Y-12 National Security Complex

Y-12 National Security Complex

The Y-12 National Security Complex is a United States Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration facility located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Y-12 is managed and operated under contract by B&W Y-12(formerly called BWXT Y-12), a partnership of Babcock and Wilcox (formerly called BWXT Technologies), a McDermott company, and Bechtel.


Y-12 was established during the Manhattan Project to enrich uranium using electromagnetic isotope separation. Its construction began in February 1943, under the management of Stone and Webster. Because of a wartime shortage of copper, the massive electromagnetic coils were made with 14,700 tons of coinage silver from U.S. government vaults at West Point [Nichols, Kenneth D. "The Road to Trinity" page 42 (1987, Morrow, New York) ISBN 068806910X ] [ [http://www.tnengineering.net/AICHE/eastman-oakridge-young.htm EASTMAN AT OAK RIDGE - Dr. Howard Young ] ] Initially Kenneth D. Nichols said he needed six thousand tons, and Daniel Bell the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury replied "Young man, you may think of silver in tons, but the Treasury will always think of silver in troy ounces."

The facility began operating in November 1943, separating uranium-235 from natural uranium, which is 99.3% uranium-238, by using calutrons to perform electromagnetic isotope separation. Y-12 produced some of the uranium-235 for Little Boy, the nuclear weapon that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. K-25, another facility in Oak Ridge, produced enriched uranium using gaseous diffusion. However, K-25 did not begin operating until early 1945.

Tennessee Eastman was hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to manage Y-12 during the Manhattan Project. The company transferred scientists from Kingsport, Tennessee to Y-12 and operated the plant from 1943 to May 1947. [ [http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=T035 Tn Encyclopedia: Tennessee Eastman Company/Eastman Chemical Company ] ] The Y-12 electromagnetic plant units were initially operated by scientists from Berkeley to remove bugs and achieve a reasonable operating rate. Then they were turned over to trained Tennessee Eastman operators who had only a high school education. Kenneth Nichols compared unit production data, and pointed out to Ernest Lawrence that the young “hill-billy” girl operators were outproducing his Ph.Ds. They agreed to a production race and Lawrence lost, a morale boost for the Tennessee Eastman workers and supervisors. The girls were trained like soldiers not to reason why, while “the scientists could not refrain from time-consuming investigation of the cause of even minor fluctuations of the dials” [Nichols, Kenneth D. "Ibid", page 131] .

Union Carbide succeeded Eastman as operating contractor in 1947, remaining until the mid-1980s, when Carbide relinquished the contract to operate DOE's Oak Ridge facilities and Martin Marietta (later Lockheed Martin) took over their operation. BWXT Y-12 succeeded Lockheed Martin as Y-12 manager in November 2000. [http://www.y12.doe.gov/news/pdf/2002/011002.pdf]

Current status

Today Y-12 manufactures nuclear weapons components, participates in stockpile stewardship research, and "is the 'Fort Knox' for highly enriched uranium", according to its website. [ [http://www.y12.doe.gov/missions/defenseprograms/storage.php Y-12 National Security Complex: Secure Storage ] ]

BWXT Y-12 currently employs approximately 4,500 people. About 1,500 additional personnel work onsite as employees of organizations that include UT-Battelle, Science Applications International Corporation, Bechtel Jacobs, and Wackenhut Services (a U.S.-controlled unit of the Wackenhut Corporation), which holds the security contract for the site.

The Y-12 Plant was listed as an EPA Superfund site in the 1990's for groundwater and soil contamination. Today, the Y-12 Plant is listed on the DOE's Cleanup Criteria/Decision Document Database (or C2D2 database). Contaminates included in the CERCLA Superfund for this area are nitrate, beryllium, mercury, PCB's, TCE, and radium-226. [ [http://c2d2.eml.doe.gov/index.cfm?target=im.cfm Cleanup Criteria / Decision Document Database ] ]

ee also

*Oak Ridge National Laboratory


External links

* [http://www.y12.doe.gov/ Y-12 National Security Complex]
* [http://www.doe.gov/ United States Department of Energy]
* [http://www.nnsa.doe.gov/ National Nuclear Security Administration]
* [http://www.atomicarchive.com/Maps/Oakridge.shtml A map of Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the time of the Manhattan Project]

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