Y-12 Blog

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 2:56pm

Program Management University graduates

In this photo from 2019, a group of Program Management University graduates gather to celebrate the end of their sessions. Now, most of the classes are virtual with in person sessions once travel restrictions are relaxed.

Managing an NNSA program involves a lot of moving parts. To be successful, program managers need to juggle a host of skills — planning, budgeting, evaluating, managing, and integrating multiple, complex project initiatives, priorities, and transitions, often over long periods of time. These are the skills Pantex and Y-12 program managers are mastering through Program Management University.

What is PMU?
Developed for interested Pantex, Y-12, and NNSA Production Office employees, PMU has held classes every year since 2018. As of early 2021, more than 200 staff members across a variety of site organizations have either completed or are attending the training. Upcoming sessions are scheduled for later this year and again in 2022.

PMU is a thoughtfully constructed and continuously evolving curriculum with several objectives that promote performance improvement in program management and critical interfaces, while informing and calibrating attendees to a set of clear expectations,” said David Young, NPO assistant manager for Programs and Projects.

What makes PMU unique?
The training enables consistent and uniform management of programs across Pantex and Y-12. Some programs, such as Stockpile Programs, also require new managers to have more technical qualifications tailored to managing specific requirements and interacting with design agencies.

“The goal of PMU is to achieve ‘best in class’ program management across the Nuclear Security Enterprise by providing NNSA with consistently superior management of all programs,” said Dan Linehan, senior director of Mission Baseline and Indirect and Technology Programs. “PMU enhances a program manager’s understanding of the broader NNSA mission and augments communications across Pantex and Y-12.”

What are the benefits of PMU training?
“I am new to the Program Integration organization and recently completed the PMU curriculum,” said Marina Yeary, director of Technology Development and Transfer for Program Integration. “The range of information covered is impressive, including NNSA directives, Pantex and Y-12 missions, Program Integration business processes, and program manager skills and qualifications. The training has enhanced my understanding of my role, the business, our customer, and our goals.”

PMU consists of three, one week sessions where the first session is an overview of the Nuclear Security Enterprise and NNSA’s programs. The second is a review of tools and techniques, and the third focuses on skills development.

The class content has been refined over time and now includes virtual classes. The second session will be held virtually while the first and third sessions will be held at Pantex and Y-12 to allow for in person interaction and tours once travel restrictions are relaxed.

“During each training session, quizzes are taken along with a final exam,” Linehan said. “Ongoing success is measured by how well our customer perceives each program’s performance. Finally, because program managers are more effective and efficient at managing their programs after attending PMU, we are seeing validated cost savings.”

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 4:53pm

Congratulating Bechtel Global Scholars

Congratulations to the Bechtel Global Scholars with ties to Pantex, Y 12, and the Uranium Processing Facility.

The 2021 Bechtel Global Scholars program awarded a total of $75,000 in college funds to 25 students in six countries. The $3,000 scholarship goes to students in their first year of studies at an accredited college, university, vocational institute, or technical school.

Among the 25 students receiving the scholarship this year, five are a child of a Consolidated Nuclear Security or Uranium Processing Facility Project employee:

  • Jocelyn Espinoza, daughter of Pantex’s Andrew Espinoza
  • Olivia Horner, daughter of Pantex’s Robbie White
  • Nathan Nelson, son of UPF’s Jeanne Grozdanich Nelson
  • Alexandria Perry, daughter of Y 12’s Douglas Perry
  • Oviya Shanmugam, daughter of UPF’s Nambi Shanmugam

Oviya Shanmugam thanked Bechtel for the opportunity. “I consider it a great honor to have been chosen as a recipient of this scholarship,” she said.

Her father, Nambi Shanmugam, said, “I appreciate Bechtel for identifying, recognizing, and rewarding young achievers on their first step toward higher education. It is especially encouraging after overcoming a very challenging last year.”

Parent Robbie White also expressed his appreciation to Bechtel. “We feel honored for the selection and thankful for the aid during this transition year as our youngest daughter leaves the nest,” he said.

Jocelyn Espinoza said the scholarship will help further her education. “I am very excited to have been selected for this award, and it will go a long way to help me achieve my goals,” she said.

Bechtel Group Foundation funds the scholarship, which is managed by Scholarship America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging global educational achievement. This year, 160 students from eight countries applied for the scholarship. Scholarship America reviewed each application before the final selection.

The opportunity is open to students in all fields of study, with preference given to those pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering, or math. Bechtel scholarships are awarded each year for full-time study at an accredited institution of the student’s choice. However, current undergraduates are not eligible for the program.

Since its start in 2001, the Bechtel Global Scholars program has awarded $1.3 million in college funding to 486 students.

Quotes from the scholars
Jocelyn Espinoza: “I am very excited to have been selected for this award, and it will go a long way to help me achieve my goals.”

Olivia Horner: “I’m very thankful for this investment in my future. I am very thankful for the recognition of my hard work throughout high school. I am incredibly excited to pursue my business degree at Texas A&M University!”

Nathan Nelson: “My family and I are both grateful to be considered and awarded this scholastic opportunity to help further my education. Thank you very much!”

Alexandria Perry: “It is an honor to be chosen to represent my high school and my family in accepting this generous scholarship. I feel a remarkable amount of support and personal enthusiasm as I begin my collegiate journey, and I am very thankful!”

Oviya Shanmugam: “I am thankful to Bechtel for the opportunity and consider it a great honor to have been chosen as a recipient of this scholarship. This award will be a great addition to support my college tuition.”

Posted: Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 4:47pm

CNS Internship Program

Through online training and interacting with Craig Marianno, deputy director of the Center for Nuclear Security Science and Policy Initiatives at Texas A&M, 28 interns received a nuclear security certificate this summer.

This year’s interns were offered an experience that not only broadened their awareness of what we do but also gave them something unique for their resumes.

Consolidated Nuclear Security coordinated a nuclear security certificate program through Texas A&M University and offered the training for free to interns with support from the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program.

A total of 28 interns — 7 from Pantex and 21 from Y-12 — benefitted from online training and interaction with Craig Marianno, deputy director of the Center for Nuclear Security Science and Policy Initiatives at Texas A&M. He recently closed out the program with an in person session at Pantex and a virtual session for Y 12 interns.

Ashley Stowe, CNS university relations program manager, said the program gives interns a leg up in their fields of study.

“The nuclear security certificate program provides interns with an excellent overview of the various aspects of nuclear security that Y-12, Pantex, and the Nuclear Security Enterprise consider every day,” he said. “This broad perspective of nuclear security topics combined with the interns’ specific summer projects gives them a unique advantage in their careers.”

Stowe said that while more than half the interns who participated were MSIPP students, all CNS interns were eligible to partake in this professional development opportunity.

In the paragraphs that follow, interns share why they participated.

“I chose to participate in the program because I knew certifications in any field are useful and can further my career. My interest in Y-12 is another reason why I decided to obtain the certificate, as I can see myself working here for some time! I have gained a new awareness from the program. It taught me different things to be aware of that I can use on a daily basis. It was a great experience overall, even though the modules were long.” — Noah Thomas, Y-12

“I really wanted to learn more about the fundamental and essential elements that make up a national nuclear security program, so participation in this program was the perfect opportunity to gain a better understanding of who we are and what we do.

“It has definitely increased my awareness of how important securing nuclear and radioactive material of all types is, whether it’s in use, storage, or transport. The emergence of cyberthreats and other new technologies that might be used in attacks has also increased understanding of the need for nuclear security. We all have a part in supporting the mission, and I think that’s absolutely incredible.” — Marena Soulet Vargas, Y-12

“I chose to participate in the program because I enjoy learning new things, and I believe it lines up well with my field of study. Eventually, I want to end up in cybersecurity at Pantex, so having knowledge of nuclear security is a great first step.

The program is great for helping to understand the importance of nuclear security and safeguards and their relationship to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. It also goes over a variety of threats that pressure the facilities from the outside and how to mitigate or ward off their efforts.” — Matthew Smith, Pantex

“I decided to participate in the certificate program to expand my knowledge of nuclear related material.

“The program has allowed me to see from a different perspective how beneficial nuclear material can be to humanity by creating clean energy and effective deterrents. The program also made me more aware of the drawbacks of nuclear technology if it gets in the wrong hands or is improperly used. I have learned how nuclear technology originated, which nations possess such capabilities, and the kinds of regulations that must be met for a state to possess it. The program has really helped me to understand what we do here at CNS and how nuclear technology has contributed to worldwide peace and our freedom.” — Chris Freire, Pantex

“I have had the opportunity over the past 2 years to learn about nuclear safety in our country. By taking this course, I am able to showcase what I have learned by being rewarded with a certificate that shows just a small piece of the dedication that I have to this field.

“This program has given me a chance to apply myself further in my internship by reinforcing my daytime working hours with nighttime study hours that push me to have a greater focus and understanding of the mission I have here as an employee, even if my employment is just seasonal.” — Matthew Fleck, Y-12

“I chose to participate in the certificate program because of the opportunity to gain new knowledge and understanding. Nuclear security is very important, and I wanted to take advantage of this program to broaden my awareness and comprehension of this topic.

“After completing the program, I now understand nuclear security in a more detailed way. I believe the program has helped me to develop new perspectives that will aid in my contribution to the overall mission.” — Cason Worthy, Y-12

Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2021 - 7:54am

A chemist performs an initial sample analysis.
A chemist performs an initial sample analysis.

The Analytical Chemistry Organization (ACO) at Y-12 recently received good news from Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) that ACO completed the annual laboratory requalification to continue supporting nuclear Navy reactors through June 30, 2022. The recertification ensures that Y-12 can continue to process the highly enriched uranium used to help fuel reactors in the Navy’s nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines under an agreement with NNSA’s Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Local and global impacts
Comprised of seven laboratory groups within Analytical Chemistry Enterprise and Mission Operations, ACO performs chemical analyses on a wide variety of samples gathered throughout Y-12.

Impurities in weapon materials, isotopic analysis, waste and environmental sample analysis, beryllium and bioassay for worker health and safety, and reactor material supply are just some of the areas from which the ACO receives samples.

ACO analyzes virtually every part and process at Y-12,” said Rob Kring, former senior manager of Y-12 Analytical Chemistry Mission Operations. “The work we do every day in ACO has global impacts. It’s not just a sample we are analyzing — we are ensuring the U.S. nuclear stockpile, helping to power the nuclear Navy and commercial nuclear reactors, and are doing our part to help protect our Y-12 coworkers.”

The Y-12 Analytical Chemistry Operations group completed more than 102,000 tests in 2020.
The Y-12 Analytical Chemistry Operations group completed more than 102,000 tests in 2020. Click for a larger image.

A yearly review
Each year, ACO participates in a recertification exercise run by Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, which is a part of the greater Naval Nuclear Laboratory. During the exercise, KAPL sends samples with different and unknown concentrations of impurities to Y-12 and ACO then has to recover those impurities at the targeted levels within strict accuracy constraints well-below the parts per million level. The ACO team prepares eight samples along with blanks and quality control. Both the samples and the individual components are analyzed and then re-analyzed on additional instrumentation to verify results.

Results are collected, compiled, calculated, and reviewed over several days before a report is produced and submitted. KAPL then evaluates the report and recertifies ACO based on the results.

Worker prepares samples for a high resolution-inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry instrument.

Overcoming challenges
The previous year brought many challenges to working environments all over the world, and the ACO recertification process was no different.

“Communication is key to all customer relationships, and COVID-19 drastically increased the difficulty of all interactions,” explained Kellye McGhee, lead chemist for the Inductively Coupled Plasma team.

“Keeping up with daily customer samples and lab qualifications is challenging even in a stable environment, but finding a way to complete necessary tasks while dealing with all the uncertainties COVID-19 brought our way was even more complicated,” McGhee stated. “Thanks to the critical thinking skills of our group, collaboration with other subject matter experts within ACO, and a deep motivation to succeed for our customers, we continue to support the Y-12 mission.”

Participants followed pandemic controls that were active at the time of the photographs.

ACO personnel prepare samples for an inductively coupled plasma‑optical emission spectrometry instrument.

Worker prepares an inductively coupled plasma‑optical emission spectrometry instrument for the day’s samples.
Worker reviews inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry data.
Worker analyzes samples on an inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry instrument.
ACO employee analyzes a sample on a LECO instrument.
Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2021 - 4:10pm

Jan West (left) and Jeff Barnard (right) stand in front of the new flag at Post 5.
Jan West (left) and Jeff Barnard (right) stand in front of the new flag at Post 5.

While the Stars and Stripes is easy to spot at multiple locations around Y-12, one employee noticed a place on site that seemed to be missing a flag. Because he brought attention to the issue, Old Glory is now proudly displayed at this prominent location.

For months, Jeff Barnard, a painter at Y-12 for more than 40 years, drove past a bare flag pole at the old Post 5 on the east end of First Street twice every day.

“As I passed through Post 5 and noticed the flag pole with no flag flying on it, I thought it was really sad, especially with what our mission is and what we do here at Y-12.”

Barnard took his concerns to his Joint Labor Management team where members Calvin Gallaher, Frank Lyles, and Jan West initiated a plan to run a flag up the pole. Infrastructure’s Roads and Grounds crew provided a new rope and a flag. Power Operations made sure that the flag would be properly illuminated in accordance with the lighting code and to protect its integrity.

“It made me realize that in America, sometimes we get so busy we forget what the flag stands for,” said Lyles, director of Plant Services. “It represents our nation, our future, our families, and our mission. And part of the mission at Y-12 is to make sure a flag is always flying.”

Jan West, senior director of Y-12 Environment, Safety, and Health, and an Air Force veteran, agreed. “It is the bigger picture of why we are here, and I would like to think a large portion of our workforce connects because of what the flag stands for,” she said. “It is very symbolic for what we do here and for our mission.”

West is one of many veterans who, along with still serving military personnel, work at Y-12.

Major John Toliver, who served 15 years of active service before transitioning to the Army Reserves, believes that our flag represents our nation and its people.

“The American flag is a symbol of what we’re defending every time we step across that blue line and come to work,” said Toliver, Special Operations Command - Strategic Partnerships.

“It should be flown at every corner of Y-12 for all to see. Our mission is to ensure a safe and effective U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent and to reduce global threat of weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “We are each called upon to strengthen our national security and what we do every day matters for the nation and we should all be very proud of that.”