Our nation’s capital recently played host to the country’s future science and technology leaders during the U.S. Department of Energy’s 26th National Science Bowl®. The 116 regional winning teams and their coaches, hailing from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, assembled at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center for an action-packed five days of science activities, sightseeing and competition.
Pantex’s Darla Fish greets an Ascension Academy student as teams check in for the National Science Bowl® at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Maryland.
Three of the teams — Amarillo High School and Ascension Academy (middle school) from Texas and Cedar Springs Home School (high school) from Tennessee — won regional competitions sponsored by Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC.
CNS employees Darla Fish and Allison Roberts, coordinators of the Pantex Regional Science Bowls, joined the hundreds of other volunteers to make the event a success. “It’s so rewarding to our local youth participating in such a well run math and science event,” said Fish.
Pantex and Y 12 received numerous 2014 Defense Programs Awards of Excellence. The award program highlights those who have made a significant difference in improving any phase of the nuclear weapons life-cycle process. The recent awards ceremonies at each site honored programs from the 2014 fiscal year. The Pantex Tester Design team was recognized at the ceremony.
The Pantex Tester Design team received a DP Award for designing, fabricating and implementing the PT4176 digital ohmmeter on the W88 program and will expand implementation to the rest of the active programs.
From left: Erich Grebel, Dustin Allen and Paul Brock accept the Defense Programs Award for their work on the Pantex Tester Design.
Team member Erich Grebel said, “For me, our team’s greatest accomplishment was the ability to coordinate and implement design specifications from three laboratories, the Department of Defense and the United Kingdom. At times the design requirements were conflicting or competing, but implementation of this tester to meet the needs of all of the interested parties, while meeting core design requirements, was an incredible engineering task.”
The PT4176 replaces a 35 year old, unsupportable tester that is the most widely used tester at Pantex. Design of the new tester was a challenge because of the wide array of requirements for this single ohmmeter. The team was able to address these challenges and the result was a safe, reliable and accurate tester. The PT4176 has been qualified for use on explosive components and nuclear weapons, and offers significant benefits to Pantex, the design agencies and DoD.
Working on this team helped Grebel see his role in the Front Line of Global Security. He said, “Category 1 testers are a critical component of certifying the nuclear stockpile. These testers provide quantitative data that is used in determining function, monitor degradation and perform surveillance on nuclear weapons. The PT4176 will be the most widely used tester for our nation’s nuclear deterrent.”
Other team members included Dustin Allen, Donald Collins, Todd Wester and Kenneth Larkan.
The Bataan Memorial March is held annually at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to honor the American and Filipino troops imprisoned by the Japanese and forced to walk through the Philippine jungles on the Bataan peninsula.
“It’s a 26.2 mile march through the hills and sand around the missile range,” said Juan Dominguez, a Pantex guard. “This was my third time to participate and it’s not an easy task.”
Participants honored World War II troops during the 26.2-mile Bataan Memorial March.
Dominguez got with some other guards in his group, Matt Ramos, Robert Coffman, and Chris Houts, about six months before the annual march, and they started planning their trip through the high mountain desert. Ramos, Coffman, and Houts had never participated before.
“Any chance I have to support or show support for fellow veterans, I try to do so,” said Chris Houts. “It was also a chance to push myself and help build strong friendships with my SPO [Security Police Officer] co-workers.”
Participants march with backpacks filled with canned goods and before they start the trek the bags are weighed. “You can go light or heavy, and the bags are weighed and sealed before you take off, said Dominguez. “Whatever you leave with you carry the entire time and then at the end, the food is donated to the local food banks.”
Not only were the men honoring the individuals that march in the Bataan Death March, but they were able to strengthen their bond and make friends along the way. “The camaraderie with co-workers and participating with other marchers that have a common interest to honor and support our veterans was a huge motivation for me,” said Coffman.
High mountain deserts have enchanting views, but they also have cold mornings, warm days, and plenty of sand, and sand isn’t your friend when you’re walking for miles. Houts had a blister that covered his heel by mile 12. After about 30 minutes of care at one of the medic stations, the group was back on their way. “It wasn’t easy and it hurt like hell, but I wasn’t about to quit,” Houts said.
Coffman added that the march took you up and down the mountain and over different terrain. “You would descend down the mountain on asphalt, then back to the desert terrain and deep sand; you were constantly having to stop and dump sand out of your shoes.”
Despite the rough terrain, the men finished and vow to do it again next year. “My feet hurt for almost a month and my muscles were so sore I could hardly stand for a few days, said Houts. “With all that, it was still an amazing experience and I look forward to the opportunity to test myself again next year.”
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC Construction workers and subcontractors achieved a significant milestone by working more than four years at Pantex without a recordable injury as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Pantex Construction employees perform high-risk work every day and recently completed more than four years without a recordable injury as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Given the types of work performed by the group, this achievement is remarkable. This team is engaged in high-risk work every day — from elevated work, lifting and rigging, warehouse renovation, storage systems, and fiber optic backbone to replacing underground fire protection piping, installing security barriers, bay and cell upgrades and electrical system modifications.
“The success is facilitated by the oversight and daily construction safety inspections conducted by the Safety Department’s construction safety personnel and the daily work and safety focus of the Project Subcontract Technical Representatives and the Construction Management team,” said Jimmy Rogers, manager, Pantex Safety and Industrial Hygiene Department. “You can tell that everyone has really adopted the four core values of teamwork, respect, trust and integrity.”
With many programs in place to help ensure safety, the main reason for the four‑year success is the team’s safety culture. Journeyman electricians Jerry Moore and Victor Kaempfe agreed the achievement was a team effort made possible by a culture of safety.
“I think the key factor in staying safe is you have to want to be safe and work safe — it’s a safety culture,” Moore said.
Kaempfe added, “We help each other be safe. We start the day with the idea that we are all going to go home at the end of the day, and you can only achieve that with a strong safety culture.”
Without the work ethic, commitment and willingness to drive an overall shift to a nuclear safety culture and the five Daily Absolutes, the accomplishment might not have been achieved.
“Ian (Hughes) has been our mentor and our ‘lead-by-example’ person,” Beard said, referring to the CNS Construction Manager at Pantex. “He is a fun guy to work with, but when it comes to safety, he’s always serious.”
The team – West Texas Building Trades members, construction subcontractors and CNS staff – have adopted the traits of a nuclear safety culture, leading to a much safer work environment.
Sheet metal worker Clifford Branum said the emphasis on safety — the general safety meeting each morning, followed by a job‑specific safety inspection — is a change from other sites where he’s worked.
“We aren’t schedule driven; we are safety driven,” Branum said. “It’s nice to know there will be no kickback for saying something. If you see something that you think isn’t safe, you can say something, and the issue will be addressed.”
Hughes said each and every team member’s leadership and individual commitment has been instrumental in achieving a healthy nuclear safety culture in the Construction group.
“Of course, maintaining the health of the safety culture requires continuous focus and commitment by all, and this requires that the safety culture be incorporated into our DNA. It is imperative that in addition to the daily care and feeding of our culture, that we (that’s all of us) make every decision from the perspective of our five Absolutes,” he said.
Twenty-three college students recently visited the Pantex Plant as part of the College Pre‑Hire Program. The site visit helps students learn more about the work performed at the Plant and helps them determine if they are a good fit to be future CNS employees. Successful candidates will receive job offers soon. Students who accept the offer receive tuition reimbursement, relocation expenses and a signing bonus.
The program has brought about 100 young engineers to Pantex over the last eight years, said Courtney Waddell, program coordinator. Waddell, who was hired through the program, said it has a 90-percent retention rate.
Twenty-three college students recently visited the Pantex Plant, as part of the College Pre-Hire Program.