Pantex Blog

CNS employees blaze through certification exam

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 00:00

CNS has made remarkable progress in fire protection this year with 17 CNS employees earning certified fire protection specialist credentials by passing the CFPS exam administered by the National Fire Protection Association.

The exam is designed to test candidates’ knowledge and proficiency in protecting facilities from fire and is based on the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, which covers every aspect of fire protection. The certified employees work in various divisions of Mission Assurance; Mission Engineering; Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services; the Uranium Processing Facility and Y-12 Operations.

“Ensuring a high level of fire protection for our sites is critical. One way we can do this is by providing our staff with opportunities for continuing education and training, as well as professional certification. By becoming certified, these employees have demonstrated their commitment to fire protection and CNS,” said Y-12 Fire Protection Engineering Manager David Greer. “We were fortunate to have the exam review course and test given on site.”

For 15 of the candidates, the exam was given at New Hope Center specifically to accommodate Y-12 and UPF project employees. Typically, candidates must travel to an authorized testing center, but CNS arranged to have the test given on site because of the large number of candidates. CNS also offered employees the opportunity to attend an on-site exam review class, as well as the fire protection engineering courses offered through the University of Tennessee program.

Austin Smith had wanted to take the exam for a long time and appreciated the convenience of taking the test at New Hope Center. “On site testing was more appealing than taking the exam at a testing center. I didn’t have to schedule time to go to a testing center and take the test in a cramped, three foot cubicle,” he said.

Pantexans Russell Bainbridge and Tony Lance are other CNS employees who have earned the certified fire protection specialist credential. After completing all qualifications to become a licensed professional engineer last year, Bainbridge set his sights on becoming a CFPS at Lance’s encouragement. As graduates of Oklahoma State University’s fire protection program, both spent three months studying the CFPS material together during lunch in preparation for the exam, which Bainbridge described as “extremely complicated and hard.” In May, they traveled to Nashville for a CFPS exam review course, and that same week, both passed the exam. This past summer, Bainbridge took several UT fire protection engineering courses in Knoxville.

The 3-hour, 100 question, multiple-choice test was open book; however, the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook is two volumes of 3,500 pages divided into 211 chapters. “The exam asks anything and everything. You have to know how to navigate the handbook, and you have to know the nuts and bolts of fire protection,” said Smith, who studied at Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection and Safety after serving in the Navy. His internship at Y-12 led to a full-time position upon graduating, and he recently took four fire protection engineering courses at UT, as well as the CFPS exam review course.

Andrew Tinsley, who joined CNS in July, said, “I was taken aback by the test — it was tough. The book has so much information that if you don’t know the material you won’t know where to find it. I felt it was a great opportunity to demonstrate and validate our knowledge within the field.” Tinsley is a UT graduate who wrote his doctoral dissertation on structural engineering as it relates to fire. He taught fire protection courses at Eastern Kentucky University and served with a local volunteer fire department.

“This effort was a success for CNS and a benefit to the employees who participated. I’m proud of the fire protection staff who earned this credential and thrilled that we now have several certified fire protection specialists working throughout the plant in other roles. Fire education has been expanded at both of our operating plants, as well as at the UPF project, and a number of our staff has earned an internationally recognized qualification. This makes me confident that we will see dividends paid back in orders of magnitude over the investment,” said Ken Keith, director of Y-12 Engineering.

Sharing resources - The benefits of consolidation

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2015 - 00:00

Three Y-12 employees recently completed temporary assignments at Pantex. Y-12 engineers Sarah Cruise, Tucker Fritz and Damita Mason spent three months at Pantex supporting Process Engineering.

Tucker Fritz, Sarah Cruise, Damita Mason, Joe Papp and Mike Beck

Y‑12 engineers Tucker Fritz, Sarah Cruise and Damita Mason (seated) accepted temporary assignments at Pantex. Shown with them are Pantex Engineering Manager Joe Papp and CNS Vice President of Engineering Mike Beck.

With extensive deliverables facing Pantex Process Engineering, Mission Engineering management started considering options to address the situation. Many in the engineering workforce were working extensive overtime, and the time-sensitive nature of many deliverables created an urgency to get support in place. Given the training and clearance requirements at Pantex and Y‑12, however, new engineers can’t be hired off the street and plugged into productive roles quickly, and that’s when the idea to send Y‑12ers to Pantex came up.

By early August, the engineers had accepted the new assignments, and, by month’s end, they were attending crash-course training at Pantex. While the three‑month assignment required sacrifices, among them leaving family and friends, all three embraced the chance to work at Pantex.

“I chose this opportunity to gain more in-depth and direct weapons experience, in addition to gaining a better understanding of how both Y‑12 and Pantex work together to meet the CNS mission,” Mason said. “I received positive feedback and a warm welcome from the process engineers and other personnel here.” Her assignment included preparing web-based documents for the upcoming 10‑year Nuclear Explosive Safety Study of the W87 program.

All of the engineers had the opportunity to support multiple weapons programs and learn about the tools and processes used to execute work at Pantex.

Cruise supported her Pantex team by locating information about calibration failures and design requirements document notifications. She also assisted process engineers with procedure writing, which involved trying out new tooling and interfacing with other teams.

“One of the main reasons I decided to take this opportunity was because I was really interested in seeing how the other half works and what they do. I thought it would be beneficial for me to get this experience early in my career at Y‑12,” Cruise, an engineer, said.

Cruise made a special sacrifice, having closed on her first home in Knoxville on Aug. 17, and reporting to work at Pantex one week later. Fortunately, she has family and friends to take care of her new place and even visit her in Texas. “We’ve had some fun times in Amarillo. Plus, we all made new friends here!”

Fritz also sees the experience as valuable to his career. “I felt that this was a great opportunity to learn more about CNS’s role in the Nuclear Weapons Complex,” he said. “The processes I have been exposed to involve the final product of our nation’s nuclear stockpile. This involvement really gives me an appreciation for our technical expertise as engineers and as a nation.”

Although Fritz would recommend such an assignment to other engineers, he admitted the experience did have a downside. “The worst part of this experience has been trying to figure out who will take care of my new puppy,” he said.

Fritz, Cruise and Mason helped CNS meet several deliverables that would have been in jeopardy without their timely assistance. “All of them jumped right in, came up to speed quickly and provided significantly beneficial support to several deliverables,” said Pantex Senior Process Engineering Manager Mike Brinson.

Pantexan Calvin Nelson secures recognition for expertise

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 00:00

Pantex’s own Calvin Nelson was recently awarded the 2015 Analyst of the Year for Transportation Security by the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Materials Information Program. The award, for which Nelson is the first‑ever Pantex recipient, recognizes outstanding analytic support to the NMIP.

Calvin NelsonAll transportation security analysts and criteria managers working in the program, including the national laboratories, submit nominations to the NMIP Program Management Office in Washington, D.C., where the finalists are selected. “Nominations are submitted based on an individual’s dedication, teamwork and diligence to the program,” said Tommy Butler, director of special programs. “For Calvin to be selected for this award is without a doubt noteworthy of his performance.”

NMIP is a Presidential Directive program, meaning it was one of a few programs that have been briefed to President Obama. Besides covering transportation security, NMIP also covers site security as well as materials properties.

Even with his 30‑plus years of experience at Pantex, Nelson was not expecting to win the award. “I was really surprised when I got the notification that I had been selected,” Nelson said. “It is a great honor, and I’m so proud to have the opportunity to work with some great folks at the labs and at DOE Headquarters. Also, it’s been great to bring some of these folks that I work with to Pantex and show them our unique capabilities.”

Pantexans deliver ‘sunshine’ to single parents

Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015 - 00:00

A team of Pantex volunteers provided support to families in the Eveline Rivers’ Sunshine Cottages to put healthy meals on the table while the single parents prepared for finals. The cottages are housing for low‑income or homeless single parents who want to finish their education, work and raise their children in a safe environment.

Pantexans Caleb Rejino (left), Danny Caverly, right, and Colin Caverly

Pantexans Caleb Rejino (left) and Danny Caverly, right, and Colin Caverly, Caverly’s son deliver meals to the Eveline Rivers Sunshine Cottages in Amarillo.

“Finals week can be a difficult time for anyone,” said Pantexan Caleb Rejino. “Eveline asked us to help the Sunshine Cottages by providing pre‑cooked or easy to prepare healthy meals. It is one less thing the parents have to worry about while studying for finals.”

Eveline Rivers, an Amarillo philanthropist, opened the Sunshine Cottages in 2001, with one home that was renovated into apartments. She now has six facilities with the goal to move “the whole family off the government system,” according to Eveline’s Sunshine Cottage website.

Residents of the Sunshine Cottages are required to take at least 12 hours of college classes each semester, work and ensure their children attend school. “These parents are working hard to finish their education and making sure their children learn by example,” Rejino said.

Rejino and members of his team delivered frozen casseroles and other items to the Sunshine Cottages Oct. 21. Rejino said nine members of the team cooked, and four anonymous Pantexans donated money to buy extra items.

The team was funded by Consolidated Nuclear Security. The Pantex Day of Volunteering was postponed so that both Y‑12 and Pantex can join forces next year. Some projects were approved for this year if the work couldn’t wait until 2016.

Wild Pantex – Bird of the Day: The Dickcissel

Posted: Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 00:00

Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist

One of my favorite prairie birds is the Dickcissel. This native sparrow resembles a miniature meadowlark with its yellow breast and black bib. The Dickcissel’s name actually comes from the male's song –they spend a whole lot of time proclaiming their name and territory.

This summer, I had the pleasure of hearing a Dickcissel sing regularly as I walked from my car or work truck to the entryway to my office building. Several times while walking with someone I hollered out, "shhsh, hear that Dickcissel singing?" Of course, there was usually a wait period for the bird to sing again after the question rolled off my tongue. Normally, though, the Dickcissel didn't disappoint and soon announced his presence again.

The term Dickcissel usually puts a smile on the other person's face, maybe because with a name like that they think I must be pulling their leg. My next statement is invariably, "No, I am not kidding. These guys stay here to nest in these wetter years, and this was the second such notable year since I have worked out here.”

This native prairie sparrow likes the taller cover found here during our wetter years. Their nests are a bulky cup of weed and grass stems placed slightly above ground-level in dense grasses or in saplings. The nests are lined with finer grasses, rootlets and hair, upon which three to six unmarked, pale blue eggs are laid.

I first became familiar with the Dickcissel while attending graduate school in South Dakota. I lamented the fact (as a young wildlifer) that the state bird of South Dakota was an exotic bird – the Ring-necked Pheasant. Nevermind how much money the bird brings into the state's economy – state birds in this great nation should be native birds! In a prairie state it should be a good prairie bird!

"Which one," my summer technician once asked.

Since both of us thought that the Dickcissel was a great prairie bird, it was an easy choice! The Dickcissel is a great "bird of the day" designee. It is a welcomed visitor to our Wild Pantex, and the more years that we hear its voice, the better off we all are knowing that rainfall has been abundant here on the shortgrass prairie.

shortgrass prairie

The shortgrass prairie is a productive ecosystem, including for ground-nesting songbirds. In some years, the Dickcissel makes irregular movements outside of its core breeding range to breed in surrounding areas of grassland.