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Y-12 Uranium-Processing Options Review to Be Short But 'Intense'

A quick government review of options for maintaining weapon-grade uranium processing work at the Y-12 National Security Complex is likely to wrap up in April.

Thom Mason, the man appointed to lead the "Red Team" review, told the Knoxville News-Sentinel the rapidly performed assessment would be "pretty intense."

"My marching orders are to have some recommendations by the middle of April," said Mason, who heads the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

An earlier plan to build the Uranium Processing Facility at the Tennessee nuclear-weapons site ran aground due to multiple delays and its estimated high cost, which according to some projections could range from $10 billion to $19 billion.

The Red Team that Mason is currently forming likely will involve specialists in atomic safety, nuclear security, chemical processes, criticality, project management and construction. The task force is expected to examine all aspects of the uranium processing work that currently take place at Y-12, the News-Sentinel reported The team's assessment is to include options for continuing the required uranium activities without building the new processing facility, which was intended to house all Y-12 uranium operations.

"Fortunately, there have already been extensive reviews and studies done, and we're planning to make use of the documentation that's out there and try not to reinvent the wheel," Mason said.

The review will study options for modernizing uranium-work capabilities at a cost of between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion.

"The important thing to remember about all of this is we're not being directed to kind of switch off modernization at Y-12," Mason said.

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