On Monday, NoH wrote about a security breach at the Y-12 nuclear production facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It turns out that was not the end of the story. Responding to the breach, the contractor in charge of the Y-12 site, Babcock and Wilcox Y-12, has ordered a week long “security stand-down,” which will stop all production work at the facility. During the stand down, all special nuclear material will be placed into vaults or vault-type facilities.
Consisting of more than 4,000 workers and 350 facilities across approximately 800 acres of land, Y-12 is the central location for processing nuclear weapons components with Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). Work involving HEU is conducted within a group of buildings (buildings 9212, 9809, 9812, 9818, and 9815) known as the 9212 Complex. The largest of these building, building 9212, is where most of the work related to HEU takes place.
More than 100 operations related to HEU are capable of being performed within the 9212 Complex, including downblending, quality inspections, and fuel research. However, the two primary activities that take place at 9212 are Enriched Uranium (EU) recovery and metallurgical operations. EU recovery involves turning scraps of EU that come, primarily, from weapons production and disassembly, into material that can be reused or stored. Scrap from other sites is also processed at 9212. Metallurgic operations at 9212 involve casting EU into metal suitable for nuclear weapons canned subassemblies, reactor fuel, and storage. Casting occurs in vacuum induction furnaces, which melt HEU by running currents through coils to generate enormous amounts of heat.
My guess is that these are the activities that will be most significantly affected by the security stand down.