More than 60 organizations have united in calling on U.S. lawmakers to limit financing for a controversial project to build a new highly enriched uranium processing facility in Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Monday.
In a collective letter sent to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the organizations urged against any approval of a quickened building pace for the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex. The National Nuclear Security Administration admitted that entirely new blueprints would be needed for the project as earlier designs were too small.
Critics argue the government specifications for the UPF site call for a uranium processing capability that is much greater than what is needed to maintain a reduced U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.
"The UPF is being designed with a production capacity of 80 warhead secondaries per year to accommodate future production of increased numbers of warhead secondaries rather than being sized to meet the mission requirements of a down-sizing stockpile," according to the letter from organizations including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.
Federal project director John Eschenberg last week said a new uranium processing center would be required regardless of how big the country's nuclear weapons stockpile is in the coming years. The plant's uses will stretch beyond production of nuclear arms parts, to include weapons disassembly.
The final cost of the Uranium Processing Facility is not known. It is projected to cost between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion. Eschenberg said the expense of the redesign has not yet lifted the project price tag out of budget range. A final cost will not be known until new blueprints are nine-tenths finished.