Building UPF for Y-12

Posted: February 18, 2014 - 5:12pm

Current headlines regarding the Uranium Processing Facility project may have created many questions, but UPF Project Director Carl Strock stresses that the primary question to be addressed is indeed one of affordability. “NNSA has a limited budget, and any big project consumes a large portion of that budget,” he said.

There is no question regarding the need for UPF. The need to move operations out of Y-12's Building 9212 is indisputable. The question at hand, then, is how much of UPF can NNSA afford in the current budgetary environment.

The last estimate for the project of $4.2 to 6.5 billion was prepared 18 months ago. For reasons ranging from design changes to the mere passage of time, it's clear that the current scope will exceed that estimate. “While it's disappointing that the cost has increased, the process is working as designed,” Strock said.

The process Strock is referencing is NNSA's commitment to achieve 90 percent design before starting construction. In part, it is the progress toward 90 percent design that prompted Acting NNSA Administrator Bruce Held to request a peer review (led by Thom Mason of Oak Ridge National Laboratory) to develop and recommend an alternative approach.

While Mason's team focuses on what is needed to maintain the capabilities currently housed in 9212, the project team is exploring how the facility may change in light of constrained cost. “We are proceeding, as directed, toward 90 percent design,” Strock said. “However, given the environment, it is only responsible to undertake a parallel pursuit of more affordable alternatives.”

Ultimately, Strock asserted, “There will be a UPF.” The shape of that facility is what is to be determined in the months to come.

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