Y-12 Blog

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2021 - 12:18pm

Welder Joel Chavez welds a tooling fixture
Welder Joel Chavez welds a tooling fixture.

Y-12’s can do attitude is legendary. Perhaps the men and women of General Manufacturing Operations best exemplify that mindset.

“If it can’t be done anywhere else, bring it to us. We can do it,” said Wendell Laughter, a production specialist with 16 years of experience in Building 9201 1, known as Alpha 1. “We’re a one stop shop.”

We do it all … well, almost

Laura Dye, machine cleaner, removes chips from a lathe.
Laura Dye, machine cleaner, removes chips from a lathe.

GMO sheet metal fabricators, machinists, and welders cut, bend, saw, grind, punch, melt, and join metal into the desired shape and design. Using manual and computerized numerical control lathes and mills, they work with nickel, bronze, lead, aluminum, titanium, copper, and many other metals, plastics, composites, graphite, and special materials. GMO's skilled craftspeople can machine and fabricate parts weighing several tons with tolerances to 1/10,000 of an inch.

“We create the specialty tooling, fixtures, and shipping containers for all of Y-12’s weapons programs,” said John Sarratt, a production support specialist. “We also have about 200 or so walk in work orders a year when things break down across the site, everything from unique ductwork to filter crushers to door handles that resolve safety actions.”

More than a job

“I support the Y-12 mission by keeping the machines oiled and lubricated and ready for use at all times.” —Larry Seiber, machine oiler

“I like my coworkers and fabricating different parts to support our nation.” —Randles Solomon Jr., sheet metal worker

“I use traditional equipment, such as mills, lathes, and grinders, to produce high quality products for our customers. What I like best about my job are my coworkers and the type of work we do.” —Daniel McPeek, machinist

“Through the years, we made the parts for the weapons and now we make the fixtures to continue making the parts and the containers to ship them. I like the people who I work with and the feeling of family out here.” —C.D. Hill, machinist

Recently, a gear failed in an on site transformer critical for plant operations. There was no clear path forward on how to get it fixed. The gear would be difficult to procure, if it could be procured at all. So, the Y-12 customer brought the broken gear to GMO.

“We didn’t have drawing specifications for the part, only the piece itself,” Laughter said. “Our folks were able to not only recreate the piece and make critical spares for potential future failures but also turn it around quickly.”

In addition to its Y 12 work, GMO has many external customers. For years, Nuclear Security Enterprise sites (including Pantex and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), federal agencies, and industry have been coming to Y-12 to do what couldn’t be done. Sometimes GMO's handiwork shows up in celebrated tools and machinery. For example, GMO built the first propulsor for the U.S. Navy’s Seawolf class nuclear submarine. The Navy–Y-12 prototyping team responded to more than 1,000 design changes in less than four years.

Skill of the craft

Even with the most advanced machines in the world, it is the skill of the craftspeople that makes GMO especially adept at creating first of a kind products.

Machinist Justin Acres sands a graphite part flat on a surface plate.
Machinist Justin Acres sands a graphite part flat on a surface plate.

“We work on a variety of one off parts, so we have a lot of opportunities to learn and grow in our craft without being confined to working on the same part or job over and over,” said Ashley Dawson, a machinist who joined Y-12’s apprenticeship program in 2013.

In Y-12’s defense work, the manufacturing shop must follow technical procedures. When pioneering new products, however, craftspeople simply go by sketches and drawings.

“Working in Alpha 1 allows a machinist to become well rounded within our craft, given that we are able to machine our parts, for the majority, without being confined to a procedure,” said Mike Trexler, also a machinist from the 2013 apprenticeship program. “Unlike a production shop, we seldom run multiples of the same part, so we’re always making different parts and using different materials.”


Made in the USA
In addition to a can do attitude and skill, Y-12’s manufacturing craftspeople take unmistakable pride in their workmanship and the site’s national security mission.

“We all take ownership and pride in our work,” said supervisor Ray Ivey, who’s spent most of his 52 year career at Y-12 in Alpha 1. “We work together as a team to get the job done safely and with quality, and this is what’s made us successful.”

Machinist Kent Sellars agreed that Alpha 1 turns out a better product because of the team approach to national security work. “To be able to share in this incredible depth of talent and experience is a great honor,” he said. “The importance of our national security mission drives me to want to be the best machinist I can be. This allows me to serve each day as a working patriot in ensuring that each assignment is completed within the desired scope of the design and forethought of each project.”

Production specialist Wendell Laughter, left, and machinist Mike Montgomery
Production specialist Wendell Laughter, left, and machinist Mike Montgomery set up a computerized numerical-control lathe.
Machinist Randy Golliher, left, and Erik Swanson, GMO production support manager
Machinist Randy Golliher, left, and Erik Swanson, GMO production support manager, view a tooling drawing. “I like the people I work with, knowing that I’m making parts for our nation’s defense, and doing my job as safely as possible,” Golliher said.
Supervisor Jeff Prince, left, and machinist Chad Huff
Supervisor Jeff Prince, left, and machinist Chad Huff sort through a tool box in the tool crib.
Sheet metal worker Jacob McCarter
Sheet metal worker Jacob McCarter works on a fixture component in metal fabrication.
Sheet metal apprentice Monty Stovall
Sheet metal apprentice Monty Stovall saws tubing. “I really like my coworkers and the challenges of fabricating metal,” Stovall said.
Kevin Lewis (left), a production support specialist, and machinist Matt Bumbalough
Kevin Lewis (left), a production support specialist, and machinist Matt Bumbalough turn a component on a manual lathe.
Machinist Mike Trexler
Machinist Mike Trexler turns a graphite component on a manual lathe.
From left, sheet metal worker Rick Valentine, welder Levi McDaniel, and machining supervisor Mike Woosley
From left, sheet metal worker Rick Valentine, welder Levi McDaniel, and machining supervisor Mike Woosley set up a welder in the can shop.
Administrative professional Sherry Hill
Administrative professional Sherry Hill supports all of General Manufacturing Operations, among other duties.
Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2021 - 11:42am

Emory Valley Center staff members
Emory Valley Center staff members are appreciative of the grant from CNS that was used to purchase personal protective equipment for employees.

CNS continues to look for ways to help our communities toward recovery as the COVID-19 pandemic eases its grip. The company recently turned to the East Tennessee Foundation and its Neighbor to Neighbor Fund to join with the CNS Community Investment Fund. Together, we were able to quickly get much needed resources to several nonprofit organizations in East Tennessee.

Emory Valley Center
Emory Valley Center supports about 3,000 people every year in multiple East Tennessee counties through behavioral health, community integration, education, employment, family assistance, prevocational training, and residential services. Often these clients have intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. Providing direct residential care to these clients during the pandemic meant that EVC employees became essential employees who required personal protective equipment to perform their jobs. When the pandemic started, the center had only enough personal protective equipment to supply one staff member for one week.

Thanks in part to a $2,500 grant from CNS, direct care continued safely with much needed PPE and additional hazard pay for some EVC employees.

“With these funds, in addition to other grants secured, EVC was able to provide a safer work environment and help compensate our frontline employees for putting themselves at risk when caring for people we support,” said Jennifer Enderson, EVC president.

The center provides residential support (in-home care) to 103 people living at 51 residential sites in Oak Ridge and surrounding areas. Over the past year, prices for masks increased from less than $1 each to $6 each. To safely perform its duties, EVC estimated that 1,695 masks and other protective equipment for direct care staff would be needed. Grant money helped make that possible.

“Even though we were fortunate the COVID-19 vaccine was available for people we support and staff in late January and mid February, we continue to be diligent with safety protocols recommended by the CDC,” said Enderson. “It’s imperative to have enough supplies and create the safest work environment possible for our essential staff while ensuring the people we support are cared for safely during the pandemic.

“We are grateful for the support for Emory Valley Center, particularly in such a challenging time while the pandemic occurred and is ongoing,” she added.

Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2021 - 3:25pm

Family Legacy at the UPF

It’s not uncommon at the Y-12 National Security Complex to find that multiple generations from the same family have worked on site. At the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) Project, two father-son duos don’t have to go far to celebrate Father’s Day, as they work side-by-side building UPF.

Pipefitting is a family trade for the Devilles, as Kris Deville and his son, Kaleb Deville, both lead pipefitter crews in UPF's Main Process Building. Kaleb followed in his father’s footsteps seven years ago, learning the pipefitter trade from him. Today, they manage installation, preservation, and restoration of the piping systems on the project. “I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything,” said Kris. “I knew someone was going to have to teach him leadership skills and I wanted that person to be me.”

Ernest “Bruce” Brown and his son, Ernest Bruce Brown, Jr. have been working together for three years now. Bruce Brown is a steward for ironworkers at UPF, while his son works as an ironworker at the project’s offsite fabrication facility. The elder Brown said, “Ernest and I have worked on several projects together and it has always been a special experience.” Ernest Brown, Jr. carries the family legacy and a legacy of contributing to Y-12’s national security mission.

Posted: Thursday, May 27, 2021 - 9:31am

As the world grappled with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, CNS continued looking for ways to help our communities. The company turned to the East Tennessee Foundation and its Neighbor to Neighbor Fund. Leveraging dollars from the CNS Community Investment Fund, CNS was able to quickly get much needed resources to nonprofit organizations in East Tennessee through ETF.

Hamblen County Connectivity Project

CNS contribution helps students connect in Hamblen County.

Essential needs like food, shelter, and healthcare come to mind when talking about the resource challenges during any crisis. During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Hamblen County added internet access to that list. The disruptions to in-person learning placed many school-aged children of low-income families in a precarious position. While the school system purchased 2,500 computers to assist these children, the computers weren’t much good without high-speed internet for online learning.

With a $5,000 grant from CNS, the Hamblen County Foundation for Excellence and Achievement, or HC EXCELL, through its Hamblen County Connectivity Project, identified 15 low-income families with school-aged children and provided them with high-speed internet access. Stan Harville, executive director of HC EXCELL, said they looked for families with more than one child in the home who also had older and/or high risk family members. On average, the families received $60 a month, allowing those children the option to attend school through virtual learning.

“We heard several stories about families being scared to send their children to school for fear they would bring the virus back into the home and threaten the lives of the older members or medically fragile members of the family,” Harville said.

Harville said access to high-speed internet allowed those families to keep their children at home and avoid being exposed to others. “By being able to shelter in place, these children were able to continue their learning and keep their families safe from the virus,” he said. “There is a gap in Hamblen County regarding online learning. Some families can’t afford the cost of internet. Grants like those from CNS kept that gap from widening in 2020,” Harville added.

Posted: Wednesday, May 19, 2021 - 7:51am

Crews demolished Pantex Buildings 12-106 and 12-106A in FY 2020
Crews demolished Pantex Buildings 12-106 and 12-106A in FY 2020 as part of the disposition plan enabled by the opening of the John C. Drummond Center. EFDP characterized the facilities, removed waste, demolished the structures, and disposed of all demolition debris.

You’ve probably seen or heard about the ongoing demolition of Y-12’s old Biology Complex. It’s a major project that will clear space for construction of the Lithium Processing Facility. But massive, headline grabbing projects like this only tell part of the demolition story at Pantex and Y-12.

Across our sites, a team of employees and subcontractors — working with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Production Office (NPO) and NNSA’s Office of Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations (NA 50) — has been quietly dispositioning legacy facilities for the past five years. In fact, since 2015, NNSA’s Disposition Program has removed more than 100 Pantex and Y-12 facilities.

“For several years, we’ve been strategically removing legacy equipment and materials, packing and shipping contaminated waste, and demolishing facility structures,” said Diane McDaniel, senior director, Excess Facilities Transformation, noting that disposition means far more than just demolition.

It’s high complexity, high consequence work. Most of the facilities were dangerously degraded and contained industrial hazards such as mercury, asbestos, and beryllium. And if that didn’t make things hard enough, the majority were located inside the sites’ protected areas, in close proximity to occupied facilities running essential mission operations.

Yet, from 2015 to 2020, the team dispositioned nearly 110 facilities — some 40 at Pantex and 70 at Y-12 — without a single safety or security incident, release of hazardous material to the environment, or impact to mission deliverables.

“I’m so proud of this team for the work they’ve done,” McDaniel said. “This program is such an important part of our sites’ commitment to legacy risk reduction and site modernization.”

With each completed disposition project, the team is reducing both the risks inherent in excess facilities and the costs associated with maintaining them. The Legacy Facilities and Services Team regularly dons personal protective equipment just to walk down these excess facilities, assess conditions, and mitigate any potential hazards

Crews demolish a Building 9201-05 (Alpha 5) dust collector tower at Y-12.
Crews demolish a Building 9201-05 (Alpha 5) dust collector tower at Y-12. Removal of this process contaminated facility eliminated the risk of facility degradation and/or fire and associated contamination release. This project furthered the preparation of Alpha 5 for demolition by EM.

Despite the challenges, the Projects Management team that executes facility dispositions has consistently met its milestones — even in 2020, with its period of reduced site operations and quarantines.

“The big thing last year was adapting. If one project couldn’t move forward due to COVID-19 impacts, weather, or site conditions, we were able to quickly substitute another,” said Kim Irwin, senior director of Projects Management. “Thanks to program managers, project managers, work planners, subcontractor partners, and our NNSA customers, we had the agility to adjust our plans to keep the teams together and maintain our momentum.”

All told, the program has reduced the excess facility footprint at Pantex and Y-12 by nearly 250,000 square feet to date, an amount comparable to the largest facility in the Biology Complex. But the program’s true impact may not be realized for years.

“Collectively, these 100 plus facility dispositions are addressing our sites’ 75 year legacies; reducing risk and improving safety today; and clearing the way for future projects and operations,” said Y-12 managing and operating contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security’s (CNS) Chief Operating Officer Bill Tindal. “This demonstrated partnership among NNSA, NPO, CNS, and the subcontracting community is key in transforming our sites into agile, responsive national assets for the next 75 years.”