Category Archives: lithium

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

Pondering repairs in Y-12’s production complex

y12overviewI received an unconfirmed report that Y-12 management is planning to tear down a small  facility near Beta-2 (Building 9204-2) in order to install scaffolding to do repair work on Beta-2 — which houses the plant’s weapons work with lithium. There have been a number of problems at Beta-2 in recent years, including chunks of concrete falling from the ceiling.

The reported plan to demolish the “Beta-2 annex” apparently hasn’t met with favor among some workers, one of whom described it as a “perfectly good building” that’s home to about 40 employees. The unconfirmed report also suggested this approach could cost as much as $3 million.  Continue reading

Lithium czar?

There have been reports that the National Nuclear Security Administration intends to name a lithium materials manager, presumably a job that will be similar to Tim Driscoll’s role as uranium program manager. But it hasn’t happened yet.

In the newly released Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan, NNSA states that a Lithium Strategic Material Manager will be named in 2016. Continue reading

Mercury treatment facility enters final design

mercurysignOne of most anticipated projects on the horizon is the new mercury treatment facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. The big project, with a price tag approaching $150 million, is extended to help reduce discharges of mercury into East Fork Poplar Creek.

URS-CH2M Oak Ridge, the Department of Energy’s chief cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge, is working on the design.

Asked for an update on the design effort, UCOR spokeswoman Anne Smith provided this response via email: Continue reading

NNSA says there’s enough lithium to last through 2028

y12overviewThe Government Accountability Office issued a report last summer raising concerns about Y-12’s stockpile of purified lithium for use in refurbishing nuclear warheads, saying the demand had tripled and suggesting the Oak Ridge plant could run out of the weapons material by 2018 if something wasn’t done to bolster supplies. In December, the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General issued a critical report that echoed some of the GAO’s concerns.

However, during a tele-briefing with reporters on Wednesday, top officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration said other sources of lithium had been identified as part of a “bridging strategy” to ensure needs are met until a new lithium production capability comes online (reportedly planned for the 2025 timeframe). Continue reading

Beg, borrow or . . . hire

y12overviewThe National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office, which oversees operations at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons facilities, doesn’t have a structural engineer on its staff. That’s of interest, given the deteriorated state of so many buildings at Y-12, some of which date back to the plant’s World War II origins.

According to a recently released memo by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, the board had previously  noted that the lack of a structural engineer was a “weakness” in NNSA’s ability to oversee contractor work to address “ongoing structural degradation at Y-12.” The memo said NNSA’s Production Office had recently arranged for a structural engineer at DOE’s Oak Ridge Office to be detailed to Y-12 for several weeks to provide support. Continue reading

IG underscores concern about Y-12’s lithium capabilities

y12overviewA new audit report by the Department of Energy’s Office Of Inspector General criticizes Y-12’s management of the lithium production program and raises serious concerns. The report questions the plant’s ability to refurbish some nuclear weapons systems in the years ahead given the current conditions and echoes many of the national security issues raised earlier this year in a Government Accountability Office review — which said Y-12 could run out of weapons-grade lithium by 2018. Continue reading