A new center at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge will provide small orders of nuclear samples around the globe, including to organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“We envision this new facility operating sort of like an Amazon fulfillment center, but for very unique and very small orders of nuclear samples—things you definitely can’t get on Amazon,” said Morgan Smith, president and chief executive officer of Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC, which operates Y-12 for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The new center, the NBL Center, officially opened with a June 11 ceremony. The center’s work was previously done at Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago.
The new facility is operating and made its first shipment, to the IAEA, in April. The IAEA uses the materials to support its international safeguards mission, said Steven Wyatt, spokesperson for the NNSA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.
The NBL Center at Y-12 will store and ship uranium certified reference materials on behalf of the NBL Program Office. (You can see the NBL Program Office’s list of certified reference materials here.)
By the end of fiscal year 2019, the NBL Center will house 8,000 special nuclear certified reference materials, the NNSA said in a press release.
“The newly formed NBL Program Office ensures the reliability of the nation’s supply of special nuclear certified reference materials to provide measurement proficiency samples and technical expertise and support to U.S. programs in the areas of nonproliferation, safeguards, and other national security programs,” the press release said.
A proficiency sample is a sample that has been evaluated and will be used in a laboratory setting to verify the performance and quality assurance of an instrument or method. The size of a proficiency sample can range from less than one gram to a few grams, depending upon the material type.
“Y-12 is honored to assume the work of the center, which previously was done at Argonne National Laboratory,” NNSA Production Office Manager Geoff Beausoleil said in the press release. “Our expertise with nuclear materials has earned us many accolades, and this one is a big feather in our cap. As a center of excellence in uranium, we have the means and the expertise to run the center easily.”
The Office of Science funded Y-12 to establish the new center, and Y-12 is taking on the storage and distribution mission for the NNSA. Established in 2000, the NNSA oversees work on nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, and naval nuclear reactors.
“This is very important work that helps ensure stability around the globe,” said Smith, the CNS president and CEO. “This small facility footprint and small, as-needed operating crew will reduce the time and cost required for customers to receive radiological materials. New missions don’t come to Y-12 by chance. They come thanks to our employees’ dedication, expertise, and patriotism in all things uranium.”
The NBL Center used to be known as the New Brunswick Laboratory (1949-2016). It was succeeded in May 2016 by the formation of the NBL Program Office, which kept the NBL acronym, but not the full name, to maintain a recognizable name, Wyatt said in a response to questions Tuesday.
“For this reason, the NBL Center at Y-12 also uses these letters instead of the former full name,” Wyatt said.
He said the NBL Center is located in the east end of Y-12 in a new 1,400-square-foot modular building that was constructed for this purpose.
Asked why the center moved from Argonne to Y-12, Wyatt responded: “The NBL Center was formed in May 2016 and identified the need to establish an alternate distribution method for certified reference materials. A scoping study for a storage and distribution center was completed in 2016, with requirements development and site selection following in 2017.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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