A fire at a Y-12 National Security Complex uranium processing facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee has been contained, officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration said.
The fire at the Y-12 complex started in a uranium processing area in building 9212 on Wednesday at 9:14 a.m., Y-12 communications manager Taz Painter said in an email to Knox News.
Several hundred employees from building 9212 and others were evacuated. A 12:30 p.m. update from Y-12 stated all evacuated workers were accounted for and no injuries or contaminations were found.
Air monitors did not go off, which means there was no release of radioactive material, officials said. Officials said they did not yet know what caused the fire.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” said Y-12 spokesman Gene Patterson. “We are still in the process of figuring out exactly what that timeline is on what happened this morning.”
There are no worries for community members and there was no contamination because of the fire, officials stressed. Other parts of Y-12 are back to normal operations, officials said.
What is the Y-12 nuclear complex?
The Y-12 National Security Complex manufactures parts for America’s nuclear weapons, stores nuclear materials and provides enriched uranium to the U.S. Navy.
Y-12 was the Knoxville area’s fourth-largest employer in 2022, with 7,800 employees total.
An incident has occurred @y12nsc. Y-12 emergency response personnel are at the scene of the incident. Appropriate precautionary actions have been initiated for Y-12 employees. There is no off-site impact to the public as a result of the incident.
— Y-12 NSC (@y12nsc) February 22, 2023
The security complex has been in Oak Ridge since 1943, when the 811-acre Y-12 was built as part of the Manhattan Project. Consolidated Nuclear Security has operated Y-12 since previous contractor B&W was fired after antinuclear protestors broke into the facility in 2012.
In October 2022, it was announced that the National Nuclear Security Administration would extend its contract with Consolidated Nuclear Security to operate Y-12 after terminating its contract with a different company.
Less than a month ago, officials celebrated the construction of a new fire station and Emergency Operations Center at the complex. They replaced buildings that had been built back in the 1940s.
What happens in building 9212?
According to an August 2020 handout describing the facilities, building 9212 was completed in November 1945 to recycle uranium. It was the location of the first production of uranium metal at Y-12 and the earliest nuclear weapons production facility at Y-12. It continues to serve as one of the primary chemical processing and enriched uranium production facilities at Y-12.
A new uranium processing facility slated for completion by the end of 2025 would allow the National Nuclear Security Administration to stop certain operations in building 9212, which a U.S. Government Accountability report in 2020 called “the oldest building with the highest nuclear safety risk at the Y-12 National Security Complex,” noting the building’s design predates modern nuclear safety codes.
In other words, they knew there would be a disaster coming in this crappy building… [US News]
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