Morgan Smith, president and chief executive officer of Consolidated Nuclear Security, returned to work last week after temporarily working from home as a precaution. Smith worked from home after he was notified that someone that he had been in brief contact with had reported symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
But a test of that person was negative for COVID-19, and Smith returned to work on Tuesday, April 7, CNS spokesperson Kathryn King said this week.
Smith had no symptoms, King said.
CNS manages and operates the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas. Both production sites work on nuclear weapons for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, among other activities.
CNS has said there have been several cases of COVID-19 among Y-12 employees, although the federal contractor has declined to say specifically how many cases there are and CNS has not reported where those employees work at the 811-acre plant.
COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause serious symptoms, lead to hospitalization, and sometimes be deadly.
Y-12 National Security Complex began limited operations and transitioning to mission-critical operations on Monday, April 6. That change was in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All non-essential personnel were expected to leave the 811-acre nuclear weapons production plant in Oak Ridge for now, and employees who could telework were to continue to do so.
In the meantime, CNS said all Y-12 processes, systems, and facilities will be maintained in safe and secure configurations. Key mission activities related to nuclear weapon stockpile stewardship and modernization, and key infrastructure and reestablishment of production capabilities, will continue. The construction of the Uranium Processing Facility will also continue, CNS said.
CNS said it does not have a set timetable for the new containment status at Y-12.
“For planning purposes, the containment phase is planned for six weeks, but we all recognize that the timing and course of the pandemic remains undefined,” the contractor said. “The transition process to safe and stable condition will take approximately two weeks, and we anticipate at least two weeks in that condition. Once the decision to resume full operations is made, the transition back to the state of readiness will take another two weeks.”
CNS has 5,500 employees at Y-12. There are roughly 800 UPF employees at Y-12.
Among other activities, Y-12 works on secondaries, the second stage of modern two-stage thermonuclear weapons; stores highly enriched uranium; provides fuel for naval nuclear reactors; and supports nuclear nonproliferation work.