The Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) is in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, about 15 miles from Knoxville, and dates from the World War II Manhattan Project. Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Y-12, LLC primarily operate the facility, but Wackenhut Corporation is contracted to provide security. Y-12 employs approximately 3,800 people in support of NNSA activities. The total Y-12 Site footprint is 7.6 million sq-ft, with a 10-year plan to reduce the footprint to 3 million sq-ft by 2028. According to the 2009 Budget, NNSA planned to spend $843 million for nuclear weapons activities at Y-12 in 2009.
Under NNSA’s plans for Complex Transformation, Y-12 would be the ‘Uranium Center of Excellence’. Y-12 contains the world’s largest repository of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in metal form, storing approximately 400 MT of the material- enough for about 14,000 nuclear warheads. While Y-12 refers to itself as the ‘Fort Knox’ for storage and management of HEU, there are a number of security risks posed by the site. Roughly 700,000 people live within a 100-mile radius of the facility. The 811-acre compound- over three miles long and half a mile wide- is nestled in a valley between two ridges. Because of its location, Y-12 is a difficult site to defend. Attackers could use the surrounding forested high ground to help gain control of the facility. Most of the HEU at Y-12 is stored in five World War II-era buildings. During NNSA’s 2007 force-on-force security test, the mock adversaries were successful in a theft scenario; meaning they were successful in removing mock SNM from Y-12. In addition to storing uranium at Y-12, NNSA also manufactures, evaluates, and tests the uranium nuclear weapons components and canned subassemblies, which includes heavy metal cases and secondaries. The mission for these components and canned subassemblies, and the number produced, is not publicly available. Complex Transformation sets a future production target for canned subassemblies at Y-12 of about 125 per year, but the number could be increased to an annual rate of 200. Y-12 also conducts component dismantlement, storage, and disposition of surplus nuclear materials. Additionally, Y-12 supplies HEU for use in naval reactors and research reactors. The Complex Transformation SPEIS would continue these activities at Y-12.
Major NNSA Facilities at Y-12
In 2008, Y-12 completed a long-overdue project to build a storage facility called the ‘Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility’ (HEUMF) to store the majority of the weapons-quantities of HEU currently housed in the five above-ground storage buildings. NNSA expects to begin moving HEU into HEUMF in 2010 and to move all HEU, except for processing inventories, into HEUMF by the end of 2011. Without an aggressive plan to down-blend the hundreds of metric tons of excess HEU that is to be stored at HEUMF, there is little room for other functions in the facility. In its December 2008 Record of Decision, the NNSA announced its decision to build a large Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) adjacent to the HEUMF to house the remainder of the HEU mission. UPF is not scheduled to be completed until 2019 at the earliest. Details about the mission of UPF are sketchy, as DOE vaguely states that it will have a ‘modern highly-enriched uranium production capability.’