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Average cost of DOE contractor employees assigned to Washington: $247K

The Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General today released a follow-up audit on facility contractor personnel assigned temporarily to Washington, D.C., to provide technical expertise. The report noted that there have been improvement since the original report in 2005, but still identified ways to cut costs and make more effective use of these "term assignments."

One stat: The average annual cost of these assignments is $247,000 per employee, which includes the employee salaries and other expenses.

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The story of 'Atomic City Boogie'

Bob Fowler had a great read over the weekend, telling the story of the revival of the song "Atomic City Boogie." Phyllis Simpson, former News Sentinel employee, worked to re-record and give prominence fo the song written by her father, Willie "Little Red" Honeycutt. Check it out over at Knoxnews.com.

Not everybody is seeking leniency for Plowshares

Not all of the folks writing to U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar are seeking leniency for the Y-12 protesters known as Transform Now Plowshares.

Patsy Ruppe, a Y-12 worker who lives in Kingston, sent a June 10 letter to Thapar asking the federal judge to punish the three "to the highest degree of the law."

Here's an excerpt from Ruppe's letter:

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Plowshares supporters urge federal judge to be lenient in sentencing of Y-12 intruders

A number of letters asking Judge Amul R. Thapar to be lenient in the sentencing of the Transform Now Plowshares protesters -- Sister Megan Rice, Michael Walli, and Greg Boertje-Obed -- have been placed in court files at U.S. District Court in Knoxville.

The peace activists, who broke into the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in July 2012, were convicted on two felony counts -- including a charge of injuring the national defense -- in May. They are currently jailed in Georgia while awaiting their sentencing in September.

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Peace Alliance plans Sunday reading of World Court decision

On Sunday, members of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance will read from the World Court's 1996 decision on the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

The readings will be part of the weekly vigil, beginning at 5 p.m., near the main entrance to the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge on Scarboro Road.

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Westcott photos on exhibit at history museum

This is the famous "Shift Change" at Y-12 photograph taken by Ed Westcott during World War II.

About 40 framed photographs from Ed Westcott, the government's Oak Ridge photographer during the World War II Manhattan Project and beyond, are now on display at the Museum of East Tennessee History (601 S. Gay Street in Knoxville).


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GM of DOE security contractor resigns

mcdowell.jpgGreg McDowell, the general manager of National Strategic Protective Services, LLC, the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge security contractor, is resigning for what the company called "personal reasons," NSPS said in a statement.

According to the statrement, McDowell will stay with NSPS through September in order to "ensure a seamless transition." There was no information on McDowell's successor in that role, but NSPS said a search is under way.

NSPS won a contract earlier this year to provide protective force services at Oak Rige National Laboratory and other DOE facilities in Oak Ridge.

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Oak Ridge Swimming Pool, 1944

Department of Energy archives/Ed Westcott photo
This photograph of the Oak Ridge Swimming Pool was taken on July 27, 1944.

DOE board's July 10 meeting canceled

The July 10 meeting of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board has been canceled, a spokesman said via email. There was no further explanation.

Rad Alaska

The National Nuclear Security Administration this week said it had completed an exercise in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Aerospace Corp. The exercise was to "validate the use of NNSA Aerial Measuring System (AMS) sensing equipment on board a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter based at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska," the federal agency said in its announcement.

"The sophisticated AMS radiation detection systems NNSA deployed in the exercise are used for finding lost sources, like specialized industrial devices, or for responding to a radiological emergency, such as the 2011 nuclear power plant accident in Japan," the NNSA stated. "The AMS is one of several capabilities that NNSA maintains to assist state and local governments in response to nuclear and radiological accidents or incidents."

Helping scared pets

The Shelter Animal Rescue Group (SARG) is seeking volunteers for helping folks at the Oak Ridge Animal Shelter on Saturday, June 6, to bathe and comfort stray dogs and cats in the follow-up of the July 4th holiday -- the busiest time of the year because of the Fourth fireworks, etc.

The volunteers are needed at Oak Ridge Animal Shelter, 395 Belgrade Rd., Oak Ridge, TN 37830, (865) 425-3423. Volunteers are needed for daylong activities, with setup at 8:30 a.m.

Oak Ridge cheesecake, 1946

Department of Energy archives/Ed Westcott photo
Louise Cox, Vilma Strange, and Marilyn Angel at the Oak Ridge swimming pool in 1946.

Back to Russia

vietnam.jpgThe last 11 kilograms of weapons-capable highly enriched uranium has been removed from Vietnam and returned to Russia, according to today's announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The NNSA worked on the removal project in conjunction with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Russian Federation.

The HEU was removed from the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute in Vietnam.

"With this shipment, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam became the eleventh country from which all HEU has been removed since President Obama's 2009 announcement in Prague of an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world," the NNSA announcement said.

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Phase 1 of UPF to be completed in 2025?

The schedule for constructing the Uranium Processing Facility has been bouncing around about as much as the projected cost of the UPF and, of course, the two are closely intertwined. The longer the project gets stretched out, the more it's going to cost.

UPF FIT low SW.jpgIt's not easy to get a fix on the evolving schedule because the National Nuclear Security Administration has said nothing's official until the project design is 90 percent complete and that, of course, has been delayed (until sometime in 2014) because of the failure of the initial design effort (which didn't provide sufficient space for the equipment).

The most recent information comes from the Department of Energy's Fiscal Year 2014 report to Congress in June on the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan.

The report provides a 25-year plan "to revitalize and sustain the nuclear security enterprise," citing some of the short-term and longer-term improvements under way, and it shows Phase 1 of UPF being completed in 2025 and Phases 2 and 3 being accomplished by 2038.

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Y-12 & Girl Scouts

600910 girl scouts.JPG
Y-12 photo
B&W Y-12, managing contractor at the government's Y-12 National Security Commplex, recently donated $2,500 to Girl Scouts summer camp program. In the photo, Booth Kammann, center, left, who is CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians, accepts the check from Nancy Johnson, a B&W vice president. In addition to Kammann and Johnson, from left are: Rebekka Range, Anna Vacaliuc, Andrea Range and Marian Vacaliuc.

ORNL's new research chief encourages debate, demands excellence

2013-P02564.jpgOak Ridge National Laboratory's new research chief said the federal lab is like a shopping mall, and he meant that as a compliment.

Like other laboratories, ORNL has the scientific staff and wherewithal to carry out basic, fundamental research in its purest form. But, as Ramamoorthy Ramesh noted in an interview last week, Oak Ridge also has the facilities -- and the mission support -- to work on research applications, develop that science and technology for the commercial marketplace, and even demonstrate manufacturing capabilities.

"Oak Ridge is different. It's the full spectrum," the 53-year-old materials scientist said. "This is a very unusual and fantastic opportunity."

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Getting nuke waste ready to leave Oak Ridge

truwaste1.jpgThe fire alarm at the Department of Energy's Transuranic Waste Processing Center early this week brought renewed attention the facility that is processing -- and preparing for disposal -- some of Oak Ridge's nastiest nuclear wastes.

The Oak Ridge plant has been repackaging and staging TRU waste over the past couple of years in the absence of the Central Characterization Project team to certify the wastes for delivery to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

The last shipments of TRU waste from Oak Ridge to WIPP took place in November 2011.

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DOE Oak Ridge not discussing Nevada plan; TDEC not taking position, but says CEUSP material can't be disposed in Tennessee

The state of Nevada is applying pressure on the Department of Energy to rethink plans to dispose of highly radioactive and fissionable uranium materials at the agency's Nevada National Security Site (formerly known as the Nevada Test Site), and DOE's Oak Ridge office has gone silent on the project.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid have expressed their opposition to DOE's plans to do direct disposal of the uranium mix (with fissile U-233 and U-235) underneath other wastes disposed of at the site.

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Seismic LANL

The Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General today release an audit report that looks at risks of natural disasters and mitigating measures at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The report found that some seismic issues still need to be addressed.


About this blog

    Frank MungerSenior 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. Contact Frank.