Nuclear Agency May Reassess Y-12 Uranium Project Over Cost Spike

A U.S. nuclear-arms official said costs could ultimately prompt cutbacks to a uranium plant planned in Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

The National Nuclear Security Administration will complete nine-tenths of the design for the Uranium Processing Facility before mulling a possible need for modifications, NNSA Acting Administrator Bruce Held told the newspaper.

Held's agency now places the future site's maximum estimated cost at $6.5 billion, a nearly six-fold increase from the facility's anticipated price tag from 2004.

Defense Department auditors, though, believe the site's expense could reach between $10 billion and $12 billion, according to insiders. In a worst-case scenario, the cost could even reach $19 billion, the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor reported, quoting personnel familiar with an assessment by the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, or "CAPE," office.

Held said his agency, a semiautonomous branch of the Energy Department, would not immediately alter the uranium project's course in response to the Defense Department report.

"We’re not going to spin around and, you know, just (switch plans) because CAPE says it’s going to cost $19 billion," he said.

NNSA officials would not revise their own expense projection until they "actually have some confidence in what the cost will be," Held said.

Still, the NNSA official said his agency might alter plans for the so-called "UPF" facility later on, if modifications prove necessary.

"If [our UPF design] is too expensive for the U.S. government to do, well, then we’re going to have to figure out something else to do," he said in Dec. 10 comments to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

January 2, 2014
About

A U.S. nuclear-arms official said costs could ultimately prompt cutbacks to a uranium plant planned in Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.

Countries