The Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at Y-12 houses the nation’s largest inventory of weapons-grade uranium. (NNSA photo)
Even a short power outage — lasting only about 1 second — had ramifications on the safety systems at Y-12’s storage facility for bomb-grade uranium.
According to a brief report June 26 by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, “A temporary loss of electrical power caused an abnormal condition that required the shift manager to make an unplanned entry into a Limiting Condition of Operation.” The report said the loss of power for about one second “caused partial activation of the system that forces the facility’s exhaust ventilation fans to remain shut down after power is restored anticipating startup and load transfer to the emergency diesel generator.”
It added, “When power is restored quickly, this transfer does not occur. The (shift manager) entered the appropriate (Limiting Condition of Operation) for this condition” and the secondary confinement system was restored to a “normal configuration” later that day.
The report said this was the second time since the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility began operations in 2010 that a short loss of power caused this condition.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor at Y-12, is evaluating “alternate settings” for the automated systems to address losing power for greater than one second but less than 10 seconds, which currently triggers the partial activation of systems.
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