Pantex summer intern Hector Rivero-Figueroa, left, works on a compressor air filter design with coworker Clint Hanes. Social distancing and face coverings were the norm during internship 2020.
In a typical April, interns would be finalizing travel and living arrangements for their anticipated summer internships. But in 2020, COVID-19 created pandemonium, and many interns across the country were disappointed when many companies canceled internships. CNS Human Resources and the executive leadership team wanted to make CNS's program happen, so HR enlisted help from multiple organizations, including Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services; Communications; Performance Excellence, and Information Solutions and Services.
Cristy Landrum, intern program lead, and Recruiting & Placement’s Amy Moran stepped into motion.
“We worked with CNS leadership to establish guidelines and processes on how to proceed with our original start date of June 1,” Landrum said. “We wanted to allow time to onboard remotely and to telework until site conditions allowed for safe work on site.”
CNS President and Chief Executive Officer Michelle Reichert said, “Interns are our future workforce. We wanted to offer them the experience they had signed up for and accepted, and our team went to work to make it happen. We knew we might not be able to offer a 100% in person internship, but we knew we had the resources, creativity, and tenacity to make it the best it could be, considering the circumstances. The result allowed students to see how CNS thinks outside the box to make the undoable doable.”
The teamwork involved with this year’s program led to success.
Landrum said, “Nothing stops the CNS team from working towards the mission. We don’t buckle under pressure, and we don’t throw in the towel when times get tough. We strive for excellence, and we work together to quickly find ways to meet our goals.”
Interns leave contributions
As Pantexans and Y-12ers for the summer, the 2020 interns made valuable contributions to the CNS mission in the Development, Engineering, Operations, Security, Supply Chain Management, and Information Solutions and Services Departments. Before they left, 19 interns were even offered an opportunity to continue their CNS careers as full-time employees.
Despite changes brought by COVID-19, CNS honored its commitment to providing educational development opportunities for the 40 students this summer as a part of the CNS Internship Program. In a modified program, the 16 interns at Pantex and 24 interns at Y-12 experienced the sites, virtually and in-person.
Pantex’s Paul Mendez and Mike Hight from Personnel Security were just two who assisted in finding the solution. The team had a quick turnaround time, because the final decision to go virtual was made less than a month before the start date.
“We had some obstacles,” Mendez said. “There was short notice for almost every aspect from processing Clearance Action Requests to identification verification. Personnel Security assisted with reviewing and processing Clearance Action Requests, and we provided the required briefing and ensured appropriate access was set up.”
Hight said, “The hardest part was the short notice to process interns, and the need to stay flexible in processing them - it took some specialized effort to determine their status and work them in with all the other onboarding actions we conduct.”
Next was making a traditional program a virtual one. Landrum said, “This was my first year as the lead over the internship program, so implementing the program was a challenge, then when you throw in COVID-19, it made it even more challenging. I knew I needed to get others on board.”
That’s when Jessica Dawes and Alex Moore came into play and helped build a knowledge library, which became a partnership with others within the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
“The NSE Internship Library was established to allow interns joining the NSE in 2020 to have content about the sites and the NNSA mission,” Moore said.
Dawes added, “The library is composed of virtual content to assist interns in developing a better understanding of roles and responsibilities of the organizations within the NNSA, as well as illustrate how integrated the organizations are in order to achieve the NNSA mission.”
Currently, the knowledge library is with NNSA Public Affairs to be published online. “The NSE workforce team, made up of employees from various NSE organizations, emailed the material to their sites’ interns,” Moran said. “We paired the material, which consisted of a lot of website links, with a planned event - the NSE Virtual Intern Panel. The event was a success with seven panelists from across the enterprise and 177 participants (interns) all learning about the work across the NSE and how they can contribute to our mission.”
Last, but not least, was determining how to share on the job training, so Landrum and Moran asked Performance Excellence’s Training Compliance & Delivery to join the effort. Within a few weeks, the team had General Employee Training ready to teach virtually through WebEx. Once required training was completed, Christine Shawhan (Six Sigma) and others from PE developed a schedule for Enrichment Series classes that the interns attended virtually.
“We offered information on how to write a business case, how to facilitate a virtual meeting, and shared various Lean Six Sigma tools,” Shawhan said. “Amy and Cristy then recommended having the CNS Affinity Groups share with the interns, so they could learn about future possibilities. Teamwork makes the dream work. Seems silly to say, but it really does!”
So at the end of the 10 week internship, the 40 interns for 2020 left with a robust amount of information from a program that wasn’t sure it would even happen.
“It really ended as a win-win project,” Moran said. “One intern told me before she left Pantex that the lessons taught in the [Enrichment Series] meetings would not have come up in a typical college education. She said she was able to learn how to be a competent professional before graduating with her degree.”
Landrum said, “Change is inevitable, but we will support the mission. You simply adapt and react. By continuing the internship program, it taught the students that turmoil doesn’t stop CNS from working towards supporting the mission.”
Pantex summer intern Drew Rowlands (center) checks a pump station system with coworkers Jonathan Burkhead (left), Ronnie Anderle (black shirt), and Colton Mooney (right).
Pantex and Y-12 have valiantly continued vital work throughout the COVID-19 response. A part of that work is to ensure projects remain on track and on time. As of June 29, Pantex Projects had the remaining 22 projects released to return-to-work, bringing the total to 68 projects they are working on. The phased return-to-work focused on the safe return of Pantex subcontractors, beginning with priority projects first. Some of those projects included bay and cell fire system upgrades, roof asset management and a hoist installation.
To keep things moving with health and safety in mind, especially when working with off-site contractors, requirements such as approving COVID-19 safety plans were put into place and contractors were required to follow Pantex COVID-19 requirements. Even in the early stages of the pandemic protocols, here’s an example of how Pantex Projects continued their mission:
Demolition projects at Pantex are planned for many years in the future, and are bringing new interest and contractors to Pantex to perform work. Buildings 12-14 and 12-34 are two of several demolition projects on National Nuclear Security Administration’s 2020 Make It Happen List. These two demolition projects recently progressed through planning and design phases to the contractor bid phase and were the last of the 2020 demolition projects to go out for bid.
“The consequences of moving on with the bid phase without a walk down is that bidders do not submit bids or the bids are not accurate for the tasks to be performed,” said Marlin Conner, project manager. “The walk downs are a crucial step in the procurement process to facilitate competitive and fair bids.”
On May 20, representatives from 18 companies were at Pantex for the walk downs. Normally, contractors attend a pre-bid walk down before bids are submitted to see the site conditions, validate drawings provided with the Request for Proposal, and evaluate the scope for tasks that may be more or less complex than understood from the documents provided. Just before the walk down was scheduled, the plant implemented the COVID-19 Containment Phase, which resulted in delay.
The integrated project team was determined to continue the project’s momentum, and with the help of many Pantex team members, were able to overcome the obstacles and safely conduct the walk downs. In order to ensure the safety of people and facilities, each contractor employee was cleared by Medical before coming to Pantex, and all participants wore face masks. After thoroughly searching vehicles and screening people, Security cocooned the group through the security gates to eliminate the use of ARGUS stations and reduce surfaces touched by both Plant and contractor personnel. Groups were kept small and rotated through the facilities.
“At the end of the day, the walk downs were conducted just as planned due to the diligence and determination of the team,” Conner said.
They ended up with six bids, which is still an impressive amount, even outside of the pandemic.
Building 12-14 is due for demolition in FY2020
Members of the Pantex Fire Department install a Biocell Ambulance Protective System. Please note: the photo was taken prior to the COVID‑19 face covering guidance.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pantex Fire Department explored new ways to protect fire department personnel and plant employees.
The general practice to protect the patient compartment in the ambulance is to line it with plastic, so the PXFD invested in 3 BioCells – a preformed plastic cocoon placed in the patient compartment of an ambulance that can be used effectively with suspected COVID patients.
“It was designed for highly contagious pathogens such as Ebola, and we can use it for a COVID-19 response if necessary” Emory Johnson, PXFD Assistant Chief said. “The secondary use is for radiologically contaminated patients.”
The one time use device can be rolled up and placed in a box for disposal keeping the patient compartment free of contaminates.
In addition to the BioCells for ambulances, the PXFD is also taking extra measures for disinfection and sanitation of their station and equipment. The PXFD houses a shift of about 20 firefighters and the Emergency Service Dispatch Center and Operations Center.
“Because personnel at the fire department are in such close proximity to each other, disinfection of the station is necessary to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Johnson said.
The fire department has a hypochlorous acid machine on order. These machines are used by the cruise ship industry, food preparers and the livestock industry to disinfect areas that are suspect.
To fill the gap, the fire department is using quaternary ammonium which is another disinfectant deployed by using a paint sprayer hooked to a self-contained breathing apparatus - making it portable.
“The fire station is disinfected several times a day – all common areas including the kitchen, bathrooms, door handles,” Johnson said. “It is also used to disinfect the patient compartment in the ambulance and other fire equipment after every call.
Johnson also said personnel are required to wear masks when inside the building and social distancing is enforced.
The fire station is disinfected several times a day. Please note: the photo was taken prior to the COVID‑19 face covering guidance.
The SAMES concrete crew makes a 241 yard pour behind the Pantex Fire Department in January 2020. SAMES is a small-business partner and is CNS'protégé in the mentor/protégé program. Please note the photo was taken prior to COVID-19 protocols being in place.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC (CNS) is demonstrating a continued commitment to business partnership, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of ongoing outreach to business owners and potential vendors, CNS representatives are continuing their Partners in Excellence (PIE) event series virtually.
CNS began the PIE event series in April 2018 because the government contract solicitation process is sometimes considered complex or cumbersome for businesses, particularly newcomers and small businesses.
The latest round of online PIE workshops and forums allow potential business partners to attend while adhering to local social distancing guidelines in Texas, Tennessee, and across the country. PIE workshops are targeted based on agenda content, but larger events like the recent August PIE forum are open to a broader audience of business owners.
“Our goal is to increase the capacity and capability of our contractor base to support our small project execution,” said Cindy Morgan, director of CNS Supply Chain Business Management. “In our world, small projects are defined as $50 million or less.”
While CNS has a focus on modernizing the aging infrastructure of Pantex and Y-12, the company doesn’t only need construction contractors.
“We purchase a variety of goods and services from small and large businesses, and we need vendors for everything from general office supplies to information technology and staff augmentation,” said Randy Crawford, Pantex Small Business Program Manager.
The PIE events are a chance for CNS leaders to offer attendees a slice of knowledge about successfully doing business with Pantex and Y-12, break down the requirements, and share upcoming opportunities. During the August 29 PIE event, Bill Tindal, the CNS chief operating officer, provided an overview of the Pantex and Y-12 site histories and explained why the company uses subcontractors as partners.
There’s also a chance to network with fellow business owners to encourage partnerships. “Sometimes a small business is not able to bond for a large job, but they have the expertise and skills that a larger business does not,” said Morgan. “Providing a chance to network encourages those businesses to work together and submit a joint bid.”
Each year, CNS awards over $1 billon in subcontracts to businesses that help accomplish specialized tasks in support of its vital national security mission.
Dr. Mark Izzard conducts a telepsychology session from his office at Pantex.
The Pantex and Y-12 Occupational Health Services departments have always had a mission to maintain and improve the safety, health, and wellness of employees in the workplace, and their work is more important now than ever before. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve proven themselves responsive, adaptable, and innovative. OHS is rising to the challenges of meeting ongoing occupational health needs with reduced staffing levels, finding ways to improve for the future, and even blazing new trails.
“I don’t think anyone in Y-12 OHS will ever forget that Monday in March when we learned we had our first case,” said Gary Hall, Y-12 OHS senior manager. “I looked around the room, and I think every single person there felt the tsunami of change coming fast our way. In hindsight, I think it was our exceptional people skills that got us through - we needed to quickly problem solve and then execute. We talked our way through the anxiety our coworkers were feeling.”
To practice proper social distancing, the Pantex and Y-12 groups alternated medical and administrative staff on site with weekly shifts. Even with reduced on site staffing levels, personnel were still able to provide fitness for duty and case management functions.
Procedures that didn’t allow for social distancing, such as audio and pulmonary function tests and physical therapy, have been paused to protect the providers and patients. For other procedures, the groups looked for new ways of meeting requirements.
Pantex and Y-12 OHS started telepsychology, or virtual psychology exams. With the employee in one room and the psychologist in another room, they connect via Skype. The simple solution was a first in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. OHS hopes to soon allow psychologists to offer this service while teleworking from home to further reduce the amount of clinical staff on-site.
Pantex has also changed procedures for alcohol testing. To reduce use of breathalyzer tests and protect Fire Department personnel administering the test, employees called in to work off-shifts now receive saliva testing as a pre-screening and breath alcohol tests only following a positive saliva test.
In addition to providing ongoing health support to the plants, both OHS departments played a major role in the sites’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Site Operational Medical Directors Dr. Michael Paston and Dr. Warren Sayre helped develop policies and procedures to protect on site employees and prepare for when the workforce returns during the three stages of the recovery plan.
“We are functioning like our own public health department. The case management staff, led by nurse Melva Davis, is perfecting contact tracing, and we are coordinating with the Amarillo Public Health Department,” said Paston.
Don Morris, Pantex OHS senior manager, said the situation has also encouraged the team to identify opportunities for improvement in other internal processes.
“In some ways, I don’t think we will ever go back to the way we used to do business,” Morris said.
The continuous improvement demonstrated by OHS has not only helped reduce the spread of COVID-19 at both sites but also will further improve the quality of service provided in the future.