USA’s uranium processing facility achieves site readiness

17 March 2015

The Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) project in Tennessee has celebrated its first major milestone with the completion of site readiness work, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has said.

UPF is the US Department of Energy's (DOE) single largest capital investment in Tennessee since World War II and NNSA's largest-ever construction project.

"UPF will replace the hub of the nation's uranium processing operations," NNSA said.

The site readiness construction subproject, which includes the Bear Creek Road extension and the creation of a haul road, began in late spring 2013. Its completion "signifies a significant step forward" towards NNSA's commitment to complete UPF by 2025 and move out of the aging 9212 building facilities it is currently using for a cost not to exceed $6.5 billion.

Building 9212 was constructed in 1945 at the end of World War II. It has been central to the history of Y-12 and what is known as the "9212 complex" and has been the centre of highly enriched uranium processing in the USA. The Y-12 National Security Complex is an NNSA facility located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"UPF is essential to our nation's uranium mission," said John Eschenberg, UPF federal project director. "Site readiness work sets the standard for UPF and opens the door for other site infrastructure projects to begin. We've accomplished a lot of work in an area that stretches across approximately a five-mile linear footprint. Most importantly, we have accomplished all of these activities securely, on schedule, under budget and with high quality.

"UPF will be the core of our nation's nuclear security operations for many decades."

Work completed includes relocation of Bear Creek Road; a new bridge; relocation of several potable water lines; rerouting of overhead electrical lines; construction of a haul-road that will segregate earthmoving equipment from plant traffic and alleviate traffic congestion while the UPF project is under construction; mitigation for wetlands impacted during road construction; development of the west borrow and wet spoils areas to receive soils for later project phases; demolition of a parking lot, guard tower and other structures; and construction of sediment basins to protect the facilities natural resources from erosion and sedimentation.

Brian Reilly, UPF project director, said: "During the last year, we have really changed the landscape on the west end of the Y-12 complex, and we have done this work safely for more than 600 days without a recordable accident or injury."

The "integrated acquisition and project management strategy" includes a partnership between DOE, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC.

"Our unique partnerships have served us well by capitalizing on the core competencies of each agency and contractor," said Lt. Col. John Hudson, commander of the USACE Nashville District. "At the same time, the multiple interfaces require clear and continuous communication, keen attention to detail and active collaboration among all team members."

Site readiness work supports the start of site infrastructure and services work, which includes demolition of an existing building, hillside excavation, construction of a sediment basin, installation of a vehicle arresting system gate, construction of a new portal, establishment of a concrete batch plant and building the construction support facility.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within DOE responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the US nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the US Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the USA and abroad.

Y-12 was built as part of the Manhattan Project for the purpose of enriching uranium for the first atomic bombs. In the years after World War II, it has been operated as a manufacturing facility for nuclear weapons components and related defence purposes.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News