Monthly Archives: March 2016

ORNL sets new standard for wireless charging of electric vehicles

wirelessOak Ridge National Laboratory announced Thursday that it had successfully demonstrated a new 20-kilowatt wireless charging system for electric vehicles.

The lab said the charging system achieved 90 percent efficiency at three times the rate of the plug-in systems commonly used to recharge electric vehicles.

“This ability can help accelerate the adoption and convenience of electric vehicles,” ORNL said in a release distributed to the news media.

The Department of Energy laboratory collaborated on technology development with Toyota, Cisco Systems, Evatran, and Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research. Continue reading

Alexander, Udall urge Labor Dept. to halt rule changes on sick worker compensation program

alexandersummitIn a letter sent Thursday,  U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., urged  Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to halt the implementation of dozens of rule changes in the government’s compensation program for sick nuclear workers.

The senators asked Perez to delay the implementation of at least 72 proposed changes until the Labor Department can incorporate the findings of a recent Government Accountability Office report on the program and allow time for the newly created Advisory Board on Toxic Substances and Worker Health to come online and review the changes. The newly created board is scheduled to have its first meeting in April.

According to Alexander and Udall, some of the proposed changes to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness and Compensation Program could adversely impact the adjudication of claims filed by former workers or their surviving relatives.

Here’s a statement from Alexander:

“At the peak of the Cold War, nearly 600,000 workers across the country — including tens of thousands of Tennesseans — were involved in the research and production of nuclear weapons. These men and women worked with little-understood hazardous materials to build and maintain our nation’s nuclear defense and keep our country safe. The Department of Labor is proposing to put in place rules that could make it harder for these workers, many of whom are sick and elderly, to get the medical benefits they deserve. We think the department should first address potential problems with its operation of the program before the department adds more burdens to these workers.” Continue reading

SNS ready to go; research resumes tonight

snscontrolFollowing the successful change out of the target vessel, the Spallation Neutron Source is apparently ready to resume production of neutrons on a research-scale Wednesday evening. The SNS team has scurried to get things back in order following the March 22 failure of the previous vessel.

In a message via email Wednesday afternoon, SNS operations chief Kevin Jones said: Continue reading

Storm drain mishap delayed some UPF activities

622314-001A late-January incident that destroyed a storm drain at the Y-12 site being prepared for construction of the Uranium Processing Facility delayed some work for more than a month, a federal spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

The work was being performed by Emerald/A&H Joint Venture under a subcontract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is supervising the site prep under an agreement with the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Steven Wyatt, a spokesman in the NNSA’s Production Office at Y-12, said the costs associated with reconnecting the drainage pipe at the site were absorbed by the contractor. “Therefore, there was no cost to the U.S. government,” Wyatt said via email. Continue reading

More up-and-down operations at SNS; restart expected later this week after target change

SNS Building MarkerThe Spallation Neutron Source, one of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s top research facilities, is expected to resume operations later this week after a pause to change a target vessel that failed on March 22.

SNS operations chief Kevin Jones provided an update Tuesday on the situation at SNS, which has experienced an elevator ride of good and bad results over the past year. High-end science is sometimes fragile or so it seems.sns1

According to Jones, the SNS systems had been operating well at high power levels until last Tuesday, when the tech-loaded target vessel reported a “leak condition” — meaning that some of the liquid mercury had breached its containment and entered the “sealed interstitial space” where the sensors are located.

There has been a history of the stainless-steel vessels failing prematurely but that wasn’t necessarily the case in this instance. After all, the SNS had operated under pretty extreme conditions in the most recent run, with a beam power of up to 1.4 megawatts — the maximum — and much longer runs at 1.3 megawatts.

Jones said the SNS ran very well at 1.3 megawatts until the leak was detected. Continue reading

Big progress at switchyard project

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Concrete supports for the electricial infrastructure are all that’s left of the K-732 Switchyard at the East Tennessee Technology Park. (DOE photo/Lynn Freeny)

The demolition of an old switchyard at the government’s former uranium-enrichment plant is pretty much a done deal, according to a Department of Energy spokesman, and what’s left to be done is characterization of soils at the Oak Ridge site to determine if there’s any contamination that needs to be removed. Continue reading

Y-12/Pantex give $1.1M to United Way

According to information released today by Consolidated Nuclear Security, Y-12 and Pantex contributed about $1.1 million to the United Way in the recently concluded campaigns. The contributions came from employees, retirees and corporate gifts, the contractor stated.

Editorial: NNSA’s delays ‘unacceptable’

In a recent editorial, the Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal emphasized the importance of publicly releasing contractor performance evaluations at the government’s nuclear weapons sites, and the newspaper chastised the National Nuclear Security Administration for delaying the release of that information for Fiscal Year 2015.

A number of organizations, including the News Sentinel and the Journal, have filed requests for the release of those documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Continue reading

Oak Ridge council to vote on DOE contract extension

water treatment plantUndated photo shows the Oak Ridge Water Treatment Plant on Pine Ridge adjacent to the Y-12 National Security Complex. (Y-12 photo)

Oak Ridge City Council will hold a special called meeting late this afternoon to vote on a proposed one-year extension of the city’s agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to provide water to the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The city took over the former DOE water plant 15 years ago and provides potable water to the two federal facilities, in addition to the local community.

The aged facility is in need of repairs, and Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said a contract extension will give the city more time to consider whether to build a new facility or engage in long-term and extensive repairs. Regardless, the existing facility on Pine Ridge near Y-12 will need some repairs in the next few years, he said. Continue reading

UPF uh-oh

UPF Site RenderingConceptual plan for the Uranium Processing Facility on the west side of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge. (NNSA)

According to a  newly released report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a contractor on the Uranium Processing Facility project inadvertently “demolished” an active 36-inch storm drain while installing a new 48-inch storm drain line to prepare for construction of the multibillion-dollar production complex.

The accident occurred in late January during work by the project’s excavation contractor under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps is managing some of the UPF site work under an inter-agency agreement with the National Nuclear Security Administration.

In early February, the Corps of Engineers informed Bechtel National, CNS and the UPF Project Office of the error, the Feb. 29 report by DNFSB staff stated.

Even though the UPF project office has a site representative to ensure “configuration control” of Y-12 systems is maintained during work on the project, it took several days for the error to be recognized and several more days for the Corps of Engineers to inform the Y-12 contractor and the UPF project office. Continue reading