NukesRed Team’s concepts, approach gain support

Published 17 April 2014

Headed by Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Red Team aims to modernize the uranium processing procedure on a budget of $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion. Even before Red Teamdelivered its report on alternatives to the expensive Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant by the 15 April 2014 deadline, the group of experts, who come from different disciplines, had already gained support among energy officials and some members of Congress.

Even before Red Team delivered its report on alternatives to the expensive Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant by the 15 April 2014 deadline, the group of experts, who come from different disciplines, had already gained support among energy officials and some members of Congress. “I may see light at the end of the tunnel on this way for us to do a better job of these massive construction projects that are eating up billions of dollars,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) said last Wednesday during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water.

The cost of the UPF has increased from the original estimate of $650 million to several billions.

Headed by Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Red Team aims to modernize the uranium processing procedure on a budget of $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion. According to Oak Ridge Today, Alexander notes that some of the concepts proposed by Red Team have been successfully implemented by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, including the Spallation Neutron Source at ORNL, directed during its construction and initiation operations by Mason, on time and on budget.

If the concepts proposed by Red Team are successful, Alexander suggested they might be applicable to several other projects, such as the Mixed Oxide Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which is estimated to cost up to $30 billion over its lifetime. The concepts might even be applied to the nuclear weapons life-extension projects expected to cost billions of dollars. “We need to get rid of these runaway costs,” Alexander said.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the department is committed to vacating the Y-12 uranium complex by 2025, and that the department will likely use modular facilities that can be brought online in phases to continue key uranium missions and stay within the budget constraints.

Alexander plans to participate in a 30 April 2014 budget meeting in which he will encourage the National Nuclear Security Administration publicly to release as much information as possible on the Red Team review.

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