BWX Technologies Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, Tenn., will begin producing purified uranium metal for nuclear weapons under a sole-source award announced Wednesday by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

“The purification and conversion capabilities provided by the Contractor shall allow for HEU [highly enriched uranium] materials of various forms (such as metal and oxide) to be purified and converted to a safe metal form that meets government specification,” the Department of Energy’s semiautonomous NNSA wrote in the sole-source award notice

posted online. 

Nuclear Fuel Services started demonstrating uranium purification for the NNSA under a sole-source, $57 million contract announced in March 2021. The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., is NNSA’s uranium hub and has historically done this kind of work on site. 

But with Y-12 uranium infrastructure in the midst of major upgrades, NNSA foresaw a gap in purification and conversion capabilities at the site and said, in 2019, that it would need to move some of the work outside the fence

NNSA has said its strategy to contract this work to Nuclear Fuel Services, a competitor to Y-12’s Bechtel National-led prime contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security, will not lead to job losses in the Oak Ridge, Tenn., area. The Oak Ridge local government has said otherwise.

Meanwhile, BWX Technologies, like Bechtel, is still clinging to hope that it might receive the next long-term contract to manage Y-12. As part of a contentious protest of NNSA’s decision last year to give the follow-on to a Fluor [FLR]-led team that also includes Amentum, BWX Technologies [BWXT] and Bechtel complained to the Government Accountability Office of improprieties and ethical ambiguity in NNSA’s award process.

That led the agency to withdraw the award and temporarily extend the incumbent.