The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance aren’t the only ones who are concerned about plans for the 7.5 billion dollar Uranium Processing Facility planned for the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
OREPA members are joining with dozens of members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability who have gathered from around the country to walk the halls of Congress this week (April 15-18) during ANA’s twenty-fifth annual DC Days. In meetings with Congressional staffers and Administration officials, the group will raise a variety of issues about the nuclear weapons complex, and the UPF is one of the top priorities.
“We’ll be asking Congress to take a hard look at the UPF,” said OREPA’s coordinator, Ralph Hutchison. “In February, we were told the design fiasco cost half a billion dollars, yet there has not been a single hearing in Congress to determine why this happened or who should be held accountable in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again. With NNSA’s track record of bloated projects that go one forever, it’s clear the UPF requires strong oversight.”
ANA’s concerns about the UPF are not limited to management issues. Fact sheets point out the UPF is Supersized—NNSA says it needs the capacity to manufacture 5-10 nuclear secondaries a year to maintain the US stockpile, but the UPF is sized to produce 80 secondaries every year—a 700% excess capacity.
The UPF is also Superpriced—original cost estimates were $600 million to $1.5 billion. More than $500 million has already been spent on the design of the facility, and the current cost NNSA estimates range as high as $6.5 billion. “Standard cost inflation for NNSA projects is outrageous,” Hutchison noted. “And yet our fiscal conservative members of Congress just keep shoveling the money into the project.” The budget request for the UPF in FY2014 is $327 million.
In meetings with Tennessee’s Congressional delegations, OREPA members and others will also ask about NNSA’s projection that the UPF will cost Oak Ridge 2,400 jobs and will raise concerns about safety and security in the design. “Ten years ago, a number of groups, including DOE’s Inspector General, said the Uranium warehouse should not be built above ground because it would be vulnerable,” Hutchison noted. “And last July, the Transform Now Plowshares group proved those concerns were spot on. Now they are planning an even more dangerous facility, and they are designing it to be above ground. This is an unnecessary risk which could have grave consequences for the local community as well as the US capacity to maintain its stockpile.”
ANA and OREPA members will also be asking Congress to re-purpose the UPF. Over the next two decades, the need for production capacity will decline as the US stockpile is reduced through arms control agreements. At the same time, the need for dismantlement capacity will increase. In the original design, the UPF was to include space for dismantlement operations, but in order to resolve the “space/fit” design fiasco, the dismantlement part was taken out of the plans. “The Safety Board identified concerns about that decision—we believe dismantlement should be a priority in the UPF because it is the bigger need,” Hutchison said.
OREPA members in DC include Larry Coleman, Dennie Kelley, Ralph Hutchison and Betty Coleman from Knoxville; Caroline Best from Maryville; Rick Brown from Sevierville; Mary Dennis Lentsch from Washburn; and Kim Bergier and Elaine Englehart from Detroit, Michigan.