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.
Across the country, college students have been forced to adjust schedules and routines for the upcoming academic year in response to COVID-19. Despite the changes it has brought, CNS successfully committed to providing educational development opportunities for students this summer as a part of the CNS Internship Program.
In June, Pantex and Y-12 welcomed 40 participants, 16 at Pantex and 24 at Y-12, to the 2020 intern class! Each had the opportunity to learn what CNS has to offer, virtually and in person.
Behind the mission
Brittany Schidel, a mechanical engineering major pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, was prepared to begin her first internship at Y-12. Growing up in Knoxville, she was familiar with the site’s history and even got to attend student outreach events at New Hope Center. Nonetheless, the knowledge she has gained from her time interning with Y-12 Reliability & Maintainability was eye opening.
“I was surprised by the amount of information I have learned in such a short period of time,” Schidel said. “I have been able to participate in field work along with supporting the condition based maintenance team in their future projects on site. Everyone has been so helpful with teaching me about the site and allowing me to work hands on with them and understand what the Preventive Maintenance team does at Y-12.”
As a Ph.D. pre candidate in nuclear engineering at the University of Michigan, Thomas Folk looked forward to interning at Y-12 for the first time. Along with having the opportunity to relate his curriculum to real world experience, Folk was also eager to apply and contribute to the mission after learning more about Y-12 at the Millennial Nuclear Caucus at New Hope Center in 2019.
During his interview, Folk admittedly knew he was in the right place for the summer.
“A big reason that drove me to want to intern at Y-12 is through the conversation with my hiring manager during an interview,” Folk said. “Not only did I want to take on an internship for the technical aspect, I equally desired to build leadership qualities and strong team working abilities.”
A ‘new normal’ summer
With her sights set to become a future chemical engineer, Danica Ruiz, a chemical engineering major at Texas Tech University, knew Pantex would allow her to gain the skills to do so through improving her technical experience and problem solving skills. As the summer approached, Ruiz admits she was thankful that CNS made the effort to preserve the internship program despite the pandemic.
“CNS has made every effort to ensure our safety and well-being by implementing teleworking and a remote onboarding process,” Ruiz said. “Since I have been able to start working on site, everyone at Pantex has been welcoming while still encouraging and participating in social distancing. I am incredibly thankful for the valuable experience I have gained in this short amount of time. CNS has shown their ability to continue towards their mission without compromising safety.”
For Bryce Rogers, a business management major with a concentration in project management at Elon University, his second year interning at Y-12 looked a little different than the last. As Rogers primarily teleworked through his internship, his experience with Y-12 Supply Chain Management proved to be just as valuable and engaging.
“Everyone who I’ve spoken with has tried to keep a positive outlook on everything,” Rogers said. “This is obviously not how many of us expected to be performing our internships this summer; however, many of the employees continue to be just as engaged and impactful to my experience here, just as if I was standing right there in their cube.”
While working with Y-12 Supply Chain Management, Rogers admittedly not only took away practical skills for the future by getting involved with daily meetings and tasks. He also began to understand the gravity of the mission.
“The fact that I get to tell people the work that we perform every day helps keep the country safe is something that I never thought I’d get a chance to say,” Rogers said. “To be completely honest, the work that we do here is just plain cool.”
Thomas Folk took part in the CNS mission this summer interning with Y-12 Global Security. (No mask necessary in private space.)
As a mechanical engineering major at West Texas A&M, Hector Rivero Figueroa (left) looked forward to interning with Pantex Engineering, “because it is one of the best careers to have here in the Amarillo area.”
Drew Rowlands (center), an intern with Pantex Fire Protection, was able to refine his skillset as a fire protection and safety engineering major at Oklahoma State University.
For Brittany Schidel, taking part in hands‑on experiences, means learning how condition‑based maintenance is able to improve workflow on‑site and assist areas of the plant.