Radiation is all around us. The sun, the earth, and other sources all emit radiation. At Y‑12 National Security Complex, radiation exposures are equivalent to what you get from nature.
In 2022, for a fourth year in a row, no one at Y‑12 received a dose of more than 350 millirem.
That’s a significant milestone, so much so that Dr. Marvin Adams, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Programs, noted Y‑12’s achievement to NNSA Nuclear Production Office and Y‑12 site leadership during his visit in early June.
By comparison, a person receives an average annual dose from natural and manmade sources of roughly 620 mrem, or 310 mrem from radon in the air, cosmic rays, and earth materials and 310 mrem from medical, commercial, and industrial sources each year.
The importance of the achievement is obvious. When our bodies are exposed to radiation, they interact at the cellular level. The result of a radiological exposure can range from no damage, to, in the extreme, cancer. The exact effect depends on the specific type and intensity of the radiation exposure. Reducing exposures is a health and safety issue, which is why radiological protection is such an important priority at Y‑12.
The regulatory exposure limit is 5,000 mrem. Y‑12’s milestone shows the level of commitment to safety, by keeping exposure as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA). That means ALARA has resulted in exposures that are less than 10% of what is allowed regulatorily.
“All in all, 2022 was an outstanding year for radiological work,” said Scott Wical, Radiological Control manager.
Y‑12 Deputy Site Manager Jan West, who served as senior director of Safety and Industrial Hygiene, was pleased with the numbers. “These rates don’t happen by accident,” she said. “Team commitment to continuously improve the radiological conditions, controls, and work practices is key to our success. It takes everyone doing their part,” she added.
Coming in contact with contaminated surfaces is one of the most challenging aspects of performing radiological work. At the encouragement of Y‑12 Site Manager Gene Sievers, the team made great strides in reducing contamination in work areas.
“Reducing removable contamination from work areas lessens the amount of activity that can become airborne and be breathed in by individuals when conducting work,” Wical said.
That and other efforts to reduce radiation exposures could not have been achieved without a total team effort, including the following:
- Y‑12 senior management
- NNSA Production Office
- RADCON Infrastructure Sustainment
- Program Management
- Facility Operations Management
- Clean Sweep and Sustainment
- Rad workers, planners, engineers, instructors, and supervisors
- ALARA committee members
- Safety and Industrial Hygiene
- RADCON personnel
Wical says he is “blessed and happy” to be part of this successful effort but realizes that the work is never done. “It starts on the floor with our Production folks and with our managers and supervisors,” he said. “It takes everybody’s commitment, and I’m humbled to be part of it.”
At Y-12 National Security Complex, the landscape continues to transform. The latest new facility to begin operations is a state-of-the-art fire station.
Construction began in the spring of 2021 after 20 years of discussion and planning. When visiting the new Y-12 Fire Station in January of this year, NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby described it as a model construction project for NNSA and the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
On July 24, the Y-12 Fire Department officially moved in, making the station fully operational.
“The new facility will improve our department’s ability to serve the plant and our community,” said Fire Chief James Arnold.
The old fire station building, which was originally constructed in the 1940s and expanded in the ‘60s and ‘80s, has a lot of issues according to Chief Arnold and the firefighters who have used the facility.
“We’ve had to live with some rough conditions for a while,” said Y-12 Fire Department Captain Mike Jeffries, a 17-year veteran of Y-12.
“How do I feel about the move to our new fire hall?” Jeffries asked. He smiled. “I’m happy.”
“The upgraded firehouse will not only improve the working environment for our firefighters but also their lifestyle as it will allow us to transition to a more traditional firefighter schedule. It will also house better and more effective equipment,” said Chief Arnold.
The new fire station is one of two NNSA pilot projects at Y-12 designed to streamline the efficiencies and delivery of construction projects under $50 million. The second project was the newly-constructed Emergency Operations Center.
Meet Jan West. She is Y-12 deputy site manager and one of the few women to have served in this role.
All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
Jan West personifies adapt and deliver, embracing challenges headfirst and always with a can-do spirit. “Don’t be afraid to try something new to stretch yourself professionally and personally,” is advice she would offer to any new CNS employee. Throughout her own career, she has done just that.
West grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana, but knew from a young age that she wanted more than to end up working at the local Great Dane Trailer manufacturing facility. She joined the Air Force, eager to take advantage of the opportunities the military could offer. Such opportunities led her to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. The Air Force broadened her horizons and stationed her in Anchorage, Alaska, where she was a Command Center Emergency Action Controller.
West took a leap in February 2010, pivoting her career path and coming to work at Y-12. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) created a number of jobs on-site during this time and West is one of the employees hired as a result of that funding. She proved herself willing to jump in, learn more, and ask her signature phrase, “How can I help?” She remembers, “One of my favorite jobs here has been serving as an Integration Lead at 9212. I enjoyed seeing all the pieces of the puzzle come together, and being able to fully realize the pride that goes into our work for the nation.”
Her background and leadership experience made her the right fit to later become senior director of Environment, Safety, and Health. When the pandemic began in 2020, she faced an obstacle that put her up against a difficult opponent. “I had to develop and balance protocol actions that ensured the high-quality health and safety standards we have for employees to continue their important work,” West said. She proved instrumental in navigating uncertainty in order to integrate employees back on-site and into their work areas safely.
She said she is honored to hold the title of deputy site manager for Y-12 as one of the few women to have served in the position. When looking to the future, West said, “I look forward to playing a role in the implementation of the site’s strategic long-term planning objectives.”
Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult? If so, describe how you got here.
As a young adult I thought I would spend my career in the Air Force. I joined the Y-12 team in February 2010 through the ARRA efforts at Alpha 5 and Beta 4 with the Infrastructure team. I have spent time with the Infrastructure organization in different capacities before joining the Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) team, serving the site as the Safety and Industrial Hygiene (S&IH) Senior Manager and ES&H Senior Director. I spent time as the acting Senior Director of Quality for Pantex and Y-12 before becoming the Y-12 Deputy Site Manager.
What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
The people and the strong sense of community that comes along with being a part of the Y-12 team. The burden of meeting our mission doesn’t rest on one person—it takes all hands on deck. Our workforce is diverse in experience and backgrounds—it takes all areas of expertise to ensure we meet our mission.
How does patriotism factor into your life? Did your level of patriotism change after working at Pantex or Y-12?
I love and support the USA. Y-12’s mission was a major factor for me in seeking an opportunity to join the Y-12 team.
As an employee, what do you want to be remembered for?
I want to be remembered as someone who takes time to listen and is willing to lend a helping hand.
What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity and why?
I have three—beach trips, football, and Christmas festivities—they all involve time with my family.
Three charging stations (with a total of six ports) were installed at a Y-12 garage earlier this year.
The road toward a green fleet of vehicles just got a little smoother at Y-12. In May, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that Y-12 is one of three National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) partner sites that received DOE’s first-ever Green Fleet Award.
“This is a great achievement for Y-12, to win a brand-new award from DOE,” explained Wayne May of Y-12 Fleet Management. “The foundation for the award centered on the Y-12 acquisition of zero emission vehicles (ZEV) in Fiscal Year 2022 as well as the Y-12’s 5-Year ZEV Charging Station Program Plan that was submitted to NNSA. It demonstrates the site’s leadership in our commitment to sustainable practices.”
If being recognized as a leader by NNSA was not enough, the award also comes with $200,000 in funding. “The funds will be used primarily in acquiring and installing needed electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) charging stations at the site. The first three charging stations (with a total of six ports) were installed at the Building 9712-01 garage earlier this year,” said May.
Chad Watson from Y-12 Facilities and Infrastructure Modernization added that his group is actively working to identify opportunities for charging station installations at both New Hope Center and Jack Case Center over the next year.
This is a significant step toward meeting the administration’s goal of all light-duty vehicle acquisitions being 100% ZEVs by 2027, as outlined in Executive Order (EO) 14057: Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability. Y-12 has replaced 65% of eligible light-duty vehicles with ZEVs – more than sites with similar-sized fleets. May noted that the site is on track to meet the requirements, and the Green Fleet Award funds will offer a boost. “We have ordered ZEV units for each vehicle replacement opportunity for the past two years when a ZEV is available from General Service Administrative within that respective vehicle classification, which has amounted to 22 ZEV units to date. Vehicle availabilities are expected to see significant growth over the next three years and will include multiple options in sedans, vans, pickups, and SUV units that will become prevalent around the Y-12 site.”
These future plans are just another part of the ongoing modernization of the site. Additionally, the environmental impacts of ZEV units are significant and will help reduce CO2 emissions. “I am proud of the fact that our efforts to meet the requirements put forth in EO 14057 have resulted in a monetary benefit to the Y-12 site, and the resulting EVSE installations will benefit all employees here who use government vehicles to accomplish their mission,” affirmed May.
DOE Green Fleet Award funds will partially be used to install additional electric vehicle supply equipment charging stations, like the one pictured, around the site.
Jeremy Price and Chloe Green are helping Y-12 be environmentally responsible and prepared for the impacts of climate change.
“Their roles support the Y-12 mission by working to ensure that Y-12 becomes a more resilient site, including everything from sustainable procurement to supporting the development of sustainable, resilient solutions to address the identified climate impacts to Y-12’s critical assets and infrastructure,” said Aprell Patterson of Y-12’s Pollution Prevention Program.
The recently hired sustainability engineers support various initiatives across the site, including the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan, the Vulnerability Assessments and Resilience Plan (VARP), the Sustainable Climate Ready Sites (SCRS), identifying more sustainable solutions and products, determining waste minimization opportunities, supporting sustainable acquisition initiatives, and promoting a new carpooling program.
As a U.S. Navy veteran, Price became intrigued by a post military career in sustainability after traveling the world and seeing first hand the effects acidification, pollution, and climate change have on the environment. He is the new program lead for VARP and SCRS.
“We are all stewards of our environment and, as such, we have a duty to take care of it,” Price said. “Caring about site sustainability has a direct link to conservation of land and resources. The fewer resources we take, the more there are for future generations. I also think Y-12ers should feel a sense of pride knowing that we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Green is the lead for the new carpool program, which has already shown promise as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In just four months, carpooling at Y-12 has saved more than 2,000 gallons of gas, 47,500 miles traveled, and 20.3 tons of CO2 emissions.
In addition, Green has taken an interest in sustainable acquisitions. “I didn’t realize the different types of sustainable products available, nor how big of a role it plays at Y-12,” she said. “The program has acquired many items used here on site, such as cut resistant gloves made of plastic bottles, zero tree paper, and picnic tables and other furniture made of recycled materials. Sustainable acquisition will continue to grow and [through these efforts] procure more sustainable items to help reduce the footprint we create here.”
Sustainability efforts such as these have been recognized. Y-12 was recently bestowed the United States Department of Agriculture BioPreferred Program’s first Excellence in Biobased Procurement Award because of a bio based FR3 fluid it used to retrofill 20 transformers and for recycling nearly 20,000 gallons of transformer fluid.
The award is part of a nearly four decade sustainability history at Y-12. The first waste minimization and pollution prevention program was launched on site in 1985. From there, the Sustainability team has consistently shared initiatives to increase employee involvement. The overall goals are to establish and maintain services to support sustainable operations, including stewardship practices that take care of legacy issues, while protecting employees and promoting the wellbeing of employees, the public, and the environment.
“Since 1993, Y-12 has completed more than 2,220 sustainability activities, obtained a cost efficiency of more than $120.9 million, and achieved a waste reduction/avoidance of more than 3.17 billion pounds,” said Jan Jackson, Sustainability and Stewardship Program Manager.
“Sustainability isn’t about living a 100% green life,” Green said. “Sustainability is about finding the balance in order to continue to conserve and preserve resources and the environment for future generations. We have the power to make positive, sustainable changes that can help the mission and society.”