NNSA transfers purification process to Erwin, Tennessee

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (March 5, 2021) – Due to confusion caused by incomplete information issued by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), City of Oak Ridge leaders would like to make sure it’s clear that the $57.5 million contract the agency executed with Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) for uranium purification and conversion would move the work to a site in Erwin, Tennessee.

On Feb. 26, 2021, City of Oak Ridge officials received an email from NNSA notifying them that NNSA was publishing an Advanced Notice of Award to issue a 3-year, sole source contract with Nuclear Fuel Services (NFS) for the final design and demonstration of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) conversion and purification capabilities at the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12). The information was subsequently provided in a press release issued by NNSA on March 1, 2021.

The information provided by NNSA in both the email and press release implied the contract work would be performed at Y-12, omitting the fact that the work would be conducted 125 miles away from Oak Ridge – in Erwin, Tennessee.

When the City asked NNSA for a clarification, NNSA responded that the confusion “was an error” on their part and that “the NFS work will not be taking place at Y-12.”

To provide a better understanding for workers and the community, Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson requested via email to NNSA’s Intergovernmental Affairs Specialist on March 3 that NNSA issue a correction or updated release to those who received the Feb. 26 distribution.

The request went on to state: “In addition, the NNSA press release issued on March 1 makes no mention that the work will be performed off-site. This oversight needs to be corrected as well. We believe this is important and relevant information that should be provided to stakeholders and the public.”

That request was not acknowledged nor responded to.

“It is deeply concerning that the release issued by NNSA misrepresented the contract work as being at Y-12. We remain strongly against pushing this through just hours before a new Secretary and executive team were confirmed,” Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch said. “Chemical processing of uranium has been one of the core capabilities of Y-12, and it is clear that this work could and should continue to be performed at Y-12 where the highly skilled work force and taxpayer-funded security measures are already in place.”

NNSA staff has sought to assure the City that this contract will not cause a reduction in Y-12 employment, but NNSA has not given the City any further explanation to confirm these statements.

Pending the results of Phase 1, NNSA said it will determine if a Phase 2 contract will be awarded for HEU conversion and purification.