Reading Room

Tri-Valley CAREs Joins Strong Opposition to Oversized Uranium Processing Facility

Recently, the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and member groups met with the Senate Armed Services Committee Majority Council to discuss the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee. The delegation represented 67 organizations, including Tri-Valley CAREs, opposed to UPF construction, which is intended to enable the production of 50 to 80 new nuclear weapon secondaries (the H-bomb part) every year.

The 67 national, state and local organizations signed a letter asking that Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not accelerate funding for the UPF. This ill-advised speed-up of UPF is part of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for nuclear weapons activities.

The UPF exemplifies many of the problems endemic to U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In particular, the UPF has recently received media attention for contractors' failure to properly design the building to fit all necessary equipment inside.

Rather than focusing on this specific design flaw, the sign-on letter (drafted by the Tennessee-based Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance) draws attention to larger issues such as a 700% excessive bomb production capacity, a dearth of federal oversight, and the need for adequate dismantlement capacity to be included in the UPF.

It's interesting to note that while the NNSA is setting up the UPF with excess bomb production capacity, it is planning to undercut needed dismantlement work to take apart the secondaries in retired nuclear weapons. The NNSA and Y-12 now say that dismantlement will have to happen in outdated facilities that leave workers at increased risk.

For more on the wrongheaded plan to build a new bomb production-oriented UPF, click here to read the letter.