Federal spokesman Steven Wyatt said the Pantex nuclear weapons plant reopened on Tuesday after being closed a day earlier due to blizzard conditions in the Texas Panhandle. There were no immediate reports of weather impacts at the national security plant, where nuclear warhead are put together and dismantled.
In early 2014, evidence of radioactive pollution was discovered in the city of Oak Ridge’s sewage treatment facility on the west side of town.
The radioactive contaminants, which can be mobile in the environment, had infiltrated pipelines leading to the sewer system.
Although the radioactivity reportedly didn’t not pose a health threat to workers at the plant or drinking water supplies in the area, it prompted a number of cleanup actions — including efforts to remove the technetium in the sewage treatment systems. Continue reading
The Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General investigated allegations that the contractor at Y-12 (Consolidated Nuclear Security) had “encouraged employees to ignore safety regulations” and made employees reluctant to report injuries for fear of reprisal.
The IG’s inspection, however, did not find evidence to support those allegations. In fact, the findings were generally positive.
Here’s an excerpt from the report’s summary: Continue reading
Aerial view of the east side of the East Tennessee Technology Park shows the K-1037 building (circled), which is scheduled for demolition. The building was the design and manufacturing center for the “barrier” used in gaseous diffusion plants to enrich uranium. Below, Mark Whitney, DOE’s deputy assistant secretary for environmental management, dresses out in protective gear before entering the K-1037 building during a visit to Oak Ridge earlier this month. (UCOR photos)
The biggest concern in cleaning up and tearing down K-1037 is not radioactive waste but rather the classified contents of the big building once used to produce “barrier” — a secret component of the gaseous diffusion technology used to separate isotopes of uranium for use in atomic bombs and nuclear reactors.
“The barrier is sintered nickel powder,” Mike Koentop, executive officer in DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, said in response to questions. “Any elaboration beyond that is classified.” Continue reading
To prepare for the upcoming construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, one of the biggest projects in Oak Ridge history, contractors earlier this year dug up two large parking lots and excavated part of a road and other asphalt areas on the west side of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.
The site-prep activities for UPF created a mountain of asphalt slabs — 63 million pounds all told — but it didn’t go to waste. Continue reading
President George W. Bush meets with some Oak Ridge National Laboratory employees following a speech at the lab on terrorism, July 12, 2004. Earlier that day, Bush had gotten his first look at some Libyan centrifuge equipment that was brought to Oak Ridge as part of one of his administration’s top diplomatic accomplishments. (Department of Energy archives/Lynn Freeny photo)
An Oak Ridge National Laboratory employee uses a remote-manipulator to move a vial of plutonium-238 oxide inside a shielded hot cell at ORNL’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. (ORNL photo/Jason Richards)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory announced Tuesday it had achieved production of 50 grams of plutonium-238. That’s roughly the mass of a golf ball, according to the Department of Energy, but it’s considered an important milestone in re-establishing a U.S. stockpile of Pu-238 for use as a power source on deep-space missions.
ORNL has been developing the capability over the past couple of years with funding that NASA provided via the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. The lab uses the High Flux Isotope Reactor for production of the plutonium isotope and then processes and purifies the radioactive material in a series of shielded hot cells. Continue reading
Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have new insights into the mining of uranium from seawater. Check it out at the ORNL website.
The Department of Energy’s environmental advisory board in Oak Ridge has released its annual report for 2015.
UCOR (URS-CH2M Oak Ridge) is the Department of Energy’s cleanup manager in Oak Ridge, and that role has brought the contractor head to head with some challenging tasks — such as fixing the leak in the reactor pool at the ORNL’s Oak Ridge Research Reactor and tearing down lots of big buildings.
UCOR also has been given the lead in designing a new mercury treatment facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, and that work is starting to really move forward, with the preliminary design to be completed in the spring of 2016, according to UCOR’s recent response to questions. Continue reading