- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal safety panel is raising concerns about whether some facilities at the Y-12 nuclear plant in Oak Ridge could withstand a major earthquake.

The Knoxville News Sentinel (https://bit.ly/17mHg6j) reports the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommended in correspondence this month that the National Nuclear Security Administration conduct a new evaluation of the risks at Building 9215 and Beta-2E before proceeding with a plan that would extend use of the facilities.

“Building 9204-2E (Beta-2E) and the 9215 Complex have known structural performance deficiencies and do not meet modern structural design requirements,” Jessie Roberson wrote. “These deficiencies result in an increased potential for structural collapse and release of radiological material following certain seismic events.”

Extending use of the facilities is one way the government is proposing to make the multibillion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility more affordable.

The newspaper reports a National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

The government is trying to get out of the 9212 uranium complex as quickly as possible because of deterioration.

Previously, attention on earthquake vulnerability at Y-12 has focused on 9212. The new report identifies structural issues at the other facilities.

“The designs of the 9215 Complex and Building 9204-2E do not include the ductile design concepts that are used in modern structural design, and thus lack seismic margin to collapse compared to a contemporary structure,” the staff report states.

It further notes, “Should seismic demands exceed the elastic capacities of certain structural members, undesirable failure modes may be triggered such as column or joint failures that can rapidly lead to progressive collapse.”

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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