Frank Munger, Atomic City Underground
Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor, a Washington-based subscription newsletter, reported in its Dec. 10 issue that internal budget documents within the Bush administration suggest that preparations for the Uranium Processing Facility -- a proposed multi-billion-dollar warhead production facility -- could be stretched out and that the site location wouldn't necessarily be at Y-12 in Oak Ridge.
UPF has been proposed as a twin facility to the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, a storage complex that's about 70 percent constructed at Y-12. The UPF would replace the 9212 complex as the Oak Ridge plant's main production center.
"Because cost estimates on the project have risen as high as $3.5 billion, the report directs NNSA to limit UPF work in FY 2009 to 'site-independent design considerations' and look into other locations for th UPF," the newsletter reported.
The newsletter also quoted the pass-back budget documents as saying, "The high costs associated with security at that site (Y-12) have led to the question of whether in the long run it may be more cost effective to construct this component of the 'preferred alternative for complex transformation' in another location."
NNSA declined official comment on the report, although officials privately indicated that the quoted documents are old and no longer valid.
Some type of official statement on the transformation process for the nuclear weapons complex is expected next week, apparently on Tuesday when NNSA chief Tom D'Agostino will preside at a press function.
It's hard to imagine that the government would separate HEUMF and UPF. Imaging having the highly enriched uranium stockpile stored in one building and having to regularly transport the material to another production site for warhead-making. Doesn't make much sense, does it? Talk about a security nightmare.