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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


The Y-12 National Security Complex, formerly the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant, is situated 811 acres spanning 2.5 miles in Bear Creek Valley at the eastern end of the Oak Ridge Reservation, adjacent to the city of Oak Ridge, in Anderson County, Tennessee. The plant, consisting of about 531 buildings housing over 7,000,000 square feet of space, occupies an area approximately 0.67 mile wide and 3.2 miles long. Y-12 was originally constructed beginning in February 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. Operations began in November of that same year, although construction was not completed until 1945. The original mission of Y-12 was to use an electromagnetic process to separate the fissionable uranium-235 from natural uranium during World War II. During the war, Y-12 employed 22,000 workers at its peak. Although the magnetic separators were taken out of commission at the close of 1996 as gaseous diffusion became the standard method of enriching uranium, its original mission continued until 1993. That mission grew and Y-12 expanded into a manufacturing assembly and inspection facility with the number of buildings doubling. The mission at Y-12 changed at the end of the Cold War from producing nuclear weapon components to maintaining the capability to produce secondaries and cases (capability assurance).


Currently Y-12 is a manufacturing facility. Present missions include the production and reproduction of nuclear weapons components, receipt and storage, and safeguard of special nuclear materials (SNM), stockpile stewardship, dismantlement of weapon secondaries and disposition of weapon components, nonproliferation. Y-12 divides its missions into four strategic areas.

1 - Defense

In the defense division, Y-12 manufactures and remanufactures nuclear weapons components. Precision fabrication services are supported by mature management and safeguards systems. Nuclear manufacturing includes Depleted and Enriched Uranium Operations; Special Materials Operations; and the Assembly, Disassembly, and Storage Operations, all in support of the nation's nuclear stockpile.

Also, it supports the NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program, the purpose of which is to ensure that the U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent is both safe and reliable, through assessment, surveillance, refurbishment, and dismantlement research, design development and science-based testing. The President and the Congress directed DOE to maintain the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent without underground nuclear testing. In order to do that, DOE established a program of science-based stockpile stewardship. In 2000 Congress created the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to oversee the nuclear weapons complex. Y-12 serves the NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program. Stockpile stewardship refers to the activities associated with research, design, development and testing of nuclear weapons and the assessment and certification of their safety and reliability. Stockpile management refers to the activities associated with production, maintenance, surveillance, refurbishment and dismantlement of the nuclear weapons stockpile.

2 - Nonproliferation

In the nonproliferation division, Y-12 supports the NNSA's Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) program. It removes and stores nuclear threats from around the world. Weapon dismantlement, storage, and evaluation includes primarily the disassembly of returned weapons components and quality evaluation for the existing weapons stockpile with surveillance of weapons through disassembly inspection and documentation of findings. Minimum processing is used to reach a state of safe, secure, legally compliant, and economical storage of the materials.

It supplies nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It has created low-enriched uranium supply contracts with Argentina, Australia, Belgium Canada, France, Japan, Romania, South Korea, and The Netherlands.

Known as the nation's "Fort Knox" of highly enriched uranium, it is also the main storage facility for enriched uranium in the U.S. Enriched uranium material warehousing and management oversees the secure management and storage of special nuclear materials as weapons are retired from the national stockpile or returned for dismantlement under strategic arms reduction treaties. This function also includes the management and storage of nuclear materials that are returned to Y-12 from other DOE sites, including DOE-owned nuclear material from universities and other research facilities, both domestically and internationally. This work also includes the processing of enriched uranium for various applications, including enriched uranium processing and storage for DOE's Central Scrap Management Office. The site had 171.9 metric tons of enriched uranium and other SNM as of December 1993. On March 1, 1995 the President announced that approximately 200 metric tons of fissle material. On February 6, 1996, the Secretary of Energy announced that 174 metric tons of it was highly enriched uranium. Y-25's Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) Disposition Program down blends HEU so that it is unusable for weapons. DOE plans to convert 85% of it to commercial and research reactor fuel and dispose of the other 15%. A sizeable quantity has already been converted, which will be completed by about 2015.

3 - Naval Reactors

Y-12 processes HEU for use by the Naval Reactors Program for Naval Nuclear Propulsions. It is the nation's only source of enriched uranium weapons components and nuclear fuel for the U.S. Navy. It began its support in fiscal year 2002. It is planned to continue this support through FY 2050 and beyond.

4 - Complementary Work

Y-12 serves other federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, state and local governments and private-sector companies.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2011 03:43:13 ZULU