Source: Exchange Monitor | June 18, 2019

The prime contractor for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s main uranium enrichment site intends to award a contract in 2020 for up to four furnaces that help reclaim excess uranium metal left over from defense missions, a company spokesperson said Monday.

The award will be for at least one and possibly two pairs of direct chip melt bottom load furnaces in Building 9215 at the Y-12 Nuclear Security Complex in Tennessee, a Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) spokesperson wrote in an email.

“The bottom-load furnace project includes an initial quantity of two furnaces, with provisions to add additional furnaces as future needs dictate,” the spokesperson wrote. “The first two bottom-load furnaces are currently scheduled to be operational in 2024.”

The spokesperson did not say whether the procurement would involve an open competition. Consolidated Nuclear Security received authority to proceed with the direct melt bottom load project in May. With all options exercised, the Bechtel-led company’s contract to manage Y-12 and the Pantex Plant in Texas would end in 2024.

Consolidated Nuclear Security will install the four furnaces in Building 9215 to collect chips — pieces of uranium created by machining the fissionable material into usable shapes — and melt them into larger masses suitable for storage elsewhere, the company said.

The chips are created in Building 9215 but currently must be reshaped in Y-12’s main enrichment facility at Building 9212. That process will have to end before the NNSA can shut down the World War II-era Building 9212 and replace it with the planned Uranium Processing Facility in 2025.

The four furnaces to be procured and installed are separate from the first furnace CNS will install in Building 9215 in 2020. A vendor CNS would not identify made that furnace, the side-loading design of which the company modified after potential issues with airborne contamination came to light.

Consolidated Nuclear Security expects the first furnace will be up and running in 2021, the spokesperson wrote.