DOE: Agency is fully operational now—but won't be for long

Sent: Thursday, October 10, 2013 7:50 AM

From E&E News:
DOE: Agency is fully operational now -- but won't be for long

DOE labs around the country appear to be safe for a little longer, thanks to cash reserves. But each will be able to survive for a different amount of time.

At Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, officials estimate they will be able to keep running into November. In an email to staff Monday, Lab Director Thom Mason said the lab has been able to continue its research through carryover funds from prior years. But officials have begun to prepare for a "possible temporary shutdown" in November, he wrote.

At Sandia National Laboratories, employees are looking at less than two more weeks on the job. In a memo to employees yesterday, Lab Director Paul Hommert wrote that the National Nuclear Security Administration has told officials to prepare for a shutdown on Oct. 21. At that time, programmatic work would be put on pause.

Other labs appear to be running under even more uncertainty. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., is also still operating under carryover funding, said spokesman Greg Koller. Officials at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., are similarly keeping an eye on their dwindling resources.

"We are up and running fully, but it's day to day," spokesman George Douglas said.

In the near term, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California will "remain open and operational," said spokesman Jon Weiner. But that could change.

"We're closely monitoring the situation, analyzing how and when programs and operations will have to adapt," Weiner said. "If the shutdown is prolonged, impacts to programs and to employees will be unavoidable."

The nuclear option

At the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, officials began an "orderly shutdown" Monday that would put the nuclear weapons plant into a "safe and secure status."

According to local newspaper Oak Ridge Today, operator B&W Y-12 told workers to expect furloughs if the shutdown doesn't end soon. B&W General Manager Chuck Spencer told employees that they would be notified this week or next on how the shutdown will affect them.

"Safety and security are our highest national priorities, and since Congress has not passed an appropriations act and given the continued uncertainty, it is prudent that we act to ensure extended safe and secure operations of our sites," Spencer said Monday, according to the newspaper.

"To that end, we have received direction from the acting NNSA administrator to initiate an orderly shutdown in support of, at a minimum, obtaining safe and secure status."

Officials are preparing similar plans for the nation's largest nuclear waste site in Hanford, Wash., according to the Tri-City Herald. Contractors have told workers that operations will continue for a short time, but if the shutdown continues, they would stop cleanup work and secure the site.