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New Y-12 Steam Plant On Line

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – The National Nuclear Security Administration today announced a new steam plant has been brought on line at the Y-12 National Security Complex, replacing a coal-fired plant in operation since the 1950s. The new plant will be better for the environment, far more efficient, and key to ongoing transformation of the site.

The project is part of the NNSA’s Facilities and Infrastructure Recapitalization Program (FIRP). FIRP is aimed at reducing a large maintenance backlog, improving the state of site utilities, and eliminating excess facilities across the nation’s nuclear security enterprise.

“The new Y-12 steam plant is a clear demonstration of NNSA’s commitment to being an effective steward of the taxpayer’s money,” said Gerald Talbot, NNSA Assistant Administrator for Management and Administration. “As we continue to transform a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise, we are working to be leaner and more energy efficient. This is good for our enterprise, good for the taxpayers and good for our country.”

At Y-12, FIRP has executed more than 125 major repair, utility upgrade, and demolition projects with a combined value of almost $450 million since 2002. Site personnel have removed 284 excess buildings totaling 1.2 million gross square feet. Through FIRP, Y-12 has also executed more than $30 million of roofing projects, resulting in the replacement of more than 20 acres of deteriorated roofs with modern, energy efficient roof systems.

The Steam Plant Life Extension Project—which concluded at less than its $61.5 million budget—took the place of a plant that was experiencing boiler failures and mechanical problems during the coldest temperatures of the 2009/2010 winter season.

Dino Herrera, director of the FIRP program, said that the Y-12 Steam Plant Life Extension project is one of the remaining utility line item projects completing a successful infrastructure construction program.

“FIRP project modernization includes electrical, natural gas and potable water initiatives, as well as other utility systems among the projects providing a positive effect on the environment through the reduction of emissions throughout the nuclear security enterprise,” Herrera said.

Reliable and cost-effective steam generation is vital to the operation of the Y-12 complex because it is the primary source of building heat for personnel comfort and provides freeze protection for critical services, including fire protection systems. Steam also is necessary to support the production mission and provides steam condensate and treated water.

In early 2007, Y-12 decided to replace the coal-fired plant rather than attempting to extend its operations, providing the site with a new higher efficiency gas-fired package boiler plant with a 30-year design life — all within the cost and schedule of the originally planned life extension. The new plant is expected to save approximately $27 million in deferred maintenance costs.

“The boilers and associated systems are completely automated,” said Y-12 Site Office Manager Ted Sherry. “More efficient fuels and turndown capabilities provide for a more efficient steam plant and a more efficient Y-12 site.”

The boilers in the old plant had declined to a calculated 52 percent efficiency, thereby requiring more coal to achieve the necessary steam load. A yearly average of 51,000 tons of coal was burned with a resulting 5,000 tons of ash. The new boilers are 82 percent efficient and will use cleaner fuel to produce the required steam with no resulting ash.

Greenhouse gases produced by burning coal—carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide—exceed the quantities produced by natural gas by 44 and 94 percents, respectively, to produce the same quantity of steam. In addition to greenhouse gases, coal burning emits toxics substances such as sulfur dioxide and airborne mercury. The emission of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are projected to decrease by 71, 99 and about 95 percent, respectively, with the new steam plant operation.

“Y-12 will benefit greatly by not only having a more maintainable and reliable system but also reduced emissions to the environment and reduced equipment malfunctions with the change from coal to natural gas,” said B&W Y 12 President and General Manager Darrel Kohlhorst. Clean-up of the old steam plant will involve capping Y-12’s coal yard. Doing away with coal fuel eliminates disposal of dry and wet ash and steam plant wastewater and the need to maintain a wastewater treatment plant.

Two more benefits: the facility is constructed on a brownfield site, taking advantage of a recent FIRP funded demolition, and the building’s footprint is much smaller than that of the existing plant.

As a tribute to all of those who have worked to make the Y-12 National Security Complex a success over the last 65 years, the original steam whistle from the old Steam Plant, was refurbished and installed on top of the new Steam Plant. The whistle, known as “Big Toot”, now links Y-12’s proud past to its promising future. Design and construction activities are being managed by PAS-COY Company, a small business subcontracted by the site’s managing and operating contractor, B&W Y-12.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.