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Much of what’s taking place behind the doors of the off-site design encampment for the Uranium Processing Facility in Oak Ridge has been kept under wraps in recent months, especially after Federal Project Director John Eschenberg acknowledged that the initial design effort had failed in one important aspect, not providing enough space for all the needed equipment and process operations. The redesign effort began in early fall after Eschenberg and others testified before a field hearing of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, where the space problems with UPF became the focus.

Steven Wyatt, a federal spokesman at Y-12 National Security Complex, confirmed this week that the new design of the UPF is now 66 percent complete, although there is still no detailed timeline for when the design will be completed. Wyatt said the design completion was in the mid- to high-70s when work was halted late last summer. The overall cost of the Uranium Processing Facility is still estimated at between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion, a cost range that’s been in effect for the past couple of years.

No Concrete Timeline for Cost Estimate

Wyatt, a spokesman in the NNSA’s Production Office, declined to give a date for providing a specific cost estimate on the high-profile project. “Once 90 percent design completion is achieved we will submit a CD-2 (Critical Decision-2) package to Headquarters for approval that will contain the complete cost and schedule baseline for UPF,” Wyatt said. “This process, which involves both an independent cost estimate and an external independent review, will likely take several weeks to complete.” Until the redesign effort was ordered because of the “space/fit” issues, the NNSA had projected that 90 percent design would be completed by last Sept. 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2012.

Meanwhile, some preliminary site-preparation work on the UPF is scheduled to begin this winter, officials said. According to Y-12 spokeswoman Bridget Correll Waller, a decision is expected “soon” for the critical decision package that has been submitted for site readiness work on the project. “With this approval, the UPF project team will have the authorization to issue awards and begin work on site,” Waller said in an email response to questions. “Initial awards will be issued by B&W for electrical demolition and establishing a wet spoils area for unusable soil, followed by the [U.S. Army Corp of Engineers] award of the Bear Creek Road extension and associated potable water lines.”

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