‘Red Team’ Proposes Splitting Up Uranium Work Among Existing Y-12 Sites

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
May 2, 2014, 8:16 a.m.

A much-an­ti­cip­ated ex­pert plan for mod­ern­iz­ing urani­um op­er­a­tions at the Y-12 com­plex calls for dis­pers­ing some of the work among ex­ist­ing fa­cil­it­ies.

The U.S. Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thursday pub­lished the re­port writ­ten by a spe­cially con­vened “Red Team.” The pan­el was tasked with ex­amin­ing cost-sav­ing al­tern­at­ives to the cur­rent plan of build­ing a 340,000-square-foot Urani­um Pro­cessing Fa­cil­ity at the Y-12 Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Com­plex, loc­ated near Oak Ridge, Ten­ness­ee.

The primary ob­ject­ives of the Red Team were to come up with a path that would per­mit Y-12 to shift urani­um pro­cessing work out of the dec­ades-old “9212” build­ing no later than 2025, and at a cost of no more than $6.5 bil­lion. Rather than build­ing the “big box” UPF com­plex that would house all urani­um activ­it­ies, the ana­lys­is re­com­mends some work be shif­ted in­to the Highly En­riched Urani­um Ma­ter­i­als Fa­cil­ity, which was built sev­er­al years ago, the Knoxville News Sen­tinel re­por­ted.

Oth­er pro­cessing work could be handed over to two oth­er Y-12 build­ings: the “9215” build­ing where some urani­um-ma­chin­ing work cur­rently takes place, and to “Beta-2E,” where war­head com­pon­ents are put to­geth­er and checked for qual­ity, the re­port said.

The Red Team of spe­cial­ists — culled from vari­ous sci­entif­ic and man­age­ment back­grounds — fore­sees that some new fa­cil­it­ies would still need to be built at Y-12, par­tic­u­larly in or­der to handle urani­um-cast­ing activ­it­ies that re­quire tight se­cur­ity. However, those fa­cil­it­ies would not have to be nearly as big as the build­ings en­vi­sioned for the Urani­um Pro­cessing Fa­cil­ity.

For its plan to be suc­cess­ful, the Red Team sug­gests a “seni­or ca­reer ex­ec­ut­ive” from the En­ergy De­part­ment be se­lec­ted to take charge of the pro­ject rather than a polit­ic­al ap­pointee.

Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokes­man Josh Mc­Co­naha said the agency was still re­view­ing the re­port, after re­ceiv­ing it two weeks ago.

The Oak Ridge En­vir­on­ment­al Peace Al­li­ance was sharply crit­ic­al of the re­port, call­ing it in a news bul­let­in a “re­cipe for dis­aster.” The anti-nuc­le­ar ad­vocacy group said it was skep­tic­al the Red Team plan could be im­ple­men­ted giv­en the semi­autonom­ous En­ergy De­part­ment branch’s spotty track re­cord over­see­ing oth­er ex­pens­ive and com­plic­ated atom­ic-weapon pro­jects.

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