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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)



Alpha and Beta Buildings

In the course of one year starting in February 1943, eight of nine electromagnet enrichment process buildings, which houses calutrons, were put into operation. The buildings housed 1,248 calutrons, electromagnetic spectrometers used to separate large quantities of isotopes of uranium. The 5 first-stage enrichment operations were named the alpha buildings (9201-1, 9201-2, 9202-3, 9202-4, and 9202-5). The three second-stage enrichment operations were named the beta buildings (9204-1, 9204-2, and 9204-3). Building 9204-4 was operational by November 1945. The calutrons were arranged in groups called racetracks. Alpha tracks, which were 122 feet long, 77 feet wide, and 15 feet high, and shaped like an oval, usually had 96 calutrons per track. Beta tracks, which were smaller and rectangular, had 36 calutrons each. Each building usually housed two tracks. The first Alpha calutron ran in January 1944. All nine Alphas and six of the Betas had been dismantled by the end of 1946.

Alpha 4: Building 9201-4

This nuclear facility, constructed in 1945, was originally used for electromagnetic separation of uranium. It was later used for separation of lithium isotopes. It occupies 562,000 square feet of space, is shut down, and is assigned to EM. As of 2007, it was awaiting D&D. However, all major Y-12 plant utilities run through this facility, and it is the hub of the entire electrical system of Y-12.

The building contains large quantities of mercury and other hazardous materials, such as asbestos, lithium, lithium hydroxide, and mixed wastes. Although this facility is deteriorating, it is still in good condition. About 50 to 70 workers occupy this building, and extensive precautions are take to protect the workers from the risk of exposure to the hazardous materials.

Alpha 5: Building 9201-5

This building was constructed in 1945 and occupies 591,500 square feet of space. The primary mission of this facility is to process and manufacture depleted uranium and non-uranium materials parts. In addition, beryllium, lithium, and depleted uranium in various forms are stored in this facility. Combustibles contaminated with enriched uranium are also stored in 9201-5. There are plans to relocated the arc melting operation to the 9998 H-1 foundry. The building was evacuated in 2007 and is awaiting D&D.

Alpha 5N/5W: Building 9201-5N/5W

This nuclear facility, constructed in 1972 and occupying approximately 80,500 square feet of space, was used to machine depleted uranium. There is some risk of depleted uranium exposure or uptake to workers in this facility.

Beta 2: Building 9204-2

This building was constructed in 1954 and occupies 270,000 square feet of space. It is a special material operations and material storage facility. The primary mission of this facility is to manufacture non-nuclear components for weapon production. This mission includes salvage and recycle of weapon components made from lithium hydride and lithium deuteride and storage of these and other lithium-based materials for possible reuse. Today's lithium operations are generally industrial types: non-nuclear, non-radiological, chemical, foundry, and metal working processes. Much of the original equipment has been replaced or upgraded by the lithium process replacement project and other projects since the late 1980s with significant improvements in safety, waste minimization, and process control.

Beta 2E: Building 9204-2E

This facility, part of the Beta-2 complex, occupies approximately 151,200 square feet of space and was constructed in 1969. This uranium assembly facility is a two-story, 151,000-square-foot building with a recirculating air system. It is used for: (1) processing cleaning, assembling, welding, and preparing nuclear components for shipment; (2) disassembling, storing, and preparing non-nuclear components for shipment; (3) dismantlement,; and (4) quality evaluation and component certification. Operations resumed in March 1996. A major hazard is the significant quantities of special nuclear material (SNM). While the risks are relatively low, the workers are exposed to radiological and industrial hazard and to possible nuclear criticality. Significant events include failure to comply with fire protection system surveillance requirements and operational safety requirements (OSRs). On March 15, 2007 the facility experienced a fire from a uranium chip.

Beta 4: Building 9204-4

This nuclear facility, constructed in 1949, occupies approximately 273,000 square feet. As of 2007, it is a material storage facility. It was previously used for disassembly, testing, and storage of warhead components produced at Y-12. Portions of this facility were active as part of receipt, storage, and shipping (RSS) operations. Other activities, such as quality evaluation (QE), were performed under special operation packages. The mission was moved to Building 9204-2E; the move was scheduled to be completed by 2002. In addition, depleted uranium and non-uranium metals were processed in this facility. Plans were to relocate that activity to Buildings 9212, 9996, and 9998. A major hazard is the presence of significant quantities of SNM and hazardous substances; while the risks are relatively low, workers are exposed to hazardous substances and to possible nuclear criticality. A past significant event includes violation of OSRs. In 2006, relocation, which started in 2005, of the highly enriched uranium stored in this building was relocated and consolidated at Y-12. The facility now requires a much lower level of protection.

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