Saturday, March 03, 2007

Infrastructure Woes

Glenn Reynolds posted about the Walter Reed scandal and the way that it claimed not only the Center's commanding officer, but the Secretary of the Army. Many of the structures on the Center's grounds are outdated and inadequate for current needs. That's one of the reasons that it was set to be closed by the BRAC, but the larger concern is the state of the infrastructure throughout the military's vast holdings.

Many buildings were constructed during World War II and designed to be temporary structures. 60+ years later, and they're still in daily and heavy use. The problems didn't happen overnight, and the solution wont come overnight either.

If you think that the problems are confined to barracks and hospital facilities, you'd be wrong as well. These problems extend to the most secretive and crucial facilities for the nation's nuclear defense.

Imagine the US nuclear production infrastructure being housed in structures that were designed and built in 1942 and with a designed life expectancy of 4-5 years.

That's exactly what you have in the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. That's where HEU is produced for nuclear weapons. However, there's a multi-billion dollar program underway to modernize and consolidate facilities so that the nation's nuclear infrastructure can function well into the future:
The Y‑12 National Security Complex is a sprawling landscape of over 800 acres within the city limits of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Constructed in the early 1940s during the Manhattan Project, Y-12 was developed as a self-contained city with over 500 buildings, 26 miles of road, 10 miles of electrical lines, and 35 miles of piping. This footprint, however, is much too large given the current and future mission of the site, and many of the facilities and services are nearing the end of their useful lives. Several buildings and systems have been out of service for years, and other parts of the infrastructure are beginning to deteriorate faster than they can be managed.
The inventory reduction and consolidation will improve security and provide new and healthier work environments.

I came across this information while reviewing stories about the military approving a new warhead design to replace existing warheads on US missiles throughout the inventory. Critics complain that this isn't the right time to go ahead with new warhead designs, despite the fact that the new warheads are supposed to be more reliable and ensure that the US nuclear deterrent capabilities are available. With a reduced nuclear arsenal, the reliability of individual weapons becomes ever more important since each missile takes on new importance and significance.

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