Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge officials recently joined area business leaders and hospital volunteers in dedicating the Center’s newest hospitality house, which provides temporary lodging for patients and their families who travel to Oak Ridge for extended medical treatment.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC was recognized during a dedication ceremony for its $20,000 donation to the renovation of the house along West Tennessee Avenue.
CNS President and Chief Executive Officer Morgan Smith, Vice President and Deputy Enterprise Manager Michelle Reichert, and Vice President and Y-12 Site Manager Bill Tindal attended the event and later toured the house, which when completed, will be the Center’s third hospitality house. The house’s shared living room will bear the name of CNS.
“Having a loved one who’s ill is tough enough, but to have to worry about traveling or paying for lodging during a hospital stay makes it even tougher, “ said Smith. “This third hospitality house will lift a bit of that burden, allowing families to stay in the Oak Ridge area for free while dealing with a family illness. CNS is proud to help and be part of this endeavor.”
Also attending the dedication was Atomic Trades and Labor Council President Mike Thompson. ATLC members provided some of the labor during the early renovation of the home.
“We did a lot of the early demolition work,” said Thompson. ATLC volunteers also did plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning work in the home. “It was a joy to contribute time and effort to help get this third house to completion so it can serve the East Tennessee area,” he said.
Not one member of the crew that operates Y-12’s high-voltage Elza Switchyard has been injured at work in 15 years — not even a simple first-aid injury.
The journeyman high-voltage electricians, part of the Power Operations division of Infrastructure and members of the United Steel Workers, work with the 161,000-volt electrical system that supplies all Y‑12’s power.
Since the last injury in 2001, Y-12’s managing contractor has changed, safety programs have changed, and Elza crewmembers have retired while others took their places. One remarkable aspect that hasn’t changed — all of the electricians have gone home safe and well every work day.
“This small crew, doing very hazardous work in the high‑voltage switchyard, can teach us huge lessons about watching out for one another’s safety,” CNS Vice President and Y-12 Site Manager Bill Tindal said. “We’re extremely proud of their record of working injury free, one day at a time.”
CNS tracks several types of injuries for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including recordable injuries (those that require more than first aid) as well as lost work day injuries. To put this accomplishment in perspective, the 90-Day Safety Challenge Award recognizes Y-12 organizations that are able to go 90 days without a recordable injury.
“I think this is an outstanding achievement, especially since they are working in an area daily with high voltages,” said Elza Switchyard supervisor Karla Wright. “These guys take ownership of the system, their actions, and look out for the safety of each other. The approach is: We’re not going to have anybody hurt. Everybody’s going home safe — the way we came in that morning.”
Elza crewmembers said the level of danger in their work keeps them from becoming complacent or doing tasks through rote repetition. The Y-12 site typically uses 23–25 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 5,000 homes.
Supervisor Mark Lyons said planning a work task can take weeks or months.
“They’re just safety oriented. We talk things over,” Lyons said. “They’re just like a big, happy family.”
The crewmember with the longest tenure is Mike Hitson, at 41 years. The newest is Jason Harmon with three years, with the others falling in between. The crew size has ranged from 7 to 17 over the years.
“We talk about things before we ever get started,” Harmon said. “You don’t get a second chance with that,” nodding toward the towering structures in the switchyard.
Don Raby has visited New Hope Cemetery several times, but December 29 marked his homecoming. Raby was buried next to his great-great-grandfather Samuel Raby, a corporal in the third Tennessee Infantry during the Civil War. The younger Raby’s service in the U.S. Navy warranted an honor guard 21-gun salute. Raby’s name gave him the distinction of being a member of one of five families who make up a large portion of the 200-plus plots in the cemetery.
New Hope Cemetery is one of seven maintained cemeteries on the Y-12 portion of the Department of Energy reservation in Oak Ridge. More than 70 cemeteries, with headstones dating back as far as 1811, exist in the city and on the reservation, land taken over by the U.S. government as part of WWII’s Manhattan Project.
Raby’s interest in the reservation’s pre-war history led him to compile a collection of photos documenting the approximately 1,000 displaced homesteads on the 59,000 acres known then as the Kingston Demolition Range. Y-12 sponsored Raby and the Pellissippi Genealogical and Historical Society with $1,000 to locate and scan the photos from the National Archives in Atlanta. The collection is available in several local libraries. In addition to helping identify and document several grave sites, Raby also participated with Y-12 in renovating the New Hope Cemetery in 2005, which included cleaning headstones and constructing a fence and entryway.
Pantex and Y-12 Construction organization workers have built records of millions (and years) of safe work hours — one hour, one day, at a time.
Consider these remarkable achievements:
- The last recordable injury for Pantex Construction, supported by the West Texas Building Trades Council, was 1,801 days ago (almost five years), or 2 million hours.
- Y-12 Construction, supported by the Knoxville Building and Construction Trades Council, in December celebrated 1 million safe work hours — for the third time in recent years. That equals 746 days without a lost-time injury.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC CEO Morgan Smith said the million safe work hours is a “tremendous testament, a tremendous accomplishment. I thank you for that accomplishment and the opportunity to work together to do some incredible things for the nation. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do.”
Construction workers, or craft workers as they’re called, at both sites undertake hazardous work in myriad buildings that are 70-plus years old, and they also work on mammoth new construction projects. Craft workers include boilermakers, brick masons, carpenters, cement masons, electricians, insulators, ironworkers, laborers, millwrights, painters, pipe fitters, operating engineers, roofers, sheet metal workers, sprinkler fitters, and teamsters.
Even though the sites are 1,100 miles apart, Pantex and Y-12 Construction managers and employees continually collaborate on safety, including issuing a joint FY16 employee safety handbook.
Y-12 Construction Safety Lead Nicke Flynn said the subject of safety is a constant.
“There’s not a time of the day that people aren’t talking about safety in some way,” Flynn said. “We’re very fortunate to have a management team who truly supports safety like no other team I’ve seen in 30 years.”
Craft Safety Representatives are an important liaison between management and workers and vice versa. The primary job of the safety leads — who compete for the year-long assignment — is to visit each job site with an eye toward safety. Craft Safety Representative Monica Lewis, a carpenter by trade, said workers know the safety reps are there to ensure questions and safety concerns are addressed quickly.
“Construction craft are quick to report anything they consider a safety concern because they don’t want to see anyone get hurt,” Lewis said. “The key factor in our safety performance is the fact that we care about each other, practice Brother’s Keeper, and consider ourselves a family.”
For Y-12 Manager of Construction Joe Kato, the safety performance rests on multiple building blocks: frequent safety meetings at all levels, safety conference calls, lessons learned, STARRT Cards, Brother’s Keeper, craft safety representatives and management support.
“It’s not one thing that we do. It’s a combination of the people and the programs,” Kato said. “It’s the investment that we make in people.”
Pantex Manager of Construction Ian Hughes was visiting Y-12 and attended the celebration. He said building a healthy nuclear safety culture requires everyone, especially managers and supervisors to set the example.
“Management really believes it, demonstrates it and communicates it through actions,” Hughes said.
Picture the brightest lamp in your house — let’s assume it uses a 100 watt bulb — and think of the amount of heat it gives off if you hold your hand directly over it.
Now, picture 850,000 lightbulbs and the heat they would produce. Then cram all that energy — all 85 million watts — into a space as small as a household trashcan. That’s the concentration of power produced inside the High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
And it wouldn’t be possible without Y-12’s uranium processing expertise.
Historically, Y-12 produces 80 kilograms of oxide feed material each year, which is sent to a facility in Lynchburg, Virginia, for fuel plate fabrication, although annual volume varies.
“This year, they asked us how much we could make, and we calculated we could produce 125 kilograms for them,” said Don Bible, Y-12’s HFIR project manager.
Y-12’s ability to meet HFIR’s needs is imperative.
Meeting those specifications is crucial to HFIR safely and reliably achieving its highly controlled nuclear reaction, which is used primarily to produce neutrons for research and discovery. During each HFIR cycle, beams of neutrons travel through tubes to adjoining research areas. There, they bombard any number of materials — from metals and plastics to liquid crystals and proteins — allowing researchers to see and understand them on an atomic level.
“Neutrons are a really good way to look inside materials,” David Renfro, HFIR nuclear engineer, noted.
“This can help us understand different materials and learn how they function, so we can use that knowledge to solve problems — from improving medications to building better batteries.”
Y-12’s Special Processing crew recently toured the HFIR facility to see their product in action. Before that trip, few understood HFIR’s unique capabilities or national importance.
“I knew our products went there, but I didn’t have a clue what it was for,” Chemical Operator Derek Chittum said. He added, “And I’ve been running this process for six years.”
Production Specialist Steve Watson organized the tour to provide a little extra motivation to a crew that worked many long days and weekends to deliver their mission.
“I wanted them to see first-hand what the long hours were for and what it truly meant,” Watson said.
On the tour, the operators saw the reactor pool, control room, and associated research facilities. They learned how the fuel plates are fabricated and how the lab welcomes users from around the globe to conduct studies at HFIR free of charge.
“It was a good tour. It’s very interesting to see the final product,” Andy Trentham, chemical operator, said. “Our product is going over there to help people research important things.”
Having the end in mind helped Y-12’s operators understand their own role in the process.
“It helps you appreciate what you do,” Chittum said. “The product we keep putting out keeps that reactor running. They’ve told us they couldn’t do it without us.”
That new appreciation for the work — and their vital role in it — inspired the crew to work overtime to meet the year’s deliverables.
“When we were asked if we thought we could make the commitment, the guys in the crew took it as a challenge,” Watson said of the 125-kilogram goal. “They didn’t hesitate. Their answer was, ‘We will make it.’”
For more information on the High Flux Isotope Reactor and its four primary research capabilities, visit their website.