A federal contractor violated nuclear safety requirements at the Y-12 National Security Complex, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration.
The violations are associated with the accumulations of uranium-235 in a glovebox, furnace, and casting line in Building 9212 at Y-12. The equipment is used to recover and process uranium-235, a fissile material that can be used in nuclear weapons and reactors.
The buildup of enriched uranium, discovered after hydraulic lines leaked in a glovebox, exceeded limits established by a safety program meant to help prevent a nuclear chain reaction.
An investigation of the uranium accumulations found weaknesses in five areas, according to the NNSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy and overseas nuclear weapons work at sites like Y-12. Among the deficiencies were procedural compliances, evaluations of process changes, the analyses of causes, the establishment of roles and responsibilities, and the implementation of a program meant to prevent inadvertent accumulations.
“The National Nuclear Security Administration considers these deficiencies to be of high safety significance,” Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty wrote in an April 6 letter. “Although there were no actual consequences to the public, workers, or the environment, these deficiencies eroded the barriers preventing a nuclear criticality and could, if left uncorrected, adversely impact nuclear and worker safety at the Y-12 National Security Complex.”
The letter was sent to Morgan Smith, president and chief executive officer of Consolidated Nuclear Security. CNS manages and operates Y-12, as well as the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, for the NNSA.
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