On top of the $6.5 billion required to build the Uranium Processing Facility in 2026, the National Nuclear Security Administration will have to spend nearly $1 billion by that year to modernize other facilities needed to support the next generation weapons-uranium hub, the Government Accountability Office reported.
That is according to an integrated master schedule for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) that the agency developed in December, the Government Accountability Office wrote last week in a report, “Uranium Processing Facility Is on Schedule and Budget, and NNSA Identified Additional Uranium Program Costs.”
UPF and other buildings at Y-12 will produce the uranium-powered secondary stages of nuclear weapons, and assemble the stages.
“NNSA estimated that the uranium program will spend a total of approximately $7.4 billion from fiscal years 2016 through 2026 to support its uranium processing modernization efforts,” the office wrote in the report. “[T]he life-cycle cost estimate includes $6.5 billion in UPF project costs and over $850 million in program costs that include developing the uranium processing capabilities that are not part of the UPF project.”
Included in the $850 million are the costs of modernizing buildings 9215 and 9204-2E so that those facilities can last into the 2040s. The buildings will house capabilities that are either being moved out of building 9212, the uranium hub UPF will replace, or which UPF needs to do its job.
In building 9204-2E, workers assemble enriched uranium components for weapon systems. In Building 9215, workers fabricate parts by machining uranium metal. As building 9212 shuts down, the NNSA plans to move even more work into building 9215, including uranium purification, and processing of scrap uranium.
The NNSA once planned to do those jobs in UPF itself, but when the project’s costs started running off the rails earlier last decade, the agency decided to keep them in existing buildings as part of a deal with Congress to construct UPF itself by 2026 for no more than $6.5 billion.
Meanwhile, GAO reported that the NNSA has made almost no progress developing new the electrolytic reduction technology to refine uranium, potentially increasing the time the agency will have to rely on a contractor outside the Y-12 fence to perform the same service.
In 2019, the NNSA said it planned to contract with BWX Technologies [BWXT] subsidiary Nuclear Fuel Services, Erwin, Tennessee, to purify uranium metal needed to produce nuclear-weapon secondary stages. As part of ongoing and planned modernization work, the NNSA is building new copies of existing weapon designs such as the B61-12 gravity bomb, the planned W80-4 air-launched cruise missile warhead, and the planned W87-1 intercontinental ballistic missile warhead.
The NNSA had not cut Nuclear Fuel Services a contract at deadline for Defense Daily. The agency needs the company to start purifying uranium around 2023, when Y-12’s existing purification systems in Building 9212 are supposed to shut down.
Separately, the NNSA still has yet to issue a 2019 fee report for Y-12 prime contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security. The Bechtel National-led team was the only major NNSA site contractor whose 2019 performance evaluation the agency did not post online in February.
People familiar with the agency’s plans said the company’s evaluation would not be released until this month, when the NNSA planned to decide whether to extend the team’s contract into 2022.
Bechtel is building the Uranium Processing Facility under a subcontract to Consolidated Nuclear Security.