Category Archives: DOE HQ

Sauthoff: U.S. ITER team ‘quite confident’

sauthoffEnergy Secretary Ernest Moniz reportedly requested and received more time to prepare his department’s status report on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor and make recommendations for U.S. involvement in the project’s future. That report is now to be delivered to congressional appropriators on May 12.

Funding for the U.S. participation in the international project has been a topic of controversy, especially in the Senate. The initial markup of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill in the Senate zeroed out funding for the project in FY 2017, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he was anxious to hear from Moniz before pushing forward on a new path. Continue reading

Amendment would prohibit future purchases of heavy water from Iran

cottonU.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., earlier this week filed an amendment to the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that would prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to purchase additional quantities of heavy water from Iran. It would not affect last week’s deal in which the Obama administration purchased 32 tons of heavy water from Iran.

Here’s a Tuesday statement from Cotton: Continue reading

Who’ll buy heavy water?

ornlsign1Oak Ridge National Laboratory manages the Department of Energy’s Isotope Business Office and, as such, will be storing and selling some of the 32 tons of heavy water acquired in a deal with Iran.

Once it arrives and goes up for sale, who’ll be approved for purchases of the material, which has multiple uses (including development of parts for nuclear weapons and certain kinds of reactors that produce plutonium)? Continue reading

SNS outage in 2017 will be extra long

In order to introduce heavy water into the target cooling system, workers at the Spallation Neutron Source will load the cooling loops next year during the planned replacement of the “inner reflector plug.” That’s a big job, especially because the plug is in an extremely radioactive area near the mercury target, and so the work will have to done remotely.snsnight-thumb-400x272-19021.jpg

This will be the first time that the plug has been replaced since SNS began operations in 2006. In the future, it’ll probably be replaced about every five years, according to Kevin Jones, the SNS operations manager.

Because of the difficulty of the endeavor, Oak Ridge National Laboratory workers are already practicing the removal of the hot plug and installing a new one, Jones said.

The new inner reflector plug is scheduled to arrive in September or October. The SNS typically has two big maintenance outage, one around Christmas and the other in the summer. Continue reading

Titan taking giant steps while ORNL preps for next great supercomputer

IMG_5695Buddy Bland, director of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, pauses amid the cabinets of Titan, the Cray XK7 supercomputer that’s capable of 20 million billion calculations per second. (KNS/Frank Munger photo) Photograph below shows Bland opening a Titan cabinet. (KNS/Michael Patrick photo)

The whir of the computer room, discernible even with ear protection in place, is the background music for success at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

bland2ORNL, a global leader in scientific computing for decades, appears to be secure in that role, for now and the future.

Titan, a Cray XK7 supercomputer, is currently ranked No. 2 on the TOP500 list of the world’s fastest computers, second only to China’s Tianhe-2. More important than Titan’s sheer speed — about 20 million billion calculations per second — is its scientific production.

ORNL Director Thom Mason said it’s the best science machine on the planet, bar none, optimized for researchers to tackle science’s great challenges. 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

ORNL benefits from Iran deal; heavy water will enhance operations at Spallation Neutron Source

SNS Building MarkerOak Ridge National Laboratory last year provided scientific and technical expertise to the team that negotiated the Iranian nuclear agreement in Vienna, and the lab is now reaping benefits from that historic accord.

The Obama administration, according to multiple news reports, is buying 32 tons of heavy water from Iran. Heavy water is a key component in development of nuclear weapons and can be used in certain types of nuclear reactors that produce plutonium, and the deal — estimated at $8.6 million — will reportedly help Iran meet commitments for reducing its stockpile of weapons-making material.sns1

The United States does not currently have a source for producing heavy water, and the deal with Iran will help meet a number of needs.

ORNL has been asked to store the newly acquired supply of heavy water, which is water laden with deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. The Oak Ridge lab houses the Department of Energy’s Isotope Business Office, and it will sell quantities of heavy water to qualified buyers.

Besides that, the lab will use several tons of the heavy water to bolster capabilities at the Spallation Neutron Source, a world-class research facility that produces neutrons for experiments that explore the structure and behavior of materials. 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

Will the U.S. pull out of ITER? Alexander says he’s waiting to hear from Moniz

monizap.jpgAfter marking up the FY 2017 energy and water appropriations bill,  U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., fielded questions from reporters in a Wednesday afternoon telephone hookup.

I asked Alexander about the decision to eliminate funding for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, which he said would save about $125 million in 2017, and whether he favored the United States pulling out as a partner in the huge international fusion project. The other partners are China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

Alexander demurred and said he was waiting on a report from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Continue reading

Losing bidder files protest on $1.4B ORISE contract

oriseThe losing bidder on the $1.4 billion contract to manage the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education has filed a protest with a federal court. DOE last month awarded the contract to Oak Ridge Associated Universities, the incumbent.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims confirmed that a protest was filed March 24 by the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education on behalf of the Desert Research Institute, which submitted a contract proposal for the Oak Ridge institute. Continue reading

Preparing for a rad shipping accident

The Department of Energy awarded a $2.6 million contract (one-year base, with two one-year options) to Technical Resources Group Inc. for support services to the Transportation Emergency Preparedness Program. According to info released by DOE’s Cincinnati office, the contractor will provide support to authorities — state, local or federal — to prepare for a response to a transportation accident involving shipments of radiological materials.