Tennessee Delegation Expresses Concerns to Federal Nuclear Administrators about Consolidation of Contracts at Y-12

Posted on October 29, 2010

Members of the Tennessee Delegation are continuing to express their concerns to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) about the potential consolidation of the management contracts at the Y-12 Plant, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and the Savannah River Tritium Operations in South Carolina.

U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and U.S. Reps. Zach Wamp, Lincoln Davis, John Tanner, John Duncan, Jim Cooper, Marsha Blackburn, Phil Roe and Bart Gordon wrote to NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino expressing their concern that combining the contracts will jeopardize the sites’ ability to execute national security missions.

Sen. Alexander is scheduled to meet with NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino on November 8 to discuss his concerns that the consolidation would delay modernization of American nuclear weapons facilities and require changes to the security contract and pension plans at Y-12 that don’t make sense.  Sen. Bob Corker has discussed the matter with D’Agostino as well.

Rep. Zach Wamp recently spoke with Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of Energy, to express his concern that a combined contract would have far reaching ramifications—changing the way Y-12 conducts business at a critical time, and potentially jeopardizing the future of the Uranium Processing Facility and significantly adding to its cost. 

Rep. Lincoln Davis has and will continue to communicate with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, D’Agostino, as well as General Garrett Harencak to express his concerns and insistence that any plan NNSA moves forward with must protect the core mission and workers at Y-12, and the completion of UPF to garner congressional support.

The full text of the letter is below.

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July 30, 2010


The Honorable Thomas. P. D’Agostino


National Nuclear Security Administration

1000 Independence Avenue, SW

Washinton, DC 20585-0001




Dear Administrator D’Agostino:


We are writing to ask that you extend the individual contracts for the Y-12 plants, the Pantex Plant and the Savannah River Tritium operations in a manner consistent with the extensions provided to NNSA laboratories facilities.  We are concerned that the current NNSA strategy for consolidating operations and construction management at these sites will jeopardize their execution of national security missions. Extending the individual contracts would be a more responsible approach.

NNSA must meet its Department of Defense goals given our nation’s dependence on an extended nuclear deterrence strategy.  Further, modernizing our nuclear deterrent is even more important given the President’s desire to ratify the New START Treaty with the Russian Federation. Consolidating the operating contracts of these facilities would like hinder NNSA’s ability to meet DoD goals and modernize our nuclear deterrent for several reasons:


  • Nuclear work is complicated and safety is critical. There will be a significant and lengthy disruption to the current and future site leadership and workforce as their operating contractors focus on a new competition for a consolidated contract. Such a distraction will be well planned and properly timed to avoid unnecessary risk.


  • Consolidation would disrupt the completion of long-delayed, essential infrastructure improvements at these sites.  The Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 and the High Explosive Pressing Facility at Pantex are well underway and critical to modernizing our nuclear deterrent.  Changing contractors midstream will result in delays and additional costs, not savings.


  • NNSA, without performing any analysis of which we are aware, appears to have assumed that joint operations will lower the cost of pension and security contracts.  These significant operating costs should be better analyzed and discussed with Congress prior to any related action to NNSA.


  • Extension of the current contracts would be consistent with the Department of Energy’s extension of nearly every laboratory contract.  The production plants have increased workloads and are being asked to do more with less.  The net benefit of competing these contracts appears to be marginal at best based on your outstanding rating of the contractors currently operating these sites during the last five years and their demonstrated willingness to embrace your drive to increase performance.


We applaud your efforts to achieve greater efficiencies and effectiveness at these sites.  Timing this effort correctly with proper alignment of resources can accomplish your goals without hindering efforts to modernize our nuclear deterrent and maintain the skilled work force at each of these sites.  Extending the individual contracts for each of these sites on a long term basis is a more responsible approach for the operation of our weapon plants, and we hope you will do so as soon as possible.




Lamar Alexander, United States Senator

Bob Corker, United States Senator

Bart Gordon, Member of Congress

John Duncan, Member of Congress

John Tanner, Member of Congress

Zach Wamp, Member of Congress

Marsha Blackburn, Member of Congress

Jim Cooper, Member of Congress

Lincoln Davis, Member of Congress

Phil Roe, Member of Congress