Pantex Blog

Pantex hosts 50% completion celebration of the B61-12 and W88 Alt 370

Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2023 - 13:23

Pantex Site Manager, Colby Yeary
Pantex Site Manager, Colby Yeary welcoming the audience

Pantexans and partners from across the National Security Enterprise gathered to celebrate the production halfway completion mark of the B61-12 Life Extension Program and W88 Alt 370. This milestone marks a significant accomplishment for Pantex, Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), partners in the Nuclear Security Enterprise, the United States, and its allies. Having both programs reach the halfway point at the same time is a unique achievement.

“It took every one of you doing your part, working together with those thousands of others to achieve the common goal of modernizing these two weapons systems in order to continue to provide the nation with a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent,” said Dr. Rich Tighe, president and chief executive officer of CNS.

The B61-12 and W88 are strategically important weapons in our nation’s nuclear deterrent. The work done on these programs is critical to our nation’s defense plans for many years to come.

“The B61 gravity bomb is deployed by the U.S. Air Force on multiple platforms and has been in service more than 50 years, making it the oldest, most versatile weapon in the U.S. stockpile,” said Carlos Alvarado, deputy field office manager for the NNSA Production Office. He continued, “The W88 first entered the stockpile in the late 1980s. The W88 Alt 370 includes numerous updates to address aging concerns and enhance nuclear safety.”

Modernization of these weapons is vital to the mission.

“Working on such complex programs can be daunting, but the nation is better off as a result of your diligence and dedication. The work done at Pantex is in support of our national security strategy,” said John Evans, NNSA assistant deputy administrator for stockpile management.

The work on these two programs has not stopped. Reaching the 50% completion milestone is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

“An accomplishment such as this is only possible through teamwork and cooperation of everyone involved,” said Colby Yeary, Pantex site manager.

I am mission success: Michael O.

Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2023 - 15:59

Pantexan Michael O.
Pantexan Michael O.’s attention to detail prevented what could have caused serious damage to video teleconference rooms in JCDC.

Take 5 minutes to learn about Michael O., audio-visual technician at Pantex. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.

It was a routine day for Michael O. as he was opening one of the video teleconference rooms on the second-floor north wing of John C. Drummond Center, but then something just seemed out of the ordinary.

While unlocking the room, Michael noticed that the digital tablet mounted on the wall next to the door looked defective.

Michael recalled, “I noticed the bezel that holds the screen was bowed out and the Technical Security sticker appeared to be tampered with. Upon further inspection, I realized that the tablet’s screen had broken off the device itself.”

Knowing the nature of the tablets as an experienced audio-visual technician, Michael quickly flagged it as more than a broken screen.

“The defect that occurred is an issue that can cause swollen batteries and device fires,” he said.

In following proper emergency reporting protocol, Michael immediately notified the Pantex Operations Center who connected him with Waste Operations, confirming that it was a potential fire hazard. To mitigate the issue, he was asked to unplug the device from its electrical power source and remove it from the wall as soon as and safely as possible.

However, Michael did not stop there.

“I knew other tablets had been installed around the same time the defective one was installed, so I wanted to check all of the devices around the JCDC to see if it was an isolated incident,” he said.

After inspecting the rest of the second floor of the JCDC, Michael discovered eight more faulty tablets and an additional 20 tablets across the building.

“This just happened to be one of those ‘something out of place, see something say something,’ moments,” he said.

As a result of Michael’s initial attention to detail, all of the identified fire hazardous tablets have been removed from the JCDC, preventing what could have been a costly and dangerous incident.

“We are continuing to monitor the tablets to hopefully catch any further issues quickly,” Michael said. “At this time, a solution to replace the devices is going through appropriate channels.”

Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult? If so, describe how you got here.
As a young adult, I wanted to be a musician. During my second year at Amarillo College, I started working with local theaters acting and doing technical aspects (i.e., lights, sound, etc.). Eventually, I realized I wanted to do live events full time, so I transferred to the Santa Fe University of Art and Design where I studied technical theater. From there, I served in various technical director positions until the pandemic hit. With live events shutting down during that time, I moved back to Amarillo. The audio-visual technician position at Pantex became available, so I applied and kept my fingers crossed.

What is your favorite part or aspect of your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
I’ve found that Pantex is an extremely collaborative environment. My peers have unique talents they bring to the team, and each one is willing to make sure employees’ needs are met every day. I feel that IT,/abbr> roles are constantly changing and developing, so being able to build upon our knowledge and combined years of experience allows us to keep the plant up and running with the tools and technology needed to complete their own mission critical roles.

How does patriotism factor into your life? Did your level of patriotism change after working at Pantex?
I’ve always had a sense of pride for our country and for the people who make up the diverse culture of our nation. Working at Pantex has further instilled my pride in our nation. While I may only play a small role in our mission, it ensures the freedoms and rights we’ve established as a nation. The deterrence that Pantex helps provide to our national defense allows me to go home every day to my family with pride.

What work advice would you offer someone who is new to Pantex or Y-12?
Network and get to know everyone you can. I have talked with and befriended everyone from maintenance staff to our executive leadership team. Each person has something you can learn from.

What would your coworkers be most surprised to learn about you?
I’ve been an actor on stage and on screen in 30+ productions, directed five fully staged plays, designed sets, lighting, and audio for more than 60 live productions, and can play multiple instruments, but my favorite thing was establishing internship programs at each venue I’ve worked at to pass along knowledge to the next generation and give them a place to grow their own passions.

Pantex meets two HESE milestones

Posted: Monday, November 20, 2023 - 13:44

Teams celebrate a final concrete pour and a dry-in for two of three buildings in the HESE complex.

CNS and NPO leadership look on as the final 250 cubic yards of concrete are placed to complete the High Explosive lab foundation.
CNS and NPO leadership look on as the final 250 cubic yards of concrete are placed to complete the High Explosive lab foundation.

Amarillo, TX – Two buildings at the Pantex Plant’s High Explosive Science and Engineering (HESE) complex met major milestones in late September.

Crews put the Technology Development and Deployment Lab (TDDL) “in the dry” and poured the final concrete placement of the 2000+ cubic yard operating floor and foundation of the High Explosives (HE) Lab. The Pantex HESE complex is essential to the nation’s Nuclear Security Enterprise and will replace 15 aging facilities at Pantex with three new structures.

“Drying-in the TDDL represents a turning point in the project where we are able to begin major elements of interior construction,” Cody Edwards, project manager for prime subcontractor Hensel Phelps, said. “The onset of these activities sets the stage for multiple trade partners and finish-out scopes.”

The 72,762-sq-ft HESE complex includes the TDDL, the HE Lab, and an HE staging facility.

“The ‘all-in’ attitude of our integrated HESE project team demonstrates the commitment our employees have to the national security mission,” Pantex Senior Director for Project Management Russell Daniel said. “Momentum gained from the successes on these facilities significantly advance our site modernization initiatives and efforts to upgrade the infrastructure at Pantex.”

The effort supports modernization efforts as structures are removed and new ones are set to take their place, reinforcing Pantex’s manufacturing mission and the site’s designation as NNSA’s HE Center of Excellence.

The complex will provide laboratory space, classified and unclassified office and meeting areas, and a shower and change-out area for HE Operations personnel all in closer proximity to HE manufacturing operations at Pantex.

“This is another milestone captured and made possible by a huge team effort,” CNS Construction Manager Steve Kemp said. “It’s a significant milestone for sure and I am very excited to see the team perform and ‘go get’ the next one!”

The HESE is forecasted to be completed in March 2028.

HESE complex met major milestones in late September

I am mission success: Kenny Steward

Posted: Monday, November 20, 2023 - 13:23

Kenny Steward, Pantex deputy site manager

Anyone who has ever played football will tell you that it takes a big team, and an even bigger effort, to get the “W” when the clock hits zero.

While every member of the team plays an important role in its success, few players garner more attention than the quarterback (unless you happen to be dating a worldwide pop music sensation). While fans typically focus on a team’s starting quarterback during normal circumstances, the spotlight can quickly shift to the backup when the starter isn’t able to play. Dallas Cowboys fans saw that last season when backup Cooper Rush led the team to a 4-1 record after starter Dak Prescott suffered an injury.

If Pantex were a football team, its backup quarterback would be Kenny Steward. As the deputy site manager, Steward, who has served at the plant for more than 30 years, works alongside site manager Colby Yeary to run the everyday operation here.

Their close teamwork is evidenced the plant’s bottom line, which saw goals met and exceeded across the facility last year.

Steward says he is incredibly proud of the members of the Pantex team of employees, who all stepped up to the challenge and served the mission.

“The team improved our production, project, and maintenance performance,” he said. “It is exciting to watch the team challenge themselves, accomplish their goals, and then establish a new goal as they continue to have a ‘persistent discontent with the status quo.’”

What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
Continuous Improvement. I remember having a conversation with a fellow employee after I assumed a new position. He told me the story of the physician, the coroner, and the mortician, and that story has stuck with me throughout my time with CNS.

He said, sometimes you’re just going to have to play the role of coroner – the person has passed, and it’s your job to figure out what went wrong. But to succeed in my role, I needed to be the physician – to look ahead, to heal that patient before the problem gets unfixable. And finally, you never want to be the mortician – all they’re trying to do is make an unfortunate situation pretty.

I internalized many of the things he said to me that day. “Quality is more than completing the checklist – you should find ways to drive improvement and consistency in our products and processes.”

I like to use a phrase he also used: That we should have a “persistent discontent with the status quo.” The principle of Continuous Improvement should drive us to never be content with the process as-is and to look for ways to remove frustration, improve cycle time, and improve our overall performance. Never be fine with just showing up – always look to improve yourself, or the process.

What is one thing your coworkers would be surprised to know about you?
I am a pretty open book. Most of my coworkers know a lot about me. They might be surprised to know that I am a Liverpool Football Club fan. I record all of Liverpool’s games and watch them at night or on the weekend if I have some downtime. I had the opportunity to see them several years ago with David Graham at Fenway Park in Boston. It was so cool to see football (soccer) played in a historic baseball stadium.

CNS achieves mission success in recycling

Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2023 - 16:49

CNS celebrates America Recycles Day

Celebrated annually on November 15, America Recycles Day, also known as National Recycling Day, began in 1994. The day serves to raise awareness about recycling and the purchasing of recycled products. It’s a reminder to all that how we recycle and reuse products is important.

That message resonates with CNS employees, because in Fiscal Year 2023, both Pantex and Y-12 saw substantial increases in recycled materials. While it is a win for the environment, the work also helps support the sites’ national security missions.

Y-12 recycled more than 5.8 million pounds, which is a record number of materials. This exceeds last year’s record amount recycled by more than a million pounds.

The recycling coordinator at Y-12, Lisa B., is encouraged by these achievements. “This means every employee took part in the program. It takes the entire plant doing their part to have such success. Each employee plays an important role. The more we recycle, the more we are able to keep items out of the landfill or items going off-site as waste.”

Pantex recycled more than 1.54 million pounds for FY 2023, which is close to an 8% increase over the previous year.

The intention isn’t simply to recycle more materials, but also to become more efficient in our practices. Alicia B. of Pantex Environmental Compliance notes that her group is working on a new initiative with Waste Operations to get a paper briquette machine. This equipment addition will fast-track the transition of waste paper into functional reusable material.

Sustainability has worked in tandem with Waste Operations to overcome obstacles at Pantex. “To have over 1.5 million pounds recycled this year, and the fact that we have continually been able to increase that number can be attributed to these groups working hard at finding recyclers in the Amarillo area,” she said. Waste Operations administers and manages
multiple recycling contracts through CNS Procurement. It is these contracts that essentially authorize us to offer materials to the recycler and take credit for diverting that material from landfill disposal.

Both sites ultimately attribute success to increased employee awareness and contributions. Adding recycle repositories around the sites has helped make recycling easy and convenient. Technological advances and vendor participation have allowed items to be recycled that would have previously ended up in the landfill or hazardous waste disposal.

“Employees should be proud to be a part of an organization that is so dedicated to keeping as much material as possible from going to the landfill,” said Jeremy P. of Y-12 Sustainability. He added, the goal is to create new material streams every year. This can only continue to foster an environment for recycling success at CNS.