By David Bradshaw
It has been almost 14 years since B&W Y-12 LLC took over operation of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.
Soon a new contractor will be in charge. Thanks to the work of the B&W Y-12 team and many others, they will inherit a very different and much improved facility.
One only needs to approach Y-12 to see the changes. The first thing you will see is the New Hope Center, built as a public-private partnership and located just outside the secure gates of Y-12 to make sure public access is easy. It has conference space, an outstanding auditorium, and a museum that highlights everything from Y-12’s critical role in the Manhattan Project, to the NASA “moon box” built by Y-12, to Y-12’s role in winning the Cold War. Y-12 had always been a secret place and this space built with the public in mind was a major change.
The modernization process is even more obvious inside the gate. Y-12 completed and opened the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. It’s a state of the art building. The new Uranium Processing Facility will be just as impressive with design work well underway. Both facilities allow the U.S. Department of Energy to close down old buildings that date back to the Manhattan Project. With the HEUMF and UPF in place, Y-12 will be far more efficient with operations not only more secure, but centralized in one place instead of being spread out over several locations.
The same is true with space for offices and research, now consolidated in the Jack Case Center, another public-private partnership. This innovative financing approach not only saves taxpayers money, but injects resources into our local governments as well.
The part of the Y-12 mission that helps keep the whole world safe has grown as the dangers we face have grown and changed as well. Y-12’s expertise in radioactive material is an asset to America. We have all heard stories of such material being found or recovered all over the world. When this happens, it is often a team from Y-12 in Oak Ridge that is dispatched to secure and contain that material. Y-12 help keeps the world safe.
The B&W Y-12 LLC team has also engaged the community like never before. They’ve been active partners in economic development efforts across East Tennessee. Whether it is Innovation Valley, the East Tennessee Economic Council, or one of the many Chambers of Commerce in the area, they have been not just a member, but an active member.
They’ve also been a friend to area businesses and have awarded more than $1.3 billion in contracts to small businesses and signed mentor/protégé agreements with some 27 small businesses and universities. Their partnership with the University of Tennessee created a joint program that helps veterans become engineers.
But the focus hasn’t been just on business. Y-12 has been a significant supporter of public education and nonprofits that help those in need as well. Y-12 and their employees have made a big difference in our communities!
It has been a productive 14 years. Thanks to the leadership team, employees, contractors, vendors, and a supportive and cooperative community across East Tennessee, much has been accomplished. As B&W Y-12 prepares to turn over operations to a new contractor, we wish them good luck and join everyone in our community in welcoming them to East Tennessee. We are confident they will continue the good work that is under way.
David Bradshaw is a former mayor of Oak Ridge.