Category Archives: Y-12

The new-jobs breakdown at Y-12, Pantex

Basic RGBAs noted in an earlier post, Consolidated Nuclear Security has hired more than 650 new workers in Fiscal Year 2016 — more than halfway to the goal of 1,150 new hires at the two plants managed by CNS, Y-12 in Oak Ridge and Pantex in Amarillo, Texas.

CNS today gave the breakdown by plant. More than 350 of the new workers are at Y-12, and more than 300 at Pantex.

A uranium back-up

Air ducts associated with a Holden Gas Furnace at Y-12 last month reportedly had a build-up of uranium particles that exceeded nuclear safety limits, prompting a temporary pause in operations associated with the recycling of highly enriched uranium.

The issue was reported in a recently released May 23 staff memo by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board assigned to the Oak Ridge plant. Continue reading

DOE report cites criticality alarm issues at Y-12

Radiation (2)A newly released Department of Energy assessment of the criticality accident alarm system at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant said the operation is “adequately” maintained, but the review team identified two “deficiencies” that raised uncertainty as to whether the system will fully function as planned.

A nuclear criticality accident is an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction with release of dangerous levels of radiation. Such an accident is Y-12’s biggest fear because of the huge volume of fissionable material — highly enriched uranium — that is stored and processed at the Oak Ridge plant. The only criticality accident in Y-12 history occurred June 16, 1958, and eight workers were hospitalized with severe doses of radiation. (Accident scene is pictured, right.)

The new assessment was conducted earlier this year, and it included a review of the alarm components in four Y-12 facilities — Buildings 9212, Beta-2E, 9215 and 9720-5 — that are involved in the handling of enriched uranium. Continue reading

Y-12/Pantex contractor hires more than 650

Consolidated Nuclear Security, the government’s managing contractor at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants, confirmed that it has hired more than 650 employees since the start of Fiscal Year 2016.Basic RGB

That’s more than halfway to the hiring target of 1,150 jobs for the two National Nuclear Security Administration sites. The breakdown of hirings by plant was not available. Continue reading

Still no decision on bringing tritium to CNS contract

Basic RGBThe National Nuclear Security Administration today confirmed it has not yet made a decision on whether to exercise an option to incorporate the tritium activities at the Savannah River Site into the Y-12/Pantex management contract held by Consolidated Nuclear Security. The CNS contract is coming up on its two-year anniversary. The Bechtel-led team assumed responsibility for managing the two plants on July 1, 2014. Continue reading

Recalling the joys of reporting

munger1984If there was one place, just one, to sit and reflect on the past 35 years, I guess I’d have to choose a seat in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Central Auditorium. Somewhere on the right side, maybe about the fifth row. That was generally close enough to get a look at the stage, but far enough back to be enveloped by the crowd and feel the excitement as the room began to fill. It was positioned so I could dash to the stage for an interview afterward or make a quick exit to the hallway if time was short and a deadline was near.

ORNL’s old-style auditorium, kind of musty and sloped from front to back, was where I first embraced the joy of my job. Continue reading

Y-12’s leak city

9212Overview of the aged Building 9212 at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. (Y-12 photo)

In a newly released activity report by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Board, it was noted that a Y-12 engineer received contamination on his forearm when a “drop of process solution” dripped from overhead in the C-1 Wing of Building 9212 — the plant’s main facility for processing highly enriched uranium.

The report noted that even though the non-destructive assay engineer was wearing the appropriate protective clothing, the acidic solution soaked through the nylon cloth and resulted in skin contamination. The first attempt to remove the radioactive residue was apparently not fully successful, but a second effort “reduced the (radiation) readings to less-than-detectable levels,” the safety board staff reported.

The drip of uranium solution reportedly came from the connection between a drain valve and a section of tubing. Continue reading

Lawler-Wood to develop new complex at Pantex

Aerial photoConceptual design of planned Administrative Support Complex at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Texas. Construction is expected to begin in August.

Lawler-Wood LLC of Knoxville will develop a new 342,000-square-foot administative complex at the Pantex nuclear weapons plant under a private-financing arrangement similar to what was used for two facilities — New Hope Center and Jack Case Center — at Y-12 in Oak Ridge.

Wayne Roquemore, president of Lawler-Wood, said the complex will be built on property that’s adjacent to Pantex and currently owned by Texas Tech University. The land will be purchased from the university, he said.

Once developed by Lawler-Wood, with financing via Panhandle Economic Development Corp., it will be leased by an ownership  group to Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at Pantex and Y-12. CNS said it had received approval from the National Nuclear Security Administration to negotiate the lease. The initial lease term will reportedly be for five years, with multiple options for the future. Continue reading

Saddleworn reporter heading out of Dodge

As I finished up a recent Chinese dinner of chicken with black bean sauce, I cracked open my fortune cookie and glanced at the message inside.

“All things have an end,” it said, fittingly enough as I get ready for retirement at the end of the month.munger1

For the past 35 years, maybe a little more, I’ve covered the Department of Energy and its Oak Ridge operations. It’s a news beat I created at the News Sentinel after serving as state editor and realizing the wealth of news potential at the government facilities.

It’s been a pleasantly bumpy ride these many years, with a lot of highlights and some unusual happenings. I’m kind of proud of some of the things accomplished. Continue reading

Orlando shooter had no Y-12 connect

As noted previously, the Orlando nightclub shooter had worked for security contractor G4S since 2007, and the contractor, previously known as Wackenhut, provided security services at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant for more than a decade — from 2000 to 2012. But a federal spokesman at Y-12 confirmed that Omar Mateen had never worked at Y-12 or had any association with the Oak Ridge plant. Continue reading

Orlando shooter worked for G4S

The Orlando nightclub shooter worked for G4S, one of the world’s largest security companies, according to multiple news reports. WPBF, a TV station in Palm Beach County, Fla., where the company is based, quoted a statement issued by G4S that said Omar Mateen had worked for the company since Sept. 10, 2007. “We are cooperating fully with all law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, as they conduct their investigation. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the friends, families and people affected by this unspeakable tragedy,” the statement said in part.

G4S, formerly known as Wackenhut, was a major security provider at the government facilities in Oak Ridge until it lost its contracts in the wake of the 2012 break-in by protesters at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Mateen reportedly lived in Fort Pierce, Fla., and there is no indication he was ever involved in any Oak Ridge-related activities. Continue reading

Mercury cleanup at Y-12 could cost $3B

mercuryinsoil.jpg

A sample of soil from Y-12 shows the presence of elemental mercury, a legacy of the plant’s Cold War work on thermonuclear weapons.

The cleanup of  mercury contamination at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant could ultimately cost up to $3 billion, according to a Department of Energy report.

The report, dated February 2016, states that the estimated cost for mercury remediation at Y-121 is between $1 billion and $3 billion. The report was prepared to outline the technology plans for mercury cleanup at Y-12, as well as DOE’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

Here’s an excerpt about the Y-12 situation: Continue reading

A look at Y-12’s uranium storehouse

Photograph HEUMF razor wire.Y-12 photo

The Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility is a massive structure on the west side of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, and it may very well house the world’s largest inventory of bomb-grade uranium at a single location.

That’s not clear because the actual amount of uranium in storage is classified. Plus, it’s constantly changing as nuclear weapons are retired from the arsenal and the enriched uranium is recycled for use in other weapons or reserved as fuel for the nation’s fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Continue reading