Y-12 Nuclear Facility to Start Partial Shutdown

The Y-12 National Security Complex has been ordered to begin an "orderly shutdown" while the federal government remains closed amid congressional gridlock, Tennessee's Oak Ridge Today news website reported on Monday.

Chuck Spencer, general manager at the U.S. nuclear-weapons facility, told employees in a Monday message they "soon" will learn more details about the shutdown plan, which will put the plant into a "safe and secure status." Some employees at the complex run by The Babcock & Wilcox Company likely will be furloughed, according to news outlet in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where Y-12 is located.

"Safety and security are our highest national priorities, and since Congress has not passed an appropriations act and given the continued uncertainty, it is prudent that we act to ensure extended safe and secure operations of our sites," Spencer reportedly said. "To that end, we have received direction from the acting NNSA administrator to initiate an orderly shutdown in support of, at a minimum, obtaining safe and secure status."

It was not clear if some nuclear-related activities at the Y-12 facility could continue during the shutdown, the news outlet reported, because a spokesman at the National Nuclear Security Administration in Washington could not be reached for comment.

The Y-12 complex develops atomic weaponry, retrieves and stores nuclear materials and fuels U.S. naval reactors, while also doing other government and private-sector work. It had 4,813 employees at the end of September, and typically has roughly 2,000 subcontractors, B&W Y-12 spokeswoman Ellen Boatner said.

The federal government partially shut down on Oct. 1, the start of fiscal 2014, because Democrats and Republicans in Congress cannot agree on a budget. House Republicans are insisting any appropriations plan call for a repeal or a scaling back of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, a move President Obama and his fellow Democrats have rejected.

The budget for NNSA, which is semi-independent, falls under the Department of Energy.

Federal agencies -- and the offices and program they run -- have been impacted in varying ways by the federal government shutdown. The Homeland Security Department's Chemical Facilities Anti-terrorism Standards program ceased most operations last week. The Treasury Department furloughed most of its employees that enforce sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Syria. And some Defense Department chief information officers remain on mandatory leave, even after many civilian Pentagon personnel were relieved of their furloughs last week.

The varied U.S. federal agencies are not being impacted by the shutdown in the same way because they have made differing interpretations of guidance from the White House, The Daily Beast reported Tuesday.

The State Department, the publication notes, has largely avoided the pain of the government funding gridlock. Only 340 State employees have been sent home and -- notably -- its Iran negotiating team is in place and proceeding with a planned trip to Geneva next week to discuss the Iranian government's nuclear program. The State Department also has told Congress it is proceeding to spend money on non-critical items including a new consulate building in India, according to The Daily Beast.

The publication says the State Department is weathering the shutdown fairly well, for now, because it is using money left over from the last fiscal year.

October 8, 2013
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The Y-12 National Security Complex has been ordered to begin an "orderly shutdown" while the federal government remains closed amid congressional gridlock, Tennessee's Oak Ridge Today news website reported on Monday.

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