Protecting personnel and property for the mission

  • Posted: Monday, June 10, 2024, 10:42 am

Carlos G., fire protection engineer, conducts a monthly prevention check on equipment.
Carlos G., fire protection engineer, conducts a monthly prevention check on equipment.

With approximately 500 facilities at Pantex and more than 400 at Y-12, protecting the lives and property inside each building is an essential job. Fire protection engineers work daily to ensure the safety of personnel and property.

“With Pantex being the primary nuclear weapons plant, a fire in a nuclear or explosive facility would cause a huge impact to the nuclear deterrent for the United States and our allies,” said Justin H., Pantex Fire Protection Engineering manager. “A fire could cause an explosion, contamination, or worse, the loss of life.”

Justin’s Y-12 counterpart, Jake G., echoed the importance of mitigating fire dangers.

“In addition to the off-site release concerns associated with a fire, any major fire at the site could cause an extended shutdown,” said Jake, Y-12 Fire Protection Engineering manager. “Understanding the potential consequences of a major fire and the associated impact to not only the site but the employees is how I feel I contribute to the overall mission of Y-12.”

Fire protection engineers serve as the technical authority on fire protection–related items. They also review combustibles that are present in nuclear facilities, perform fire modeling, and review procedures to verify that all operations are implementing fire safety controls.

“Knowing that my job directly protects my Pantex coworkers by ensuring their safety as well as the safety of the surrounding community is very rewarding,” said Fire Protection Engineer, Carlos G.

Only a handful of universities offer fire protection engineering degrees. Justin, Jake, and Carlos all earned their degrees at Oklahoma State University where, in addition to the regular curriculum of math and science courses, they worked hands-on in fire labs.

“I interviewed with Pantex at the OSU career fair and accepted an offer a couple of months before graduating. I knew it would be a one-of-a-kind experience and opportunity,” Carlos said. “I had also heard great things from friends and previous classmates who had been hired on before me. I have been a proud Pantexan for 4 1/2 years.”

It is easy for anyone to get bogged down in the daily grind, but at the end of the day, remembering how the work impacts the overall mission is rewarding.

“My favorite part of the job is being able to assist in solving issues associated with the unique and one-of-a-kind processes, equipment, and hazards that we have at Y-12,” Jake said.

Justin shares similar sentiments with Jake and other Fire Protection Engineering colleagues. Each voiced a selfless dedication to the wellbeing of their sites and the people who work there.

“It is gratifying when you take a step back and think about how Pantex is a place in the Nuclear Security Enterprise that deters other countries from using nuclear weapons,” Justin said. “Knowing you have played a role in that mission is rewarding.”