three U.S.-origin radioactive sources — totaling 50,000 curies of cesium-137– from southern Mexico and transported them to an Air Force Base in the U.S. The shipment was then moved to an unnamed storage facility for safekeeping. According to the NNSA release, the three irradiators recovered from Mexico were used for decades to help eradicate a livestock parasite (screwworm). Cesium-137 is a particular concern because of its potential use in so-called dirty bombs (radiological dispersal devices).

Manhattan Project Park’s central office proposed for Denver; Oak Ridge, Hanford and Los Alamos to each have site manager

graphitereactor.jpgOak Ridge National Laboratory’s Graphite Reactor, the world’s first continuously operated nuclear reactor, will be part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

The central office for the three-site Manhattan Project National Historical Park would be located in Denver, Colo., according to a draft “memorandum of agreement” released today by the National Park Service and the U.S. Department of Energy. Continue reading