Congressional auditors said a planned safety component for processing highly enriched uranium failed in recent trials, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.
The still-unbuilt Uranium Processing Facility, or “UPF” for short, was expected to use an insulating material in casting operations. However, project participants are now looking to find either an alternative insulator or another means of meeting the associated safety requirement, according to a Government Accountability Office report published on Friday.
“According to UPF contractor representatives, this risk is now the project’s most significant technological risk,” GAO officials said of the component, which was intended for use at a site tentatively slated for construction at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee.
The report airs separate concerns about a microwave uranium-casting system it says has not been adequately tested. It also says budgeting choices resulted in seven out of 19 key technology projects being unfunded in fiscal 2014.
The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration is responding to three of the assessment’s five concerns, and forthcoming actions might address the remaining issues, according to the document.
GAO auditors said the technology concerns could remain important even if policymakers decide to pursue another project in the uranium site’s place. Officials began examining other options for meeting the Y-12 facility’s uranium needs after UPF preparations hit numerous schedule and cost overruns.
Officials at the semi-autonomous nuclear agency are “reevaluating the UPF project and may decide to construct a facility that is smaller and contains only select enriched uranium-processing capabilities,” the congressional watchdog organization wrote.
“Whether NNSA continues with the UPF project or chooses to undertake a smaller project, the facility will likely cost billions of dollars, and its ability to meet critical national security needs will depend on successful development and deployment of new technologies,” the GAO report states.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."