Friday, July 20, 2007

Oak Ridge: Tennessee Boom Town

Someone sent this pennant picture to me. I lived in Oak Ridge from 1946 until 1952. Oak Ridge was where much of the research for atomic weaponry was done. For many years it was a gated town. You had to have a pass to get through the gates. The "gates" are still there, sort of mini forts, useful perhaps for any future wars against "terrorists". The house where we lived was on Darwin Lane. Many of the roads both in Oak Ridge and Los Alamos were names after scientists.
There is a new boom coming to the town:
Giant game of musical chairs coming to Y-12
By FRANK MUNGER, May 21, 2007

The Y-12 National Security Complex is known for doing the difficult.The Oak Ridge plant specializes in building secondaries - high-precision assemblies that serve as the second stage of nuclear warheads. As the saying goes, Y-12 puts the "boom" in ka-boom. But in all its many years, dating back to the World War II Manhattan Project, the nuclear facility has never done anything quite like this. Y-12 is going to relocate about a third of its employees and their office belongings over a period of a few weeks.

It's being called the Mega Move. "We're treating this like a project," said Randy Spickard, assistant general manager at BWXT Y-12, the government's managing contractor. "We've had several project managers assigned to this."

In other words, Y-12 is giving the moving plan the same kind of attention it gives to building weapons, and that's serious stuff. About 1,100 people currently working in 50 buildings at the sprawling plant site will be moved to the new Jack Case Center, a U-shaped, 412,000-square-foot facility that will become Y-12's central office and administrative hub. Another 300 employees now occupying space in about 15 buildings will be consolidated at the New Hope Center, a $137,000-square-foot facility at Y-12's entrance on Scarboro Road. Construction of the new privately financed facilities is nearing completion, with just a few finishing touches left to accomplish. The moves will take place in phases, but most of the employees will be relocated over the span of four weekends, starting in mid-July. Employees will leave their old places on a Thursday (most Y-12ers are on four-day work weeks) and report to their new office digs on a Monday..........Green or brown for GNEP? There's plenty of controversy regarding the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, the Bush administration plan to expand the use of nuclear energy in the U.S. and abroad. That's true locally and nationally.

Some area folks are upset by the decision to propose a 500-acre site near Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a location for a nuclear processing operation for spent fuel. They argue that if a facility is built to handle highly radioactive spent fuel, it should be on a "brownfield" site already contaminated by Oak Ridge's Cold War nuclear operations - such as the former K-25 uranium-enrichment facility.

There have been suggestions that planners backed off K-25 because of pressure from folks over at the Rarity Ridge housing development west of K-25 on the other side of the Clinch River. Lawrence Young, president of the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee, said he wasn't pressured by Rarity Ridge. "If there was (pressure), it wasn't directed towards me," he said.

Young, however, acknowledged the community's presence was a factor in the decision-making. "That's a reality. There wasn't overt pressure, but we're reasonably smart," he said, noting that it wouldn't make sense to locate a nuclear facility close to a community with a future potential of 5,000 rooftops. Young also said he takes exception to the proposed GNEP site being called greenfield. Although it's not a contaminated property such as K-25, it has been used in the past, he said.

He said CROET and its contractor chose the site, in part, because the Department of Energy wanted participants in the preliminary program to study areas that are relatively unknown. Should the DOE be interested in K-25 as a GNEP-related plant site, there's already a lot of information available, he said. "That's also why we didn't consider the old Breeder site (acreage once targeted for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project in the early 1980s)," Young said.

Senior writer Frank Munger covers the Department of Energy and its
contractors. He may be reached at 865-342-6329.
In 1997 there was a note about the new proposed operations in Oak Ridge:
The Department of Energy (DOE) has signed a precedent-setting contract with private companies including BNFL, a subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, that guarantees the company a profit on sales of radioactively contaminated metal to the marketplace. Under the contract, BNFL would take apart the uranium enrichment plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The metal from the decommmissioning would be sold on the open market.
As of the signing of the contract, title to the federally-owned radioactive metal waste from enrichment of uranium for nuclear reactors, was shifted to BNFL. Once stripped from the radioactive buildings, the metal will be transported to privately owned, state-licensed companies who will process and sell it on the open market. The scrap could be used for cars, I-beams of buildings, anything made with stainless steel. BNFL already has plans for a contract with a company (Ovonics) that makes nickel metal hydride batteries that could end up in items such as scooters, cars, computers and toys.
Now back to me:
Unlike the original Oak Ridge Facility, the new plants (New Hope Center and Jack Case Center) are private and as such do not come under federal guidelines, so there are questions about union represenation at the new facility. The opening ceremonies were conducted by clergy and administrators who all quoted scripture. When questioned about the religious nature of the opening events, officials said that since it was private they did not have to adhere to non-denominational requirements of federal facilities.
Is changing the name of Darwin Lane next? Although the buildings were "financed by private capital", of course the money (through "Defense" contracts) will ultimately come from guess where: the US taxpayers!

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