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.

“Work was suspended as efforts commenced to restore construction site drainage,” the safety board report stated.

In late February, site personnel noticed that storm water had infiltrated around the 36-inch line and was starting to undermine the newly installed piping and “posed a threat to the surrounding infrastructure,” the report stated.

Y-12’s managing contractor convened a meeting of the Operational Safety Board to authorize emergency work “to allow expedited modifications to the storm drain and stabilize the construction site in advance of pending storms.”

The Operational Safety Board asked that a Y-12 civil engineer evaluate the proposed changes to the drain as a condition before approving the modifications. However, due to a “miscommunication,” the emergency work was started a few hours prior to the evaluation and approval.

CNS reportedly held a number of fact-finding sessions to document issues and make recommendations for correcting them. There also are plans to reassess ways to communicate unexpected conditions to the multiple parties involved on UPF.

It’s not yet clear how much damage was done at the site, whether it’ll impact future schedules, and how much money it’ll cost. Additional info was not immediately available from the project office or the Corps.

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This entry was posted in Bechtel, CNS, UPF, uranium, Y-12 on by .

About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.