With some apparent exceptions, employees at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge will continue working even after the federal government shut down after federal funding expired Friday.
Y-12 posted an announcement after the federal government shut down early Saturday. The announcement said workers at Y-12 and the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, are expected to report to work on their next scheduled work day unless they have previously approved leave or have been given formal notice by their management to not report to work.
A few other federal organizations and federal contractors didn’t immediately appear to have posted notices as of early Saturday afternoon, about 12 hours after the shutdown began. Those include Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy, which has facilities in Oak Ridge, said federal employees are expected to continue to report for work for now. DOE facilities here include ORNL, Oak Ridge Office, Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, Oak Ridge Reservation, Office of Scientific and Technical Information, and East Tennessee Technology Park, the former K-25 site, among other federal and contractor operations. Y-12 is a National Nuclear Security Administration site, and the NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within DOE. Consolidated Nuclear Security, the federal contractor at Y-12, also operates the Pantex Plant.
The DOE and NNSA sites include a mix of federal and contractor employees. There is also a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility on South Illinois Avenue.
DOE posted a shutdown plan posted on its website Friday. The approach outlined there appeared similar to DOE’s guidance during the last shutdown more than four years ago.
However, DOE said of this year’s shutdown, “a prolonged lapse in appropriations may require subsequent employee furloughs. If there is an imminent threat to human life or protection of property, a limited number of employees may be recalled from furlough status.”
The last federal government shutdown was in October 2013. That year, Y-12 started an “orderly shutdown” and ORNL prepared for a possible temporary shutdown and unpaid furloughs. The shutdown activities were supposed to put the nuclear weapons plant into a safe and secure status. DOE said then that it expected federal employees to continue reporting for work unless there was a lapse in appropriations and all available money was spent. And former ORNL Director Thom Mason told employees of UT-Battelle, which manages the lab, to report to work starting October 1 that year (the start of the fiscal year), even if the government shut down, because ORNL had enough funding to continue operating.
The contigency plan posted Friday said DOE will be able to shut down all non-excepted federal functions within a half day after available balances have been exhausted, with some exceptions involving the movement of nuclear materials.
“However, it will take longer than a half day to do that for some contractor-performed activities in order to protect property,” the DOE plan said. “For example, some large equipment may need to be cooled down before it can be shutdown, while other equipment may need to stay operational at a low level in order for it not to be permanently damaged.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a monthlong spending bill Thursday, but it did not pass the Senate Friday night, just before the midnight deadline. The House and Senate were reconvening for a rare Saturday session, hoping to find a way to restart the flow of funds at least temporarily, according to The New York Times.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See our previous story from Friday here.
See the DOE implementation plan if there is an appropriations lapse here.
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