Fuels for the final frontier: Y-12 to help create fuel for NASA space exploration

Y-12 Development's Roland Seals and NASA and DOE Officials

Y-12 Development’s Roland Seals explains Y‑12’s infrared heating capabilities to NASA and DOE Office of Nuclear Energy officials. (Photo by Brett Pate)


The Y-12 National Security Complex is taking their uranium expertise to the next level—outer space.

The NNSA Production Office (NPO) at Y-12 struck an agreement earlier this year with NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to support the design of a small nuclear-powered reactor with the potential to lead to small fission power reactors for future space exploration missions.

For the first phase of the project, Y-12 will research materials and manufacturing processes for a physics demonstration of a kilowatt-range nuclear reactor, known as project Kilopower, using an enriched uranium-molybdenum metallic fuel core and a lithium-hydride shield. The Kilopower concept was a 2013 R&D 100 Award winner for proof-of-principle experiments performed at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center in Nevada led by Los Alamos National Laboratory in collaboration with NASA Glenn and National Security Technologies.

“Science missions are seeking greater power and functionality,” explained Lee Mason, chief of the Thermal Energy Conversion Branch at Glenn. “We’re planning to demonstrate the technology in a ground test using a prototype U-235 reactor core.” [Read more…]

U.S. House passes Manhattan Project park bill that includes Oak Ridge

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander

U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann

Chuck Fleischmann

Note: This story was last updated at 8:30 p.m.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park that would include Oak Ridge, federal officials said Thursday afternoon.

Passage of the bill, pursued for years by historic preservationists, was announced by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Chuck Fleischmann, both Tennessee Republicans. It was an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which passed in a 300-119 vote.

The bill would designate three sites that were part of the World War II-era Manhattan Project. Besides Oak Ridge, the sites include Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington. The U.S. Senate is expected to pass the 2015 NDAA legislation without amendments before adjourning for the Christmas recess, perhaps as early as next week, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that has helped lead efforts to establish the park for more than a decade.

The Manhattan Project was a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic bombs. Oak Ridge sites that would be included in the park are the Beta-3 racetracks and Alpha Calutron magnets at Y-12 National Security Complex and the K-25 Building site at the East Tennessee Technology Park. [Read more…]

Protesters object to benefits changes at Y-12

Y-12 Benefits Protest Becky Montgomery

Protesters object Thursday afternoon to changes to health insurance benefits announced at the Y-12 National Security Complex in October. At center is Becky Montgomery, who retired from Y-12 in June after 35 years.


Note: This story was last updated at 10 p.m.

About 150 demonstrators protested outside the Y-12 National Security Complex on Thursday afternoon, objecting to changes in health insurance benefits that could take effect January 1.

The protesters, mostly Y-12 retirees, said they would end up paying much more for fewer benefits. They want the U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration to reverse course.

“We’re here to try to stop it,” said Charlene Edwards, who retired from Y-12 in 2006. [Read more…]

With deadline looming, supporters hopeful that Manhattan Project parks legislation will pass

Manhattan Project National Historical Park House Hearing

Pictured above at a June 28, 2012, U.S. House hearing on the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act are, from front left, Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation president; Heather McClenahan, executive director of the Los Alamos Historical Society; and D. Ray Smith, Y-12 National Security Complex historian. Gary Petersen, Tri-City Development Council vice president, is pictured in the background. (Photo courtesy of Atomic Heritage Foundation.

An amendment introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday includes the creation of a long-sought-after Manhattan Project National Historical Park that would include Oak Ridge, and supporters are hopeful that the legislation, which has bipartisan support, will pass before the end of the legislative session.

The bill appears to have a “really good chance of moving forward,” said Kati Schmidt, spokesperson for the National Parks Conservation Association.

Besides Oak Ridge, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park would also include Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington. Those three areas were among the sites involved in the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic bombs during World War II.

There is currently no national park commemorating the project, which is considered one of the most significant events of the 20th century. Historic preservationists, including in Oak Ridge and at the Atomic Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., have tried for years to change that. [Read more…]

Y-12 prepared for possible Ferguson-related protests, but none reported

Y-12 Prepares Ferguson Protest Preparations

The Y-12 National Security Complex and City of Oak Ridge prepared for possible protests related to the announcement of the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday night. Y-12 had appeared on a list of possible Ferguson-related demonstration sites, but there didn’t appear to have been any protests at Y-12 as of Tuesday afternoon.


The Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge and regional law enforcement agencies had prepared for possible protests at Y-12 on Monday, when the grand jury decision was announced in Ferguson, Missouri, but there didn’t appear to have been any protests at the Oak Ridge plant as of Tuesday afternoon.

Y-12 had appeared among a list of demonstration sites on the Ferguson National Response Network Web page. The Y-12 protest was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Monday, the day of the grand jury announcement, and demonstrators were asked to bring cell phones, cameras, signs, and megaphones.

But there didn’t appear to be anyone near the Scarboro road entrance to Y-12 at about 6:30 p.m. Monday or later at about 9:30 p.m. Scarboro Road was hemmed in on one side by Y-12’s temporary fence and on the other by City of Oak Ridge traffic barrels, cones, and police tape. Temporary barricades were erected to block Y-12’s entrances, and concrete barriers inside the main entrance appeared to have been angled in the roadway to deter or slow down unwanted visitors. [Read more…]

Y-12 employee-led Help to the Smokies team still going strong

Y-12 Employees Help the Smokies

Y-12’s Help to the Smokies employee-led team volunteered at a Great Smoky Mountains National Park cleanup event on Nov. 8. The team contributed 154 hours in restoration and enhancement activities during the event. (Submitted photo)


Note: This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. Nov. 26.

Y-12’s employee-led Help to the Smokies team tacked another 154 hours onto their already massive volunteer service record at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during their annual volunteer work day on November 8. Since its start, the volunteer team has contributed about 14,000 hours in the Park.

Some 22 volunteers assisted park staff in maintenance and refurbishment of Loop B campsites at the Cosby Campground. The volunteer team performed general restoration activities for 31 individual campsites. These activities included elevating, leveling, and resetting 31 picnic tables, distributing and applying 85 tons of gravel covering to 26 campsites, and leveling selected camp fire rings. [Read more…]

Oneida man gets three-month prison sentence for plot to extort B&W Y-12

Y-12 Aerial Photo June 2012

The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge is pictured above in June 2012. (Photo courtesy NNSA)


A 25-year-old Scott County man was sentenced to serve three months in prison on Monday after he pleaded guilty in July to charges that he tried to extort Babcock and Wilcox Y-12 LLC, the former managing and operating contractor at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

Adam Winters, 25, of Oneida received the sentence in U.S. District Court in Knoxville on Monday, U.S. Attorney William C. Killian said in a press release. After he is released from prison, Winters will be supervised for one year by U.S. Probation.

Killian said Winters, who had appeared on the television reality show “The Millionaire Matchmaker” in February, pleaded guilty in July to transmitting communications containing threats to injure the reputation of B&W Y-12 in interstate and foreign commerce, with intent to extort money and other things of value from the corporation. Winters admitted that he emailed Babcock and Wilcox and attempted to email the vice president of the United States regarding copies of slides that he possessed that contained information he believed would injure the reputation of Babcock and Wilcox. That May 8 email reportedly referred to slides of evidence from nuclear testing. [Read more…]

2014 Election: Interest in mayor position, mall redevelopment, better ties with BOE

Oak Ridge City Council Candidate Forum

Nine of the 10 Oak Ridge City Council candidates are pictured above. From right, they are Kelly Callison, Rick Chinn, incumbent Anne Garcia Garland, Warren Gooch, Gary Love, incumbent David Mosby, Pedro Otaduy, former Council member Ellen Smith, and Eric Tobler. Not pictured is Aditya “Doc” Savara.


A majority of the Oak Ridge City Council candidates said they would consider running for mayor or vice mayor if elected on Tuesday, and almost all supported the incentives recommended for the proposed redevelopers of the former Oak Ridge Mall.

The candidates were mixed on whether to bring back red-light cameras, and most seemed to think the city’s property tax rate is about right, in light of current budget needs.

Asked to grade the current Council as leaders, the candidates handed out grades ranging from “A” to “F.”

In a series of recent forums, the candidates generally advocated for better communication between the City Council and Oak Ridge Board of Education and, for the most part, seemed to be in favor of taking over Clark Center Park in south Oak Ridge, although their approvals would hinge on factors such as cost and property restrictions.

There are 10 candidates running for four seats on the seven-member Council in Tuesday’s election. Two of the incumbents—Anne Garcia Garland and David Mosby—are seeking re-election—and two others—Mayor Tom Beehan and Mayor Pro Tem Jane Miller—are not.

Many consider it a critical election, with a business boom under way and major projects on the horizon, including the proposed redevelopment of the mall and the planned $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 National Security Complex.

The new Council is expected to elect a new mayor and mayor pro tem (like a vice mayor) during its next meeting after Tuesday’s election.

Here is a look at some of what the candidates said during the recent forums. [Read more…]

NNSA achieves 50 percent production for W76-1 units

Frank Klotz

Frank Klotz

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The National Nuclear Security Administration said last week that it had reached the halfway point in the production phase of the W76-1 warhead Life Extension Program, or LEP. An event held at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, underscored NNSA’s commitment to meeting the U.S. Navy’s requirements for the W76-1.

Gen. Frank G. Klotz, U.S. Department of Energy under secretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator, was on hand to personally thank the men and women of Pantex who helped achieve the production milestone.

“The W76-1 Life Extension Program is one of several steps we must take as a nation to ensure that America’s smaller nuclear arsenal remains safe, secure, and effective,” Klotz said. “The highly skilled Pantex team will continue to play an indispensable role in protecting the security of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, for many years to come. For that reason, it’s imperative that we continue to invest in the people and in the infrastructure needed to carry out that important, enduring task.” [Read more…]

Council to discuss DOE funding, support tonight

Oak Ridge City Council

The Oak Ridge City Council has a special meeting tonight to discuss U.S. Department of Energy support and funding. (File photo/August 2013)


The Oak Ridge City Council will discuss U.S. Department of Energy funding and support during a special meeting tonight. It’s described at least in part as an “information-gathering session.”

The special meeting was called by City Council members Trina Baughn and Charlie Hensley. Hensley, in particular, has raised questions about whether DOE is paying its fair share to the city.

Here’s the language outlining tonight’s discussion:

“to discuss and possibly take action on a plan to engage DOE officials with regards to their obligations to the City of Oak Ridge and its citizenry. Let it [the special meeting request] include formally requesting, in writing, a DOE Community Assistance Review as allowed within AECA 1955, PL 84-221, DOE Order 2100.12A, and other supporting legislation, including those self-sufficiency plans dating from 1980 through a Council Resolution and other joint local government collaborative action to include a specific date for a response.”

[Read more…]

Brown to remain as UPF procurement manager

Rich Brown will remain procurement manager for the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, UPF Project Director Brian Reilly said last week.

Here is an announcement that Reilly sent to the UPF team on Tuesday, October 7: [Read more…]

Spotlight: Weapons lab directors visit Y-12

Weapons Lab Directors Visit Y-12

From left above are Assembly/Disassembly Operations Manager Reed Mullins, Y-12 Site Manager Bill Tindal, LLNL Director William Goldstein, LANL Director Charles McMillan, SNL Director Paul Hommert, and NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart. (Photo courtesy CNS)


Laboratory directors from Sandia National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory recently visited the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

The group toured facilities at the site, including production buildings and Y-12’s Nuclear Detection and Sensor Testing Center, a press release said.

Pictured above are employees at Y-12; lab directors from SNL, LLNL, and LANL; and the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office.