U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) today praised the decision by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to transform the nation’s nuclear weapons infrastructure in a move that will modernize Tennessee’s own Y-12 National Security Complex.
The NNSA’s announcement Tuesday will keep the historic Y-12 complex open and result in new facilities there that will allow workers to do the same job in a dramatically smaller acreage, which should improve security while reducing costs over time.
“This plan means that Y-12, which played a key part in America’s success in World War II and the Cold War, will become our nation’s uranium center of excellence,” Alexander said. “Modernizing the facility will make the Y-12 complex smaller, more secure, and more cost effective — leading to a more state of the art environment for maintaining our nuclear weapons stockpile.”
“This announcement is outstanding news for the future of Y-12,” said Corker, a member of the Senate Energy Committee. “This plan is an all-around win that will save money while improving the safety and security of the complex. I am proud to support today's decision and look forward to watching the progress at Y-12 as this plan is implemented.”
Alexander and Corker have supported a plan to build two new modernized buildings at Y-12 that will shrink the complex’s secured area, a move estimated to save as much as $ 200 million per year beginning in 2021.
The senators’ remarks came after NNSA Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino unveiled a draft plan of how the nation’s nuclear weapons complex should look in the future. D’Agostino said the nation’s aging Cold War-era nuclear weapons complex is too big and too costly.
The plan by the NNSA, a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy, would result in a 30 percent reduction in the square footage of the nuclear weapons infrastructure nationwide during the next decade.
The Y-12 National Security Complex, located in Oak Ridge, would be named a center of excellence for uranium as part of the NNSA’s plan to consolidate missions and facilities within existing NNSA sites.
This would result in a reduction of the complex’s high security area, its nuclear operations footprint and its total building footprint. NNSA does not intend to lay off any workers at the Y-12 facility, but the overall size of the workforce will shrink as more senior employees retire.
The plan would also:
· Consolidate special nuclear materials at five sites by the end of 2012, with reduced square footage within those sites by 2017;
· Close or transfer from weapons activities about 600 buildings or structures, many by 2010;
· Cease NNSA operations of two major testing sites supporting our laboratories by 2015;
· Reduce the square footage of buildings and structures supporting weapons missions by as much as one-third, going from greater than 35 million to less than 26 million square feet;
· Employ 20-30 percent fewer workers directly supporting weapons missions consistent with a smaller, more efficient complex;
· Dismantle outdated and unnecessary weapons at a significantly faster pace.
Established in 1943 during World War Two to enrich uranium, the Y-12 complex produced some of the uranium used in the “Little Boy” atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 and led to the end of that war. Today the complex calls itself the “Fort Knox for highly enriched uranium.”