CMRR and UPF from the Oak Ridge media's Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground
February 13, 2012
UPF tops Oak Ridge budget news
The Obama administration has amped up support for a new production facility at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant, proposing to boost funding in a big way and accelerate construction of the multibillion-dollar project.
In the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request released today, the National Nuclear Security Administration seeks $340 million to jump-start construction of the Uranium Processing Facility. That's more than double this year's funding level on the Oak Ridge project and up significantly from an earlier plan to request $190 million for UPF in FY 2013, which begins Oct. 1....
The UPF currently is in the latter stages of design, with construction scheduled to start by year's end. The project is estimated to cost between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion.
Ramping up UPF comes as NNSA announced its intent to defer construction of a similarly sized project at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Federal officials cited the increasingly deteriorated state of weapons-making facilities at Oak Ridge for making UPF a priority. Parts of Building 9212, Y-12's hub for processing bomb-grade uranium and manufacturing warhead parts, date back to the World War II Manhattan Project.
Tom D'Agostino, under secretary of energy and administrator of the NNSA, and his deputy, Don Cook, cited the tough fiscal climate in the United States and said it was not a good time to push two high-dollar projects at the same time. Detailed reviews concluded that the need for the Uranium Processing Facility was more urgent than the proposed Los Alamos facility -- known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement -- for plutonium work
The proposal announced Monday would defer CMRR work at least five years, but D'Agostino emphasized in a teleconference with news reporters that the government is not killing the project....
CMRR vs. UPF
A major topic at today's media teleconference with NNSA officials on the FY 2013 budget request was the decision to defer work on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project at Los Alamos while adding emphasis (and money) to the Uranium Processing Center at Y-12.
Don Cook, the National Nuclear Security Administration's deputy administrator for defense programs, said, "I'd say the choice we made was a hard fiscal choice." In effect, it put the work on uranium ahead of the work on plutonium, but it was forced by the situation at Y-12, he said.
"We don't have any option not to get out of 9212 (the main production facility at Y-12)," Cook said. "That building is used up, and that's where we make components for nuclear weapons."
While there were important reasons for building CMRR, the actual plutonium pits were being made in another facility, he noted.
The impression left from the conference today is that NNSA may relook the whole Los Alamos situation and possibly come up with a combo facility or something in that future realm to do the fabrication work with plutonium and the research with materials, etc.
What's notably interesting is that a review just a couple of year ago concluded that if the government were forced to make a choice on which should come first, CMRR or UPF, the conclusion was that CMRR was the higher priority.
Is the big change in decisionmaking simply a recognition that 9212 is in sad, sad shape? If so, then Y-12 folks have done a terrific job in repeatedly sharing that news with every visitors to the Oak Ridge plant and making it known in every way available.
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