Pantex and Y 12 are hotbeds for the advancement of science and technology. The scope of our research and development has widened from a single focus World War II defense mission to a plethora of capabilities to address today’s nuclear security challenges.
Y-12 recently developed a high-efficiency thermal neutron detector. The detector is a single-crystalline device that could be used in handheld nuclear nonproliferation and homeland security applications to locate fissile materials. This solid-state neutron detector offers the significant advantages of portability, sensitivity, simplicity and low cost.
Pantex is home to the world’s only X-ray inspection system, known as CoLOSSIS, for nuclear weapon components. At approximately 32,000 pounds, the lead-shielded CoLOSSIS is nearly 100 times more powerful than medical computed tomography, or a CAT scan.
Visit the Pantex and Y-12 websites to learn about these and other research capabilities and technologies.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC recently celebrated the graduation of 14 new journey workers from the Y‑12 Apprentice Program. The seven electricians, three pipefitters, three stationary engineers and one carpenter recognized in mid‑April marked a total of 71 graduates since the program was reinstated in 2008.
The Apprentice Program, which is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is a unique partnership between CNS and the Atomic Trades and Labor Council, an umbrella organization representing some 1,100 Y‑12 workers under 13 international unions. Its combination of classroom and shop-floor education trains workers to union specifications for journey worker status.
“The certificate you are about to receive is something to be proud of,” ACR Chief Steward Tim Milligan told the graduates. “This is a great accomplishment for you, CNS and our union.”
Depending on their trade, apprentices complete between 6,400 and 8,000 hours of full-time on-the-job learning. In addition, apprentices spend between 575 and 1,250 hours in the classroom, often giving up their evenings to learn from certified union instructors.
“I came into the program with very little experience in the electrical field, but graduated feeling confident in my skills as an electrician,” said graduate Matthew Hensley, who became the third member of his family to graduate from the Y‑12 Apprentice Program as an electrician. His mother and uncle completed an earlier iteration of the program in the 1980s.
Despite the lengthy process and extensive hours, Hensley wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again. “It is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life and give me opportunities that I never would have had before,” said Hensley, who is now assigned as a maintenance electrician to Development’s buildings.
For all its benefits to each individual participant, the Apprentice Program also provides Y‑12 with a pipeline of skilled workers to support the site’s important national security missions.
“This program has positioned Y‑12 for the long term at a time when skilled craft workers are in high demand,” Milligan said. “It’s a great way to transfer knowledge from highly skilled workers to the new workforce, guaranteeing we’ll be able to meet our future production goals.”
The 2016 graduation included the first‑ever class of stationary engineers, better known at Y‑12 as utility operators. They operate all the sanitary water, sewer, cooling and heating systems throughout the site, including humidity and air control in mission-critical production facilities.
Retired chief steward Kevin Ringley, who helped initiate the stationary engineer program in 2011, attended the April ceremony to see the first class graduate. “I had a great sense of accomplishment for them,” Ringley said. “They were the very first stationary class to graduate at Y‑12. That’s monumental.”
Whatever the graduates’ trade, ATLC president Mike Thompson reminded them of the value — and weight — of their achievement. “The responsibility you face couldn’t be more important,” he said. “You are the ones who will take our place and carry on the proud tradition of being some of the most skilled tradesmen in the world, providing the expertise to perform the complex mission work here at Y‑12.”
Y-12 has a long history of supporting veterans — both as employees and as suppliers. Through participation in the Tennessee Veterans Business Association Expo, Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC is able to reach both groups.
TVBA’s mission is tailor made for Y-12’s interests. The association focuses on training entrepreneurs, assisting with business development and finding rewarding employment for all veterans.
TVBA Chairman and Founder Jonathan Williams said the expo began in 2012 with the goal of showcasing local veteran-owned businesses. The concept quickly evolved into a business-to-business trade show to include companies that liked to work with veteran-owned businesses.
With all these companies in the room and veteran unemployment at a record high, Williams said, “We quickly realized this would also be a great opportunity for a veteran-focused career and education fair.”
This was the fifth year for the expo, and Williams said they’ve all been “wildly successful,” averaging 120 exhibitors each year.
“Y-12 is a huge part of the expo,” said Williams. “Not only does Y-12 use many veteran-owned small businesses as contractors, but they also employ many veterans.”
Veterans are a vital part of the Y-12 workforce. More than 500 Y-12 employees have voluntarily identified themselves as veterans. Lisa Copeland, Y-12 Small Business program manager, said, “We have a goal of obtaining 4% from veteran-owned small businesses and 3% from service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses. Events like the TVBA Expo help us identify qualified candidates for our needs.”
Nine UPF staff, including a combat veteran, honored fallen soldiers and their families by participating in the ninth annual Mountain Man Memorial March April 22‑23.
Participants in the event honor the sacrifices of fallen American service members and their families by walking 26.2 miles to simulate walking in service members’ shoes. Proceeds provide scholarship grants to Gold Star family members and donations to the University of Tennessee Army and Air Force ROTC programs and the American Legion Post #2 in Knoxville.
UPF staff who participated were Joe Bucci, Jamie Lesko, David Tran, Matt Crookshanks, Jim Schumacher, Brad Kramer, Tina Sowers, Bill Sonnenburg and Noah Carlson. Five members of the team — Lesko, Crookshanks, Schumacher, Kramer and Sowers — won the Team Civilian Light Full March award for completing a relay in under eight hours.
Carlson, a U.S. Army combat veteran of the Iraq conflict, marched in honor of four soldiers he knew who died in Iraq in 2005: SPC Justin Blake Carter, SGT Monte S. Ruth, 1LT Michael J. Cleary and SPC Richard D. Naputi.
“I was honored to see so many people from the UPF project supporting the families of fallen soldiers,” Carlson said.
The UPF group marched in honor of the Gold Star families of U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Joe Beckerman and Airman Nathaniel Henry McDavitt.
Established after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war, membership in the Gold Star Mothers Club is open to any American woman whose child has died in the line of duty. The group provides emotional support to members, does volunteer work with veterans and veterans hospitals, and fosters patriotism and respect for members of the U.S. Armed Services.
Twins Jeff and John Bryant’s lives have tracked a similar course. Both joined the military after high school, then both became security police officers at Y‑12, and now they are apprentice machinists at the site. For the brothers, it’s not their parallel career paths they find intriguing but the connection they discovered to their past.
It wasn’t until they entered the apprenticeship program that they found out their grandfather also was a machinist. “He was a tool and die maker,” said John Bryant. “We never knew that. Now we have a deeper appreciation for our grandfather and for the trade.”
The brothers are in their last year of a four‑year apprenticeship program and are on track to graduate in August. They are grateful for the on‑the‑job learning opportunity. Through a combination of classroom training in manufacturing technology and machining practices at Pellissippi State Community College and hands‑on shop work at Y‑12, they are learning to operate tools, such as lathes and milling machines, to cut and produce precision parts.
“I’m happy for the opportunity to learn a trade, a craft, that I never dreamed I’d be able to do,” said Jeff Bryant. “I get a lot of satisfaction in taking a blueprint and a piece of rough stock and turning it into a part.”
Greg Justice and Mike Patt, journeymen who worked with Jeff and John Bryant, respectively, enjoy passing their skills and knowledge to apprentices who will carry on the site’s tradition of machining excellence. “The apprenticeship program is an avenue for people to move up in skill positions,” Justice said.
Patt added, “We need apprentices who will learn skills to continue to operate the plant at the level we have throughout the years.”
The Bryants are more than willing to take up the mantle. “We are absolutely absorbing this,” John Bryant said. “Once the older generation retires, if our country still needs our skill set, our knowledge, we’ll be here.”
Each brother has always felt a strong need to serve his nation; it’s been the driving force in their career choices.
After high school, Jeff Bryant joined the Marine Corps where he trained using all kinds of weapons systems, eventually becoming a field artillery section chief in charge of a 12‑man team firing a 155-mm Howitzer. After the Marine Corps, he joined the Tennessee Army National Guard as a military police officer, deploying once to Iraq, before becoming a security police officer at Y‑12.
John Bryant followed a similar but different path. He joined the Army and then the Army Reserve. As a combat engineer on his second deployment in Iraq, he was wounded by enemy fire and received the Purple Heart, something he’s hesitant to talk about.
“There are so many other guys who work here who have done a lot more in the Armed Forces than me,” he said. “I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I’m not here to show ribbons and stars.”
After his military service, he too became a security police officer at Y‑12. “Jeff and I had alternating schedules as SPOs, but now we work together as apprentices. We’re extremely blessed to have served our country in the military, as SPOs and now as apprentices. That’s pretty big for us, to have jobs that directly affect our nation’s security.”
“We feel like everything has come full circle for us,” Jeff Bryant said. “Our grandfather has passed now, but I think he would be proud of us.”