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UPF RED TEAM: FEDERAL MGMT. CHANGES KEY TO MOVING OUT OF 9212 BY 2025
Moving uranium processing operations out of the Y-12 National Security Complex’s 9212 complex by 2025 will be “extraordinarily difficult” without a drastically revised management structure that moves responsibility of the Uranium Processing Facility into the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Programs, a Red Team that examined the project concluded. The NNSA released the 25-person Red Team’s 121-page report late this week, revealing its recommendations, which focus on abandoning a “big box” strategy for the project and revamping management of the effort.
The Red Team was headed up by Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason. “This Review Team has concluded that a wholesale recapitalization of the enriched uranium capabilities at Y-12 within a single ‘big box’ facility, while possessing some attractive characteristics in terms of footprint reduction and apparent operational simplicity, comes at a very high cost due to imposing the most stringent and expensive safety and security requirements on all operations, even in cases for which they are not applicable,” the Red Team wrote. “The collateral impact of the high cost is the unacceptable delay in moving operations out of 9212, where the risk of interruption of mission will grow over time to a point where it cannot be sustained.”
Other Facilities Could be Used for Some Operations
Instead of a “big box” facility, the Red Team recommended an approach that focuses on relocating 9212 operations to other Y-12 facilities as much as possible and the construction of smaller buildings. The team recommended that some operations could be moved into the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, while other operations could be transferred to two existing facilities: the Beta-2E facility and Building 9215. The report also calls for “aggressive inventory reduction” to remove material at risk from existing facilities. “Design efforts on the current ‘big box,’ single structure UPF concept should be stopped while a comprehensive reevaluation of program requirements and applicable design standards is undertaken, along with an evaluation of projected funding, to provide a firm revised project baseline,” the Red Team said.
The Red Team said some of the work on UPF will be applicable to a new approach, and it recommended that site preparation and readiness activities continue at “full speed.” Much of the process system design for UPF will apply to the new approach or processes that would be relocated to other facilities, but a smaller facility will provide an opportunity to eliminate some requirements that were applicable to UPF, and the Red Team said “much in the current UPF facility design that will not carry over to the new facilities.” But it said it is “hopeful that much of the process design can be more readily used as the new build(s) proceed.”
Federal Mgmt. Overhaul Vital to Strategy
Vital to the Red Team’s proposed strategy is a revamping of the project’s federal management. The report recommends that a senior career executive in the Office of Defense Programs take over the project as well as Y-12’s entire uranium processing mission. Currently, the project is managed by NNSA’s Office of Acquisition and Project Management. “This career executive must own and accept all of the requirement and most focus in particular on those that are significant cost and schedule drivers (e.g., seismic considerations) and the associated risks,” the Red Team said.
The current federal management structure has created confusion about requirements, with the Office of Defense Programs and Office of Acquisition and Project Management often at odds with each other over requirements. “As an example, the Program Office (NA-10) issued guidance to the project to utilize electro-refining/direct electrolytic reduction (ER/DER) as the project baseline technology for metal purification in January 2014. As of now, NA-APM has yet to concur with this direction, bringing into question who owns the baseline design requirement and creating a need for resolution by the Administrator,” the Red Team said.
Without a revamped management structure, the Red Team said moving out of 9212 by 2025—the stated goal of the NNSA—will be a major challenge. “All of the tasks needed to vacate 9212 (deinventory, relocate, and new build) are interdependent, tie to ongoing operations, and currently have different constituencies within Y-12 and NNSA,” the Red Team said. “While it is certainly possible from a budget constraint and physical execution point of view to complete them all by 2025, it will be extraordinarily difficult without the revised management approach we have articulated.” —Todd Jacobson