NNSA Y-12 National Security Complex Receives Upgrade

The U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA)’s Y-12 National Security Complex recently invested more than $1 million in upgrades to its Materials Testing Laboratory.

The lab’s new digital optical microscopes, scanning electron microscopes (SEM), hardness testers, tensile machine, and other characterization technologies allow Y-12 materials experts to more closely examine weapons components.

NNSA said in a statement that the new equipment will provide a level of confidence that the nation’s nuclear arsenal will perform as designed.

“The new equipment increases the reliability of tests and data and reduces both the likelihood and impact of equipment failures,” said Rob Panaro, lead physical testing engineer in Quality Operations Support. “If we do have equipment failures, they’ll be easier to diagnose and repair. Equipment setup and maintenance are also more streamlined, and more powerful data acquisition tools allow us to capture even more information.”

“These latest characterization technologies provide a level of detail not previously seen by Y-12 metallographers and other technicians, who study cracks, voids, and defects in steel, aluminum, uranium, and other materials, both metallic and nonmetallic.”

Y-12 National Security Complex

The Y-12 National Security Complex is a DOE/NNSA facility located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The facility was built as part of the Manhattan Project for the purpose of enriching uranium for the first atomic bombs and is considered the birthplace of the atomic bomb. It also provided the enriched uranium for Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

In the years after World War II, Y-12 has been operated as a manufacturing facility for nuclear weapons components and related defense purposes.

The Y-12’s current missions are:

+ Maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile by engaging in weapons component production, surveillance, dismantlement, and storage;
+ Reduce the global threat posed by nuclear proliferation and terrorism by working with NNSA and other federal agencies to secure vulnerable nuclear materials domestically and internationally;
+ Provide highly enriched uranium (or feedstock) used in the fabrication of fuel for reactors in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines under an agreement with NNSA’s Naval Reactors Office.

Y-12 is managed and operated under contract by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS), which is composed of Bechtel National, Leidos, Orbital ATK, and SOC LLC, with Booz Allen Hamilton as a teaming subcontractor. CNS also operates Pantex Plant in Texas, which is the primary U.S. nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility, under a single contract from the DOE/NNSA.

The complex houses the Consolidated Manufacturing Complex (CMC) an the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF)

The $6.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) Project at Y-12 will replace an early-Cold War plant with a modern, more efficient, and safer facility for conducting Highly enriched uranium (HEU) operations. This facility is being built by Consolidated Nuclear Security.

The UPF project recently passed a milestone with the completion of a $60 million electrical substation six months ahead of schedule and $13 million under budget.

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