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  • NNSA to stay course on UPF despite DoD CAPE report, NWMM, 13 Dec 2013
    on the project in consecutive years and the project would still not be completed by 2025 Without getting into the report s details Held said different funding profiles and timelines could alter the cost of the project It s like a house he said Your total cost is going to change whether you pay cash or you finance it in five years or you finance it in 30 years So a lot of the span in the CAPE study comes from that Held NNSA CAPE Working Together On the sidelines of the meeting NNSA Associate Administrator for Acquisition and Project Management Bob Raines declined to address the substance of the CAPE report but he emphasized that the agency was staying on its current course The agency is currently expected to hit the 90 percent design threshold next year and won t start construction until the fall of 2015 It s prudent to do what the leadership of the NNSA has committed to do which is inform ourselves of what the cost of this project is and go to 90 percent design and then be able to get an accurate estimate Raines said Held emphasized that the agency was taking the CAPE report into account as it designs the facility but he said the agency would honor a commitment to Sens Dianne Feinstein D Calif and Lamar Alexander R Tenn to not commit to a cost or schedule baseline until hitting the 90 percent design mark The CAPE study is certainly pushing us to think about things differently or to think about the possibility of doing something differently but right at the moment we have a commitment to the senators to do this and we ll fulfill that commitment Held told NW M Monitor after the public hearing The degree to which the NNSA will consider the CAPE report remained unclear Held emphasized that the NNSA was working with CAPE as it refines its design I think CAPE and us need to come together on an approach and we re working to do that he told NW M Monitor We have a commitment though to the two senators that we will not be pushing out cost estimates that are not based on the 90 percent threshold We need to fulfill that as we work with CAPE He added Certainly we must consider it But we can t just look around and reverse course If we need to make modifications we will Another Strategy Shift on the Way As recently as earlier this year the NNSA decided to defer an effort to build a massive plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory abandoning plans to build the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility and shifting to a plan that would utilize smaller facilities to meet the plutonium needs of the lab because of the rising cost of the project The change in strategy was just the latest shift in thinking on the agency s two massive infrastructure modernization projects In the

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_13Dec2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • New Pu strategy endorsed by DoD CAPE, but UPF cost questions raised, NWMM, 6 Dec 2013
    UPF which suggests that an approach similar to the modular plutonium strategy at Los Alamos that is set to replace CMRR NF because of the cost of the facility might be in store for UPF as well The recommendation is not what do you cut out here and there It s go back and look at this thing and reevaluate what your assumptions are and how do you do this one official with knowledge of the report told NW M Monitor The issue is the model of UPF and CMRR is not affordable One former Administration official suggested that the project would not be sustainable at such a high cost especially given the funding pressure on the NNSA and other parts of the government We ve already undergone severe cost escalation in the 2010 2011 timeframe on UPF by a factor of two and now they re telling me it s going to be another factor of two Well shut the door we re out of luck on uranium the former Administration official told NW M Monitor We ve got to figure out some way for that not to be the case A Top Down Approach The CAPE study is believed to have used a top down approach to estimating the cost for the facility using historical cost data for major one of a kind Department of Energy and Department of Defense facilities to project the cost per square foot of UPF and officials with knowledge of the report cautioned that the estimate was not the same as a cost estimate that analyzed the various components of the actual facility The NNSA is not planning to update its cost estimate on the facility until the UPF project is 90 percent designed which isn t expected to occur until mid to late summer of next year The NNSA declined to comment on the CAPE report and CAPE did not respond to a request for comment The NNSA in the past has pushed back against CAPE estimates Notably the CAPE estimated that the B61 life extension program would cost approximately 10 billion about 2 billion more than the 8 1 billion estimate compiled by Sandia National Laboratories for the NNSA Much of the discrepancy involved differences of opinion in the amount of risk that could be managed in the program and ultimately the Nuclear Weapons Council signed off on the project at the lower cost estimate There is not a very good track record for accurate costing of these big facilities and projects the former official said They make relatively conservative assumptions about how funding profiles should go and how you should be executing large construction projects based on their DoD experience Construction Start Slated for 2016 UPF officials said this week that it planned to begin construction on the facility in early 2016 but excavation of massive tons of dirt and filling the hole with concrete to prepare a stable base for UPF will take place before the formal start of

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_6Dec2013-pu.html (2016-02-16)
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  • NNSA responds to DNFSB concerns about design of UPF, NWMM, 6 Dec 2013
    the most attention is the ability of the UPF design to withstand a plane crash especially the planned connector between the main building and the nearby Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility where the nation s primary stockpile of weapons grade uranium is stored Some of the support facilities associated with UPF weren t designed to deal with the impact of a plane crash apparently because of the perceived unlikelihood of such an event According to the latest report from the NNSA the UPF Main Building and X Ray Vaults are designed to withstand an airplane crash At this time however the administration connector the loading dock truck bay and the enclosed dock dock vestibule are not designed to withstand an airplane crash the report stated There also are questions that remain regarding the connector to the highly enriched uranium storage facility The structure exceeds the frequency threshold to require hardening for a plane crash but the quantities and types of materials present in any given time in the connector are still being determined the NNSA s report to the defense board said The NNSA said there are multiple design options for the connector including Designing the entire structure to withstand the airplane crash Designing the walls of the structure to withstand the airplane crash with some administrative controls on material at risk in the connector and Establishing specific administrative controls on material at risk in the connector For those structures that are not to be hardened to withstand a plane crash there apparently would be administrative limits on how much material could be there at any one time and how long it could stay there This is acceptable because these areas do not routinely contain the hazardous materials the NNSA report said A number of planning activities are under way

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_6Dec2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Are UPF technologies catching up with project plans? knoxblogs.com 23 Oct 2013
    blamed for the mess up on the original design which had to be redone because the building as it was designed couldn t accommodate all the needed equipment etc One post mortem report said the lack of maturity with some of the new technologies affected the ability to design the space for them Because of the delays in the UPF timetable and the need to get out of the aged 9212 complex as soon as possible the multibillion dollar project was subsequently divided into three phases with the first phase focusing on transferring the uranium work currently done in 9212 to the new UPF According to a recent report by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board the initial startup of UPF in now scheduled for late 2025 A new plan for transitioning out of 9212 is due by the end of this month from the B W Y 12 led UPF team according to the safety board report As the project schedule has gotten delayed that presumably has allowed more time for the National Nuclear Security Administration to make sure its technology base is sound and ready for the startof UPF operations The UPF is officially estimated to cost somewhere between 4 2 billion and 6 5 billion but could go even higher according to some analysts Over the past couple of months I have asked the NNSA and its contractor B W Y 12 for updates on the status of the 10 new technologies previously identified as part of the UPF planning According to NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt five of the critical technologies are being deployed for Phase One the operations currently done in the 9212 complex Wyatt said the UPF team has already demonstrated the viability of these technologies although an official and formal determination of readiness will be done before the project reaches Critical Decision 3 Actually there are six technologies in this group because Wyatt included special casting one of the original 10 technologies promoted for UPF as part of microwave casting Special casting is described as a custom process for casting uranium metal The process has enhanced safety controls and reportedly improves nuclear safety and reduces the space needed for the operation Other critical technologies included in the first phase are Bulk Metal Oxidation This technology converts bulk uranium metal directly to an oxide without machining to chips It is supposed to eliminate the chip machining and cleaning operations as well as reduce worker exposure to hazards Recovery Extraction Centrifugal Contactors This would replace the current technology to extract uranium for purification purposes using solvent extraction It would reportedly reduce chemical inventories as well as reduce the risks of fire and radiological contamination UNH Calcination This technology would be used to convert bulk impure uranyl nitrate or UNH into a stable and storable oxide Would eliminate some of the processing and recovery activities and reduce processing costs Saltless Direct Oxide Reduction Used to produce buttons high purity enriched uranium metal by reducing uranium

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/knoxblogs_23Oct2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • NNSA defends Uranium Processing Facility, knowblogs.com, 25 Sep 2013
    peacetime missions such as fueling our next generation commercial power reactors or in research reactors for medical isotope production to aide in the treatment and fight against cancer and other life threatening illnesses UPF IS URGENTLY NEEDED For nearly 70 years the core of the nation s uranium operations has been in the original WWII era building known as 9212 at the Y 12 National Security Complex This facility cannot and will not ever be a modern nuclear facility The need and urgency for a new uranium processing facility for our nation is obvious to anyone working or visiting the existing WWII facility and has been validated and clearly defined in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review echoed in the 2012 Department of Defense Strategic Guidance and confirmed by President Barack Obama members of Congress the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Perry Commission Army Corps of Engineers and many other independent groups Building 9212 s aging infrastructure and equipment are increasingly fragile to maintain Just obtaining replacement parts for electrical ventilation fire protection and other systems is a challenge Because of such tenuous utility and safety systems routine operation of the facility relies more and more on alternative controls that are costly and time consuming SAFETY AND SECURITY DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE WITH UPF UPF will be significantly safer than 9212 both for the public and for Y 12 workers Unlike 9212 UPF will be built to modern nuclear safety standards including earthquake resistance ventilation systems that contain and filter all air released from UPF and modern nuclear qualified fire protection systems UPF will also improve the site s security posture and significantly reduce the size of the high security protected area THE UPF FACTS The cost range for UPF remains 4 2 6 5 billion The size of UPF is capabilities based not capacity based In February 2011 in the Final Site Wide Environmental Impact Statement for the Y 12 National Security Complex NNSA announced that it would downsize its uranium processing capacity As such UPF is designed for that reduced capacity while still maintaining the capabilities to conduct surveillance produce and dismantle secondaries fuel the nuclear navy and reprocess material from weapons for use in peacetime missions such as fueling our next generation commercial power reactors or in research reactors for medical isotope production to aide in the treatment and fight against cancer and other life threatening illnesses This same EIS considered a No Net Production Capability Sized UPF alternative with less capacity That alternative would require building essentially the same UPF to meet these important uranium missions Whether NNSA maintains a large stockpile or no stockpile UPF is necessary The need to build UPF is urgent but actual construction of the facility will not begin until design is complete Current field activities are focused on preparing the site for construction Every new technology going into UPF is being tested and proven UPF is not irreversibly committed to rely on unproven technologies UPF includes several new technologies to improve the safety

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/knoxblogs_25Sep2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • The Uranium Processing Fiasco, POGO blog, 25 Sep 2013
    enriched uranium secondaries a key component of a nuclear warhead Not only would shifting this mission to Pantex save tens of millions of dollars it would also reduce the transportation of nuclear weapons components across the country and fit well with the Pantex mission The plant is already doing similar work on plutonium pit re qualification The Y 12 site has alternatives that could take on part of the proposed Uranium Processing Facility s mission The recently completed Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility at Y 12 a storage facility for highly enriched uranium HEU and the companion building to the proposed Uranium Processing Facility is only 57 percent full Most of the HEU stored there has no future military mission and if more of it was downblended into low enriched uranium for use in commercial reactors it could generate up to 23 billion for the US treasury This would leave the brand new HEU facility practically empty with some modifications it can probably take on some of the Uranium Processing Facility missions that cannot be performed at Pantex Also hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into upgrades and fixes for other uranium operations facilities at Y 12 that the new Uranium Processing Facility is meant to replace Yet the NNSA still insists that these buildings are genuinely decrepit and falling apart at the seams Where are these millions going if not to fix the problems And if the problems are being fixed why can t the buildings continue to be used But perhaps the most baffling part of the Uranium Processing Facility boondoggle is one basic and disturbing fact It remains unclear what the facility is expected to accomplish The Energy Department and NNSA have claimed that to keep the nation s nuclear weapons reliable they need the

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/POGO_25Sep2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Estimate for uranium facility goes from $600 million to $11.6 billion, LA Times, 24 Sep 2013
    weapons complex since the end of the Cold War How long will the Pentagon need a stockpile of nuclear weapons and how can the massive industrial network needed to maintain the bombs be kept going at an affordable level The Y 12 plant is the only U S facility that melts casts and machines bomb grade uranium About 7 000 people work there The facilities massive brick structures the size of football fields were built 70 years ago during World War II The Energy Department says they are genuinely dilapidated Similar problems with aged facilities exist at the Pantex nuclear weapons facility in Texas Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina among other places But Peter Stockton lead author of the new report and a former Energy Department special investigator disputes the need to replace so many uranium cores known as secondaries The Energy Department delayed its plans for a new plutonium facility in New Mexico after acknowledging that it had overestimated the number of plutonium triggers it would need for weapons he noted The Energy Department has failed to account for reductions in the size of the U S weapons stockpile and has underestimated the resiliency of the weapons parts Stockton said They can t say how many secondaries we will need he said President Obama signed an agreement with Russia to cut each side s weapons stockpile to 1 550 by 2018 down from about 6 000 weapons about a decade ago Stockton said the uranium work could be done more cheaply at existing facilities at Y 12 or at Pantex where nuclear weapons are disassembled and repaired The nation s three types of nuclear bombs are slowly undergoing life extension programs in which some parts are replaced and updated

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/LATimes_24Sep2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • POGO: It would be 'ludicrous' to ignore cost-saving alternatives to UPF, knoxblogs.com, 24 Sep 2013
    if the warhead parts have become deteriorated There are life extension projects to ensure their viability is maintained If the certification mission were moved to Texas POGO said it would save money and bolster security by eliminating some of the transportation of nuclear weapons components between Oak Ridge and Amarillo This is one of the biggest benefits of transferring this program to Pantex the report stated The CSAs canned subassemblies do not need to be shipped across the country to Y 12 and back again to Pantex where final assembly of warheads takes place which is not only expensive but also leaves the sensitive nuclear material far more vulnerable to theft or attack POGO said it had been told by sources at Pantex that the Texas plant would welcome the role of recertifying the uranium secondaries the second stage of nuclear weapons and has area available in which to do the sensitive work The group in recent years has questioned whether Y 12 is actually manufacturing new uranium parts for the warheads that are revamped and then returned to deployment POGO said it had been told by trusted Department of Energy sources that several hundred nuclear warheads have gone through the life extension process and have not required newly manufactured secondaries Currently the DOE and the NNSA National Nuclear Security Administration claim they need the capacity to remanufacture 160 200 secondaries a year at Y 12 the report stated But it seems ludicrous to begin to build a facility without a concrete estimate of how many secondaries will require refurbishment or replacement Before billions of dollars are spent on yet another unneeded facility POGO recommends Congress and DOE insist on an independent study on secondary lifetimes to verify the need for increased production capabilities the report said Instead of building

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/knoxblogs_24Sep2013.html (2016-02-16)
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