TN Group Fights Y-12 Nuclear Weapon Expansion in Oak Ridge
Wednesday, August 9, 2023
An environmental group in Knoxville wants to stop construction at the Uranium Processing Facility, part of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
For six decades, Y-12 has been processing, and storing highly enriched uranium.
Tanvi Kardile, coordinator for the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said the Uranium Processing Facility is being built to replace older buildings from the 1940s. Her group is voicing its concerns to the community and lawmakers about what they see as the environmental hazards and public health risks that go into production of nuclear weapons at Y-12.
"Radiation waste, it's in the air, water and land," Kardile pointed out. "Currently, around the area, the communities around the area, they have higher asthma cases. And like, people who don't live around weapons plants in other places, we see that cancer risks have escalated because of weapons plants."
Kardile noted another concern is the budget for the Y-12 complex, which has ballooned from an initial estimate of $600 million to more than $8 billion. The latest defense spending bill, approved by both houses of Congress in July, authorized $760 million for Y-12's Uranium Processing Facility.
Proponents of the weapons plant point to the jobs and economic impact it has for the local area. Kardile acknowledged they do not want to see anyone lose their job, but she noted closing the facility would also provide employment opportunities.
"There's also cleanup that goes into weapons production," Kardile emphasized. "We want to shut down weapons plants, but we would not be eliminating jobs by doing that. Instead of building weapons, that the workers would be spending years and decades doing cleanup, because there's so much contamination that's in the environment, that cleanup is not going to end any time soon."
According to the Y-12 website, the complex has about 4,500 employees and another 2,000 contractors.
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