Category Archives: Bechtel

Revamping facilities is key to Y-12’s uranium future

beta2e-thumb-619x629-19813.jpgThe Beta-2E facility is located in the foreground of this view of the main production complex at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Building 9215 is to the left of Beta-2E. The government’s revised strategy for the Uranium Processing Facility depends not only on construction of a cluster of new facilities to process bomb-grade uranium but also leans heavily on extending the life of some existing production buildings — notably 9215 and Beta-2E. (Y-12 photo)

The future of the uranium mission at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant depends partly on extending of life of two production facilities — Beta-2E and Building 9215 — that are already 46 and 59 years old respectively.

The strategy will require innovative ways to rebuild electrical systems and others parts of the plant’s aged infrastructure, as well as a pervasive focus on worker safety and a steady stream of federal funding for the next 20 years.

Details of the plan are contained in a government report on Y-12’s “Life Extension Program,” which was obtained by the News Sentinel under a Freedom of Information Act request. Continue reading

CNS ‘satisfactory’ on managing weapons mission

In the NNSA’s 2015 evaluation of Consolidated Nuclear Security, the managing contractor at the Y-12 and Pantex plants is rated on six “performance objectives” — 1. manage the nuclear weapons mission; 2. reduce global nuclear security threats mission; 3. DOE and Strategic Partnership Project mission objectives; 4. science, technology and engineering; 5. operations and infrastructure; and 6. leadership.cns

Overall, the contractor’s score was 57 out of 100, and CNS got some of its lowest scores on performance areas that carry the most weight on fees, such as a “satisfactory” rating on managing the nuclear weapons mission (35 percent of the at-risk fee).

The report’s summary noted that key factors affecting the contractor’s work on the weapons mission were quality issues, conduct of operations issues, timely coordination and receipt of weapons response from the design agencies, and a work stoppage at Pantex that was associated with negotiations on a new bargaining agreement. Continue reading

A little crowded at UPF?

As noted before, the folks at the Uranium Processing Facility have been a little secretive about work on the multi-billion-dollar government project. Among other things, they’ve declined to release information on the cost of office space being leased in Commerce Park for the design and engineering activities. The project activities were consolidated there over the past six months.KCLO_END_UPF-02_MP (2)

In 2013, the project team indicated the cost of leased facilities was about $2.2 million annually, but the team is bigger now — reportedly more than 900 people.

I recently asked Consolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor at Y-12, about reports of overcrowding at the two UPF facilities in Commerce Park and whether the UPF workforce was exceeding the occupancy limits. I’d received reports of employees having to stand in line to use the restrooms and a report that the parking lots were filled by 6:30 a.m., with others having to catch shuttles to the site. Continue reading

Safety Forum on Wednesday

A Community Safety Forum will be held Wednesday morning at the American Museum of Science and Energy, beginning at 8 a.m.

The two-hour forum is sponsored by the Oak Ridge Business Safety Partnership, a coalition of government agencies, contractors, labor unions and other parties in the community.

The theme of Wednesday’s event is “Safety Culture: It’s a Community Thing.” Continue reading

Heavy water at the Spallation Neutron Source

snstarget2-thumb-400x266-19690.jpgKevin Jones, operations manager at the Spallation Neutron Source, was pretty excited about the U.S. deal with Iran that will provide a plentiful supply of heavy water for SNS. The use of heavy water in the SNS cooling systems is expected to increase the concentration of neutrons for research by 10 to 20 percent, which is a big deal.

“I think it’s great,” Jones said Monday. “It’s an enormous cost-benefit way to get a big boost in the neutron flux. It’s a cheap solution.” Continue reading

Near-term happenings

Members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, which includes more than 30 activists groups at DOE sites around the country, will be in Washington this week for the annual “DC Days.” The activists plan to meet with congressional staff members and decisionmakers in Washington to discuss issues of interest — especially funding for nuclear weapons and related projects and priorities for environmental cleanup at Cold War nuclear sites. IMG_5674As part of the event, the ANA will present awards to Sen. Dianne Feinstein “for extraordinary leadership to constrain destabilizing new warheads, support global nonproliferation and provide for cleaning up U.S. nuclear weapons sites”; Rep. Adam Smith “for supporting a rigorous, safe cleanup at the Hanford nuclear site by fighting to ensure that workers are protected from exposure to toxic vapors”;  Chuck Montaño “for tireless efforts as an activist, author and personal exemplar of courage to hold the nuclear weapons complex accountable for waste, fraud, and whistle-blower retaliation”; and  Kay Cumbow, who will receive the Judith Johnsrud Unsung Hero Award in collaboration with Beyond Nuclear  “for demonstrating tireless dedication and stubborn determination, despite daunting odds, in her creative, visionary work for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes. ” Continue reading

More radioactive debris unearthed at UPF site


This 2014 photograph shows earth-moving equipment involved in site preparations for the Uranium Processing Facility. (NNSA photo)

Excavation activities at the future site of the Uranium Processing Facility have uncovered another radioactive remnant of earlier operations at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant.

A 4-foot-by-4-foot piece of radioactive metal was unearthed on March 9, according to a quarterly occurrence report filed last week by Consolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor at Y-12.

There was no immediate information on the metal’s former role or why it was buried on the west end of the Oak Ridge plant, where the multibillion-dollar UPF is to be built. Continue reading

Y-12 contractor puts out feeler for new body armor

IMG_4994The government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, which houses the nation’s primary stockpile of bomb-grade uranium, is shopping around for new body armor for its security guards.

Consolidated Nuclear Security issued a notice seeking “expressions of interest” from companies capable of providing the protective apparel, although the Y-12 contractor said the notice does not constitute an invitation for sealed bids or a request for proposals. 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

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

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

UPF summary: ‘We have no further comment’

UPF Site RenderingIn a message to employees late last year that revealed Consolidated Nuclear Security’s first performance score, then-CNS President Jim Haynes noted that the evaluation did not include a review of the Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12. That was to be analyzed separately, he said.

It was later learned that CNS earned $42.6 million in fees for the first 15 months on the job. Again, that figure apparently didn’t include fees for the work on the UPF.

When asked for information on the contractor performance on UPF, NNSA Production Office spokesman Steven Wyatt said, “UPF does not have the same type of performance evaluation process as what exists for the CNS contract for operating Y-12. UPF project performance is focused on cost and schedule incentives rather than award fee.” Continue reading

CNS freezes internal job transfers at Y-12 and Pantex to focus efforts on new hires

y12signBecause of the demands of hiring hundreds of new workers at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants, Consolidated Nuclear Security has announced a two-month suspension of internal job transfers.

“To enable us to stabilize our current situation and provide more focus on achieving our external hiring needs, we are temporarily suspending internal transfers for the next 60 days, effective immediately,” the NNSA contractor said in a message to employees at the nuclear defense installations at Oak Ridge and Amarillo, Texas.

The announcement said CNS is “actively recruiting” for more than 900 jobs openings. This appears to be one of the largest hiring efforts in the post-Cold War period. Continue reading