Protesters will say nuclear weapons illegal under UN treaty

OREPA Spring Demonstration at Y-12
Members of Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance and supporters gather across from the Y-12 National Security Complex to protest the plant’s Uranium Processing Facility in April 2013. (File photo)

Protesters plan to hang a banner at a nuclear weapons production site in Oak Ridge early Friday afternoon that will declare the weapons illegal under a United Nations treaty.

The banner, which will say “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal,” will be hung on a fence across from the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex on Scarboro Road. The banner will be hung after parts of the international agreement—the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—are read, organizers said.

Protesters said they also plan to hang a poster of the text of the treaty and 122 yellow “X”s on the fence, one for every nation that voted in favor of the treaty at the United Nations.

“January 22, 2021, will be a historic day for nuclear weapons,” according to a press release from Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, which has organized weekly and annual events opposing nuclear weapons for many years. “On that day, at midnight, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force, establishing in international law a categorical ban on nuclear weapons, seventy-five years after their development and first use.”

[Read more…]

NNSA administrator resigns

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, resigned Friday.

The NNSA oversees the work at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and other nuclear weapons sites across the nation. The NNSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, maintains nuclear warheads, produces fuel for the nuclear navy, and works on nuclear nonproliferation, among other activities.

Gordon-Hagerty, who was also under secretary of energy for nuclear security, became the first woman to lead the NNSA in February 2018.

It’s not clear why she resigned Friday or whether her resignation was voluntary.

Defense News reported that the resignation was driven by almost a year of clashes between Gordon-Hagerty’s office and Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, including over budgets.

[Read more…]

Y-12 begins limited operations, transitions to ‘mission critical’ operations

The Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above. (Photo courtesy CNS Y-12)

Note: This story was updated at 11:45 a.m.

On Monday, the Y-12 National Security Complex began limited operations and transitioning to mission-critical operations. The change is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, all non-essential personnel will leave the 811-acre nuclear weapons production plant in Oak Ridge, and employees who can telework will continue to do so.

“Since mid-March, Y-12 has been in a preventive phase of its pandemic plan,” the site in a a response to questions on Wednesday. The response was provided by spokesperson Kathryn King of Consolidated Nuclear Security, a federal contractor that manages and operates Y-12 and another nuclear weapons production plant, the Pantex Plant northeast of Amarillo, Texas.

“With additional cases now confirmed at Y-12 and the growing number of cases in East Tennessee, the plant is transitioning to a ‘containment’ phase that ensures mission-critical operations while further protecting the Y-12 workforce and the community,” the response said. “In the containment phases, all non-essential plant personnel will leave the site until further notice. Employees who are able to telework will continue to do so.”

CNS said all Y-12 processes, systems, and facilities will be maintained in safe and secure configurations. Key mission activities related to stockpile stewardship and modernization, and key infrastructure and reestablishment of production capabilities, will continue.

[Read more…]

K-25 History Center has grand opening this month

The K-25 History Center will have a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, February 27.

The ceremony, which will include a ribbon-cutting, is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday, February 27, at 652 Enrichment Street in west Oak Ridge.

The K-25 site, now known as Heritage Center, was built during World War II to help enrich uranium for the top-secret Manhattan Project, a federal program to build the world’s first atomic bombs. K-25 helped enrich uranium for “Little Boy,” a nuclear weapon dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, shortly before the end of World War II.

After the war, K-25 enriched uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants through the Cold War. The site was shut down in the mid-1980s, and it is being cleaned up and converted into a private industrial park. The site’s large uranium enrichment buildings have been demolished and so have many of the support buildings. Most of the cleanup is expected to be completed this year.

[Read more…]

Crews start work for Mercury Treatment Facility at Y-12

Workers remove asphalt on the east end of the Y-12 National Security Complex, where the Mercury Treatment Facility treatment plant will be built. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management)

Work began in June to build the Mercury Treatment Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

The Mercury Treatment Facility will allow the U.S. Department of Energy to clean up and demolish several large Y-12 buildings that used mercury to separate lithium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s. The facility is expected to help reduce the amount of mercury in East Fork Poplar Creek, which flows through Oak Ridge.

DOE announced in December that it had awarded a $91 million contract to build the Mercury Treatment Facility. The contract, which could be in place for up to four years, was awarded to APTIM-North Wind Construction JV LLC.

groundbreaking was held at the site in November 2017, and site preparations were completed by December 2018.

[Read more…]

For members: Y-12, Pantex contract extended for two years, $3.8 billion

The Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above. (Photo courtesy CNS Y-12)

The contract to manage and operate the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, has been extended for two years, and the extension is valued at about $3.8 billion, the National Nuclear Security Administration said Wednesday.

More than $500 million in cost savings were verified during the first four years of the consolidated contract, according to the NNSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy and oversees the work at Y-12 and Pantex, among other nuclear weapons sites.

The Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above. (Photo courtesy CNS Y-12)

 

The contract to manage and operate the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, has been extended for two years, and the extension is valued at about $3.8 billion, the National Nuclear Security Administration said Wednesday.

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Highly enriched uranium from UK brought to Y-12 for secure storage

The Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above. (Photo courtesy CNS Y-12)

Note: This story was updated at 9:15 a.m.

Almost 700 kilograms of highly enriched uranium has been moved from the United Kingdom to the United States, and the material is being securely stored at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge for now, federal officials said.

The National Nuclear Security Administration said this month that the highly enriched uranium, or HEU, will be down-blended later into low enriched uranium for use as nuclear reactor fuel.

“The material was returned to Y-12 for secure storage awaiting future disposition,” the NNSA said in a statement provided Friday by Steven Wyatt of the NNSA Production Office in Oak Ridge.

Wyatt said Y-12 supported the removal effort, which was announced by the NNSA on May 3, through technical oversight and guidance of the processing and packaging of material.

[Read more…]

(For members) HHS designates class of Y-12 workers to be added to compensation program

The sign at the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

The sign at the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

The sign at the main entrance to the Y-12 National Security Complex is pictured above on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. (Photo by John Huotari/Oak Ridge Today)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated a class of Y-12 employees to be added to a federal worker compensation program that involves certain illnesses and work at sites like Y-12 that are affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The employees who could be added, unless Congress says otherwise, would have worked at Y-12 between January 1, 1958, and December 31, 1976, when the plant was manufacturing nuclear weapons components during the Cold War. They would have had an aggregate total of at least 250 work days. They could have been employees of DOE, its predecessor agencies, or their contractors and subcontractors.

Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that the workers could be added to the compensation program based on exposure to radiation from thorium metal parts and plutonium-241 isotopes.

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DOE needs more time for K-25 history projects

An outside view showing the K-25 History Center, Equipment Building, and Viewing Tower at East Tennessee Technology Park in west Oak Ridge. (Image courtesy U.S. Department of Energy)

An image published in October 2017 shows the K-25 History Center, Equipment Building, and Viewing Tower at East Tennessee Technology Park in west Oak Ridge. (Image courtesy U.S. Department of Energy)

 

The U.S. Department of Energy is requesting more time to complete projects to commemorate the historic contributions of the former K-25 site in west Oak Ridge.

Built during World War II, the K-25 site helped enrich uranium for the first atomic bomb used in wartime as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project. The plant continued to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants after the war, and those who have worked at the site have said it helped win the Cold War.

The history of the site will be honored by preserving the concrete slab of the former K-25 Building, building a Viewing Tower and replica Equipment Building on the south side of the building site, and opening a K-25 History Center on the second floor of the adjacent Oak Ridge Fire Station Number 4.

A historical interpretation agreement was signed in August 2012. But it expires this August. And the roughly $20 million worth of projects won’t be complete by then.

DOE is making “good progress,” but “the reality is we need a little more time,” said Dave Adler, acting deputy manager for DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management. Adler and Steve Cooke, K-25 preservation coordinator for DOE, briefly discussed the proposed amendment to the agreement during a Tuesday evening work session with the Oak Ridge City Council. [Read more…]

(For members) NRC finds no significant impact from producing tritium at Watts Bar 2

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant

Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on Monday that there would be no significant impact from producing tritium for nuclear weapons in a second unit at the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant in Rhea County.

The project involves the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.

The tritium could be produced in Unit 2 at Watts Bar, which is near Spring City about 45 miles southwest of Oak Ridge.

Tritium, which boosts the yields of nuclear weapons, is already being produced in Watts Bar Unit 1. The Tennessee Valley Authority has been producing tritium there since 2003.

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(For members) DOE could lease space to store elemental mercury

Image from “Final Long-Term Management and Storage of Elemental Mercury Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” published by U.S. Department of Energy in September 2013.

Image from “Final Long-Term Management and Storage of Elemental Mercury Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” published by U.S. Department of Energy in September 2013.

Image from “Final Long-Term Management and Storage of Elemental Mercury Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement” published by U.S. Department of Energy in September 2013.

The U.S. Department of Energy is considering whether to lease space to store elemental mercury from sites across the country.

The facility could store about 1,200 metric tons (1,300 tons) of elemental mercury. The waste has been generated at sites in the United States, mostly at gold mining operations, according to the DOE Office of Environmental Management.

The mercury that could be stored at the leased facility is separate from the 1,200 metric tons of mercury stored at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. The Y-12 mercury, about 2.6 million pounds stored in seamless steel flasks, was acquired for lithium-6 isotope separation operations for thermonuclear weapons.

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