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Acquisition Process in Action at the Department of Energy Research Paper

Pages:10 (2943 words)



Topic:Department Of Energy

Document Type:Research Paper


How the DOE Used the Acquisition Process to Demolish a Contaminated Building

Today, many organizations lack the resources to engage in a formal acquisition process while others rely on acquisitions processes that are specially designed for a specific project. In either case, these organizations may fail to achieve optimal outcomes due to these types of approaches to the acquisition process. One organization that has recognized the importance of using a formal, standardized acquisition process in the U.S. Department of Energy which oversees dozens of major projects each year. The purpose of this paper is to provide a detailed review of a major program that has been managed, via the acquisition process, over the past decade, by the Department of Energy at the Y-12 National Security Complex. A description of the demolition project is followed by a discussion concerning the acquisition process that was used to guide the process. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings about this program are presented in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Overview and Background

In this context, the acquisition process can be regarded as comprising three basic elements: (1) identifying requirements; (2) acquisition of requisite supplies and commercial vendor contracts; and (3) obtaining needed funding to achieve a project’s goals. These steps were closely followed in the demolition and disposal operations conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOE) in its Alpha 5 project. The stated mission of the DOE is “to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions” (About DOE, 2020, para. 1).

With more than 14,000 employees and operations that span the country, the DOE’s mission has assumed new importance and relevance in recent years, especially following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Maintaining the DOE’s far-flung network of facilities demands ongoing attention, though, including one its most important resources, the Y-12 National Security Complex. According to the description provided by the DOE, “The Y?12 National Security Complex is a premier manufacturing facility dedicated to making our nation and the world a safer place and plays a vital role in the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Enterprise. Y?12 helps ensure a safe and effective U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent” (About Y-12, 2020, para. 3).

The multiple responsibilities assigned to the Y-12 complex include the storage and retrieval of nuclear materials, the provision of fuel for the country’s naval nuclear fleet, and collaborating with other public and private sector organizations in furtherance of these responsibilities. Since its creation nearly three-quarters of a century ago, the Y-12 complex has become an increasing important strategic asset for the United States. Over the past decade, the Y-12 National Security Complex has launched a number of major remediation projects, including the following:

· New On-Site Disposal Facility Planned

· Outfall 200 Mercury Treatment Conceptual Design Project

· Mercury Recovery Project

· Y-12 Surveillance & Maintenance Corrective and Preventative Maintenance

· Old Salvage Yard Scrap Removal

· Building 9735 Demolition

· Alpha 5 Project

· Beta 3 (9204-3) Legacy Material Disposition Project

· Beta 4 Legacy Material Disposition Project

· Biology Complex and Building 9769 Deactivation and Demolition Project (Y-12 National Security Complex cleanup projects, 2020).

Although each of these major projects relied on the acquisition process to achieve its intended outcome, this paper focuses on the Alpha 5 Project which is discussed below.

Alpha-5 Project

Targeted at Building 9201-5, the largest building on the Y-12 complex, the Alpha 5 project involved a space that measured a massive 613,642 square feet (nearly as many square feet as the capacious Pentagon). The previous location of Alpha 5 (Building 9201-5) as shown in Figure 1 at Appendix A. Completed in May 1944, Building 9201-5 (Alpha 5) operated in a number of different capacities over the years, including as a production facility for the National Nuclear Security Administration Weapons Plant. Prior to its recent demolition, the Alpha 5 building was comprised of a massive basement and four floors which contained a wide array of equipment from its past operations. For example, Alpha 5 played an important role is hastening the end of World War II by serving as a uranium enrichment facility during the Manhattan Project. Following this historic contribution to the nation’s security, Alpha 5 was renovated to serve other purposes, and its mass spectrometers were converted in support of other strategic missions that also involved the manufacture and/or processing of extremely toxic substances, including the spillage of approximately 500,000 pounds of mercury.

In addition, other toxic substances such as beryllium were identified throughout 60% of the Alpha 5 building. Although beryllium levels were relatively low in some parts of the building, the were some “hot spot” concentrations as well. According to the DOE, “The primary site related contaminants for the waste in this facility are enriched uranium, depleted uranium, beryllium and mercury” (Birchfield & Albrecht, 2012, p. 3). In other words, Alpha 5 was a major environmental threat for DOE employees and the public alike, and these threats were well recognized by top DOE officials. In this regard, Birchfield and Albrecht (2012) emphasize that, “The Alpha 5 facility was built in 1944 and supported a number of missions that used materials such as uranium, mercury, and beryllium. Since it ceased operations in 2005, this highly contaminated facility has experienced significant degradation (p. 3).

The sheer size of the Alpha 5 facility combined with the wide array of highly toxic chemicals and radioactive materials made remediation and subsequent demotion…

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…demolition as well as the work that was required to demolish and dispose of the contaminated building materials that were involved. For example, the U.S. Office of Environmental Management’s Standard review plan: Acquisition strategy review module (2010) describes the role of the Alpha 5 project team leader as including the responsibilities set forth below.

· In coordination with the Federal Project Director, selects the areas to be reviewed;

· Based on the areas selected for review, project complexity and hazards involved, selects the members of the review team;

· Verifies the qualifications: technical knowledge; process knowledge; facility specific information; and independence of the Team Members;

· Leads the acquisition strategy review pre-visit;

· Leads the review team in completing the Review Criteria for the various areas to be reviewed;

· Coordinates the development of the data call and forwards to the Federal Project Director, a list of documents, briefings, interviews, and presentations needed to support the review;

· Forwards the final review plan to the FPD and Environmental Management (EM) management for approval;

· Leads the on-site review;

· Ensures the review team members complete and document their portions of the review and characterizes the findings;

· Coordinates incorporation of factual accuracy comments by Federal and Contractor personnel on the draft report; and,

· Finally, forwards the final review report to the Federal Project Director and Environmental Management for consideration in making the decision to authorize start of construction (Standard review plan, 2010, p. 2).

Although the precise acquisition process that was followed by the Alpha 5 project team was also guided by other federal and state regulations throughout its duration, the above-listed activities are highly congruent with the contextual definition of the acquisition process that was set forth in the overview and background section above.


Built in 1944, the Alpha 5 Building 9201-5 played a historic role in helping bring an end to hostilities in World War II by its contributions to the Manhattan Project. In addition, the Alpha 5 facility was also instrumental in facilitating research into a wide array of chemical and radioactive materials thereafter, and the results of this research have likewise helped the United States retain its cutting edge lead in the arms race. Irrespective of the differing views about the impact of these activities, the research was consistent in showing that the Alpha 5 building was a critically important asset to the U.S. Department of Defense’s efforts to develop state-of-the-art military resources. In the final analysis, it is reasonable to conclude that the fact that the Alpha 5 project managers succeeded in completing this project on time and on budget was proof positive that the acquisition process followed by the Department of Energy was appropriate and effective…

Sample Source(s) Used


About DOE. (2020). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from,

About Y-12. (2020). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from about.

Birchfield, J. W. & Albrecht, L. (2012). Successful characterization strategies for the active high risk Y-12 National Security Complex 9201-5 (Alpha-5) Facility, Oak Ridge, TN - 12164. United States.

Recovery cleanup project at Y-12. (2010). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from

Standard review plan: Acquisition strategy review module. (2010, March). Washington, DC: Office of Environmental Management.

Supplement analysis for the site-wide environmental impact statement for the Y-12 National Security Complex (DOE/EIS-0387-SA-02). (2018, May). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from

Teamwork successfully brings down the Alpha 5 Annex. (2018). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from

Y-12 National Security Complex cleanup projects. (2020). U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from

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