Y-12 Blog

Posted: Monday, June 6, 2022 - 7:44am

The Y-12 Fire Department sent a tanker to help contain the recent wildfires in Sevier County
The Y-12 Fire Department sent a tanker to help contain the recent wildfires in Sevier County. The tanker supplied water to other fire departments who participated in the firefighting effort.

The effort to extinguish blazes that charred thousands of acres in East Tennessee this spring received help from a regional squad of firefighters, including members of the Y-12 Fire Department.

“It was a challenging task,” said Y-12 Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Mari-Kaye Monday, “We supported the efforts with a team of two firefighters working 24/7 from Wednesday morning through Sunday evening.”

The Y-12 Fire Department was among hundreds of agencies that responded to Sevier County and helped contain the fires which consumed parts of Hatcher Mountain in Wears Valley and Dupont/Millstone Gap in Seymour.

The agencies came together thanks to Tennessee’s mutual-aid deployment plan, which provides resources when fires exceed the abilities of any single fire department. The plan is useful in large fires and when natural or manmade disasters overwhelm a local community’s capabilities.

The need was great when wind-driven flames quickly reached heights of 30 feet or more as they tore across the mountains.

“Our assignment was to provide water supply, using our tanker, to other fire departments who were fighting the fires with brush trucks and protecting structures,” Monday said. “We could supply multiple trucks with our 3,500-gallon capacity.”

This wasn’t the first time the Y-12 Fire Department has played a role in wildfire containment. The department also pitched in during the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires, which burned 17,900 acres, destroyed 2,460 buildings, and took the lives of 14 people.

Mutual aid doesn’t just apply to major wildfires, however. For example, the Y-12 and Oak Ridge fire departments have a longstanding mutual-aid relationship.

“There are times when the city gets inundated with calls,” said Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Travis Solomon. “When our guys are tied up on something major, Y-12 supplements our resources or assists us on the scene. Within the last year, we’ve called on them three or four times.”

Earlier this year, when the Oak Ridge Fire Department was on one call involving a structure fire, a crew from Y-12 responded to a kitchen fire at British Woods Apartments. The crew helped evacuate the occupant and extinguished the fire. There was no major property damage.

In another mutual-aid call, Y-12 Fire Department responded to the scene of a motor-vehicle accident on Edgemoor Road when the Oak Ridge Fire Department was handling a wildland fire on the east side of the city.

“I really appreciate Y-12 Fire being able to assist the city,” Solomon said. “And if they need our help, we are just a phone call away.”

The mutual-aid responses offer Y-12 firefighters a change of pace and opportunities to employ skills they ordinarily wouldn’t have to use on site.

“We have 97 people in the department,” Monday said. “There is a broad experience and knowledge base. To maintain our EMT and Paramedic licenses, we train on pediatric emergencies and domestic violence responses. Although we probably won’t see that on the Y-12 site, we never know what may be needed during an off-site response. Even though we are fully capable, we probably won’t be delivering many babies at Y-12.”

What is more likely are “responses that are more specific to Y-12 hazards,” Monday said. “They’re not typically the same hazards municipalities may face.”

Although Y-12’s mutual-aid ties with the Oak Ridge Fire Department are strong, they also extend to other neighboring fire departments, including at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Monday said ORNL occasionally requests medical support, where an ambulance with a Paramedic and EMT is provided. In most mutual-aid situations, Y-12 provides engine company support, which includes a fire engine with a captain and up to three crew members.

Whether it’s a call at Y-12 or a mutual-aid situation, “We love what we do,” Monday said. “We love the challenge of not knowing what the next response will be and the responsibility to be prepared for anything.”

Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2022 - 3:45pm

Pantex Development Engineer Paul Aguirre of the Tracking and Sensor Networks Integrated Project Team
Pantex Development Engineer Paul Aguirre of the Tracking and Sensor Networks Integrated Project Team with some of the project equipment.

Engineers at Pantex are testing a new wireless tracking system that will eventually manage the location of key components such as containers, tools, and equipment across the sites. It’s a big advancement since devices that communicate wirelessly are prohibited in many locations at Pantex and Y-12.

The key to this technology is that it doesn’t use typical Wi Fi or Bluetooth frequencies, but rather operates on a separate, lower-frequency bandwidth.

Pantex Senior Director for Infrastructure Joe Boudreaux said Pantex and Y-12 are developing the system to replicate, in a security conscious manner, technology available outside the sites.

“We are seeing trackers used more and more in our personal lives to locate pets, phones, and even cars. The wireless property tracking project is designed to develop a solution to track components meeting all of our requirements for use at both Pantex and Y 12,” Boudreaux said.

The system would work by installing special antennas to tracked items. The antennas would communicate with a property tracking system. The system would provide real time locations for tracked items as well as data-reporting functions.

“We are leveraging and adapting technology used at other Department of Defense and Department of Energy sites,” said Development Engineer Paul Aguirre.

The problem with the existing systems is that locations must be manually updated, Aguirre said. The new system would prevent time wasted to track missing items and money spent replacing lost items.

“I have people in my group who have more than 70 items they have to keep track of. It’s easy to lose track or misplace items throughout the year. Hopefully, we’re going to eliminate that problem,” he said.

If all goes according to plan, testing of the new system will begin later this year followed by implementation, first at Y-12, in FY 2023.

Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2022 - 3:41pm

Ronald Bolden Jr. (left) and Luke Birt, pause for a photo with Building 9767-13’s installation
Ronald Bolden Jr. (left) and Luke Birt, pause for a photo with Building 9767-13’s installation

Technology is integrated throughout the modern business world and at the heart of Consolidated Nuclear Security’s digital transformation. It is often the common source credited to improving the quality of processes and systems in our lives. Whether it’s the ability to rapidly gather information from a search engine or track physical performance with a smart watch, many of us can identify how technology simply makes our lives easier and more informed.

With remote tracking and wireless data collection capabilities now also playing a critical role for our people, processes, and systems at Pantex and Y 12, our digital transformation is advancing the modernization of site operations.

“Our team dreamt of digital transformation to support the CNS Strategic Plan,” said Travis Childress, condition based maintenance (CBM) lead engineer. “Specifically, we sought to improve the reliability and availability of aging infrastructure through remote and real-time CBM monitoring.”

By definition, CBM is a monitoring strategy that observes the present condition of an asset or machine to determine what maintenance should be done based on signs of decreased performance or indication of failure.

While the CBM process isn’t new to CNS, the ability to continuously and remotely track a machine in the field using the CBM strategy is transformational.

“Previously, data collection activities required an analyst or craftsperson to physically collect the data in the field. The analyst reviews the data for early detection of failure modes and communicates concerns before equipment reliability is impacted,” said Childress.

Recently, the CBM team began real time machine health monitoring at Y-12, known as the Enterprise Operational Monitoring System. Now, more than 10,000 measurement points can be collected in three second measurement intervals, for analysis using the EOMS dashboard. The result is a robust graphical indication of machine health used to immediately identify the root causes of machine failure and prevent unplanned maintenance. Over time, data trending and patterns can be analyzed to better predict machine maintenance needs and further limit machine downtime.

“The EOMS project is a huge accomplishment for the Digital Transformation program,” said Jerry Stanley, lead for Digital Transformation. “By laying out real time monitoring solutions for CBM, we’re not only modernizing the state of our tracking and sensor operations, but supporting our mission long term with technology that’s industry standard.”

Posted: Monday, May 9, 2022 - 2:07pm

PrYde Program Manager Margaret Woods
PrYde Program Manager Margaret Woods shows off a Best Facility sign that recognizes Best Practices, one of two new inspection awards given quarterly.

Take 5 minutes and learn about Margaret Woods, manager of the PrYde Program at Y-12. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.

Margaret Woods has gone from the classroom to helping Y-12 facilities be class acts.

Since 2019, Woods has managed the PrYde Program, which finds potential safety hazards, ensures the site’s good appearance, and promotes workplace pride. Before coming to Y-12, she sought to bring out the best in second and third graders as a schoolteacher in Roane and Rhea counties for 28 years.

“Teaching is a passion,” she said. “There are times when I miss it, but I was ready for a change. My audience has always been 7 or 8 year olds, so it was a challenge to start working with adults.”

Woods sees her qualities and experience as a teacher as strengths in her Y-12 post.

“As a teacher, you have to plan ahead,” she said. “You have to plan weeks and months out. Being organized is important, on a personal and professional level. You have to make the most out of your time and energy. And as teachers, we had to be creative with our resources.”

Also, the Rockwood native is a self confessed neat freak, a perfect fit with the PrYde Program principle: A place for everything and everything in its place.

PrYde means “clarifying goals, editing the unessential, honing decision making skills, letting go of things that no longer support you, changing habits, and setting up viable, organizing systems,” said Woods, who also has 11 years of experience as a business manager. “It’s a process that requires time and patience and can be messy. But in the end, it will save time, energy, and money, while boosting safety.”

As PrYde program manager, Woods inspects 413 facilities in 15 zones on more than 800 acres. It’s about housekeeping on the highest level.

During the walk downs, “I look at every aspect of the facility. I look for trends, things that are common,” she said. “It could be ways to be more sustainable. A tenant’s office space may be cluttered with boxes. There may be leaks, which can cause water damage — mold. Equipment could be ruined by the water. Someone could slip and fall in a puddle. Collective little things can really add up.”

Inspections are performed annually. Woods visits 30 to 50 facilities per month. There are five color coded inspection ratings, which are calculated in a database. They range from Red (Unsatisfactory) to Blue (Excellent). In the middle is Green (Meets Expectations). Rating signs with the corresponding color are hung at the facilities after the inspection.

“Our goal is to have every facility be [rated] green or higher,” she said.

During the first quarter of FY 2022, 78% of the facilities inspected rated green or better. Last fiscal year, 84% of 413 facilities were at least in the green.

This year, the program introduced two new quarterly awards: Best Practices and Most Improved. A facility that continues to implement and demonstrate routine housekeeping responsibilities and maintains a Blue (Excellent) rating will be given Best Practices. A facility that exhibits continuous improvements in a wide range of areas, from proper waste to exterior appearance, and elevates its rating from the prior annual inspection will garner Most Improved. The first facilities to boast the signs were Building 9720-9 for Best Practices and Building 9949-39 for Most Improved.

For Woods, her job is more than inspections. It’s also about appreciation for the work done at Y-12.

“Being out there and seeing firsthand what our people do is amazing,” she said. “I learn something new every day. It’s like when I was teaching. I learned a lot from those 7 and 8 year olds.”

What daily task lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission? How does that task let you know you’re working towards the mission?
I think it’s when I get the follow ups. I’ll get an e-mail, and the customers have shared a photo that Photography has taken to show what has happened since the inspection. That tells me things are working and that they value what I’m trying to do.

What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
I love seeing a facility move up its rating, whether it’s 2% or 20%. I love changing those signs. That makes me feel successful.

What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
I would have to say having integrity. That’s what we stand for. It’s about being proud of what we do and how we do it. I’m very fortunate to be a part of the mission.

What advice would you offer someone who is new to Y-12?
Make connecting with others a priority. Relationships that you build with another person adds a beam of support to what you’re building.

What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
When I was 5 and 6 years old, I was in the Golden Flake Potato Chips commercials. I’m a star. I got free potato chips and got paid, too.

Posted: Monday, May 9, 2022 - 2:01pm

Five million safe hours

Five million hours. That’s a difficult-to-conceive amount of time. To put it in perspective, you would have to drive back and forth between Amarillo, Texas, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee more than 150,000 times to hit five million hours. Better pack some snacks for the road!

Consolidated Nuclear Security employees achieved the major safety performance milestone of five million hours without a lost-time injury earlier this year, capping off a streak that lasted nearly four months. This includes the performance of CNS workers and the subcontractors for which CNS directs day-to-day activities.

The last time CNS achieved five million hours was in April 2017. According to Environment, Safety, and Health senior directors Jimmy Rogers of Pantex and Jan West of Y-12, the recent accomplishment illustrates the sites’ latest safety strategies and dedication to ensuring workers return to their families safe.

“We’ve taken a boots-on-the-ground approach when it comes to strengthening our safety culture at both sites,” said Rogers. “Our workforce prides itself on keeping one another safe, so we decided to get our organizations across the enterprise directly involved.”

Organizations are capitalizing on the strategies that are working specifically for them through new safety sustainment plans, building on strong safety improvement numbers in 2021. Leadership across the enterprise is supporting efforts to sustain the actions and engrain them into the safety culture. Various incentives to support safety culture have been created, such as the Good Catch Award. Union leadership and safety representatives have also been key in driving improvements.

West shared that all personnel should be proud of this accomplishment, not just ES&H. Reducing lost-time injuries is good for the overall health of the organization, as well as builds confidence in personnel’s families that the safety of their loved ones is a top priority.

“The landscapes at Pantex and Y-12 are changing daily, and so it’s even more exciting to have this safety performance amidst all of the project work. Our workforce takes pride in having a safe environment,” West said. “Our organizations and workforce look out for each other. It takes raising your hand when something doesn’t look right. It’s not just lip service; it’s how we do business here.”