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A Y-12 National Security Complex team recently received an NNSA Defense Programs Award for its work in deactivating 16 uranium processing systems in Building 9206.
A Y-12 National Security Complex team recently received an NNSA Defense Programs Award for its work in deactivating 16 uranium processing systems in Building 9206.

“We tend to walk out, turn off the lights and forget about a building until one day, someone walks up to it and says, ‘We have to clean that thing up.’ This is an extremely tough job and you continue to get it done safely and effectively.

Morgan Smith
President of Consolidated Nuclear Security, the Management and Operating Partner at Y-12 National Security Complex

A team of Y-12 employees was recently recognized for the outstanding work in deactivating 16 uranium processing systems in Building 9206 and removing a significant quantity of residues and wastes containing diluted highly enriched uranium. Work completed under this project reduces the risk of an accidental nuclear criticality and helps to pave the way for future cleanup of this facility.

The team received an NNSA Defense Programs Award from Dr. Charles Verdon, NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs Deputy Administrator, and Teresa Robbins, NNSA Production Office Manager, in recognition of their successful, accelerated work to eliminate the risk with Building 9206 in less-than-favorable working conditions.

Building 9206 was built and completed during the Manhattan Project in 1944, and most of the uranium that was ultimately used in the Little Boy atomic bomb was purified in that facility. After World War II, the facility was replaced by the much larger Building 9212 and 9206 was subsequently used to convert uranium compounds to a metal form. By the end of the Cold War, most of the processes were shut down and the building was permanently shut down in 1994.

Deactivation of the 16 uranium processing systems included removing all external utility and process interfaces for each system, including electric and natural gas connections, removing contaminated residues from each system, applying a chemical fixative to control airborne contamination levels, non-destructive analysis before and after system deactivation, and waste disposition.

In 2018, NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs assumed responsibility to deactivate systems and remove HEU associated with Building 9206. The “deactivation metric” used by the team to plan work for each year counted on 10 systems being deactivated in FY2019. CNS challenged itself to meet this metric and still complete the five systems left over from FY2018.

The team successfully deactivated all 15 systems, including one additional system slated for a later date. They were also able to successfully process and produce a shipment of 84 HEU drums, which played a major role in furthering NNSA’s efforts to clear out Building 9206.

Removal of all HEU from 9206 will be completed in FY 2024 and all remaining systems will be deactivated by FY 2025. The building will be turned over to the DOE Office of Environmental Management by FY 2030.

Morgan Smith, CNS President and Chief Executive Officer also attended the event and applauded their tremendous clean-up efforts.

“We tend to walk out, turn off the lights and forget about a building until one day, someone walks up to it and says, ‘We have to clean that thing up,’” said Smith. “This is an extremely tough job and you continue to get it done safely and effectively.”

Deactivation of the 16 uranium processing systems included removing all external utility and process interfaces for each system, including electric and natural gas connections, removing contaminated residues from each system, applying a chemical fixative to control airborne contamination levels, non-destructive analysis before and after system deactivation, and waste disposition.