OCTOBER 18, 2018
NNSA Review of UPF Compounds Legal Violations, Environmental Groups Say
BY EXCHANGE MONITOR
A September review by the Department of Energy compounded the agency’s alleged transgressions of federal environmental law stemming from a 2016 design change to a next-generation uranium plant under construction at the Oak Ridge Site in Tennessee, a band of environmental groups said this week in an amended federal lawsuit.
The supplemental analysis DOE’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) published last month on the Uranium Processing Facility “not only failed to correct the NEPA [National Environmental Protection Act] violations identified in Plaintiffs’ original Complaint, but also revealed additional ways in which the NNSA was continuing to violate NEPA,” the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote in an amended complaint filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Tennessee.
When they filed suit about two years ago, the groups alleged the NNSA breached NEPA in 2016 by changing the design for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) to three main buildings from one without first publishing an environmental impact statement for the proposed new format.
The groups this week alleged the September supplement to the 2011 UPF environmental impact statement revealed details of what the NNSA calls an Extended Life Program: a plan to continue using 1950s-vintage uranium infrastructure to support the facility. That Extended Life Program by itself should trigger an environmental impact statement, even if the NNSA did not plan to undertake one for the three new UPF buildings it is constructing, plaintiffs said.
Bechtel National started substantial construction on the three-building Uranium Processing Facility in March after the project cleared a major design review. The company is building the facility under contract to Y-12 management prime Consolidated Nuclear Security: a Bechtel-led consortium that also includes Leidos, Northrop Grumman, and SOC LLC, along with subcontractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
The Uranium Processing Facility will shape uranium for use in the secondary stages of U.S. nuclear weapons, and in reactors that power some of the Navy’s warships and submarines. The plant is expected to cost about $6.5 billion to complete by 2025, the NNSA has said.