A poster produced in the 1990s paid tribute to the Seawolf submarine.
The removal of a big machine at Y-12’s Alpha-1 facility is a big deal.
A large mill used to produce the first propulsor for the legendary Seawolf submarine has been dismantled. It took three years for Y-12 to build the propulsor, but only a few months to take down the machine used for the project.
In 1989, the U.S. Navy launched a plan to build the propulsor for the then new Seawolf. The propulsor is the device used to propel a marine vessel, which includes the propellers, water jets, and other components. The part was needed to make the fast sub quieter. For decades, attack submarines had reputations for being either fast or quiet, but never both. Fast subs could be heard by adversaries who were considerable distances away. The Seawolf task needed specific expertise and scheduling requirements, as well as advanced materials and technologies.
“Through a connection at ORNL (Oak Ridge National Laboratory), the Navy found out about us,” said Y-12 Uranium Transformation Director John Gertsen, who was part of the propulsor team. “The Navy had to find the right kind of shop for extensive and complex machining and fabrication. ORNL said, ‘We can introduce you to Y-12.’”
This five-axis mill has been dismantled at Alpha-1. The machine was instrumental in the production of a propulsor for the first Seawolf submarine.
The Navy explored other possible contractors, but “they knew we were capable of doing it,” Gertsen said. “Other vendors couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it, or they wanted the Navy to build a new factory for it. The Navy came back to us.” Y-12 began work on the propulsor in 1990.
Although Y-12 had most of the equipment to build the part, the plant still needed additional machinery. This included a special five-axis, computer-controlled milling machine and a lathe. The milling machine was used to create complex shapes for the propulsor, while the lathe fashioned rings for the propulsor.
“We were given DX (a rating assigned to programs of the highest national importance) priority to get the next one coming out of the factory,” Gertsen recalled. “They told the other customer, ‘Yours is going to be late.’”
Big dismantlement with a small crew
Now, a few decades later, the mill was the focus of the recent dismantlement.
“It is a fairly small, eight-person crew that has been working on it,” said Ross Sampson, production support manager at Alpha-1, which was command central for the Seawolf propulsor project. “I’ve been involved in some other dismantlements, but nothing of this capacity.” The $2.3 million endeavor began in early September 2022.
“Despite the size of the machine, we were able to efficiently remove it,” Sampson said. “We had a high-capacity overhead crane and an experienced demolition crew. We were very strategic about how we dismantled this machine, in order to do it safely.”
The milling machine occupied a 5,000 square foot space.
“That is really just a drop in the bucket in terms of space,” Sampson said. “Alpha-1 as a whole is 278,000 square feet. But that is very valuable space.” The mill’s former space has been spoken for and will hold equipment used for special processes.
The impressive 26-foot vertical turning machine was brought in as the centerpiece of the Alpha-1W wing, which was specifically added for the propulsor project. The lathe was bought used and shipped on a barge from Chattanooga.
“We needed this lathe,” Gertsen said. “It had to be big enough to do the machining on a 20-foot diameter part.” The massive lathe remains.
At one time, an area was dedicated to a large coordinate measuring machine, also purchased for the Seawolf project.
“That was a probe instead of a cutting tool,” Gertsen explained. “You probed the part to measure the surface and specific shapes. Certain shapes were important when it came to noise generation.” Sampson said that machine was removed from Alpha-1 a decade or so ago.
The propulsor was delivered in three subassemblies to submarine-maker General Dynamics in Connecticut, two via waterway. One of the pieces shown here is being loaded onto a barge in 1993..
In 1993, Y-12 completed the propulsor on schedule and within budget. It was divided into three subassemblies and delivered to General Dynamics in Connecticut, which built the Seawolf submarine. One part went by road in an oversize truck, and the other two made the trip via barge, starting from Oak Ridge and using the Tennessee River system. The Seawolf sub was commissioned in 1997.
Y-12 also did the model work and manufacturing design for the test propulsor for the Navy’s Virginia class submarine, made the third subassembly for the second Seawolf class submarine, crafted spare parts for the propulsors, and then transferred the process to a Navy shipyard.
Good for Y-12, the country
Although some of the machines used to help make Seawolf a stealthy vessel are no longer part of Alpha-1, the memories of that time will always ring loud for Gertsen.
“It was kind of like ‘The Hunt for Red October,’ except in that case it was the Soviets coming out with the quiet submarine,” he said. “The project gave us a real sense of accomplishment. People were proud to work on it. It showed us we can do things that are good for us [Y-12] and good for the country.”
Cultivating contracts with small businesses is a component of Consolidated Nuclear Security’s overall mission at Pantex and Y-12, a goal passed down from the Small Business Administration through the U.S. Department of Energy.
Each year, Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) establishes a small business goal that aligns with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s and the U.S. Department of Energy’s commitment to supporting the growth of small business engagement in subcontracting. In Fiscal Year 2022, CNS Supply Chain exceeded the small business percentage goal.
“CNS Supply Chain is proud of its history of supporting small businesses at both the Pantex and Y-12 sites,” said Rick Hillert, director of Procurement Operations. “As the economy is ever changing, we now more than ever look to our small business partners to team with CNS to provide an environment of collaboration and communication for our mutual success in completing the mission.”
Additionally, CNS exceeded four of the five small business socioeconomic goals in FY 2022 through the efforts of many, including Supply Chain Management procurement representatives and Enterprise Business Management personnel.
Randy Crawford and Greta Ownby are the Small Business Program managers at Pantex and Y-12, respectively.
“Small business is an essential part of our nation’s economy,” Crawford said.
In fact, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 99% of the nation’s 37 million businesses are categorized as small (fewer than 500 employees.)
“Subcontracting with businesses supports delivery and attainment of CNS's mission success,” Ownby said. “Small businesses are an important part of that initiative.”
CNS Supply Chain established Partners in Excellence meetings to enhance small business relationships with CNS and large contractors. By sharing upcoming subcontract opportunities and providing a direct connection to the CNS procurement staff, businesses are able to learn about upcoming opportunities and network with other businesses for potential partnerships.
One way CNS supports small business is through the Mentor Protégé Program. Additionally, Ownby and Crawford attend local and national conferences and meetings, trade shows, and outreach events to cultivate small business relationships.
“For Fiscal Year 2023, we took a hard look at all of the opportunities that will be available for small business participation and expanded our small business goals,” Hillert said.
Small businesses interesting in partnering with CNS can find more resources at this link.
Alyssa Gibson is a current Veteran to Engineer intern working in both Waste Management and Piping/Processing Facility Design while earning her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
“What am I going to do when I grow up?”
It is a common phrase uttered by the roughly 200,000 service members who exit the military each year. Transitioning from military service into civilian life is pretty challenging.
Fortunately, CNS has multiple veteran and service member friendly programs to assist during that time, one of those being the Veteran to Engineer Program (VTE). The program is sponsored by Mission Engineering at both Pantex and Y-12 for interested veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces to pursue an engineering degree from an accredited university with the goal of follow on employment with CNS post-graduation.
Alyssa Gibson is a current full-time VTE intern who also serves as a sergeant in the Army National Guard. In her role as a crew chief on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, Gibson assists in search and rescue operations in the region with the Medical Evacuation Unit stationed out of Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport. She has previously served as a combat engineer and deployed with a multinational NATO Task Force to Poland in support of Atlantic Resolve.
Now Gibson is focusing on her long-term goal of becoming an engineer. She currently splits her time in the program working as an engineering intern with Waste Management and Piping/Processing Facility Design while pursuing her mechanical engineering degree at Pellissippi State Community College with future transfer to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“I was excited to be able to work here in the field I wanted while the Army paid for my schooling using the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to pursue my goal of becoming an engineer, having started over a decade ago, without completely restructuring my life.”
With 12 current program participants between both sites, veterans have a plethora of disciplines from which to choose. “As long as they are actively pursuing an engineering discipline, for example, mechanical, electrical, civil, nuclear, chemical, structural, systems, industrial, software, etc., from an ABET accredited university program and a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, they are eligible,” said Kevin Mattern, Y-12 VTE program manager. “Interns will typically rotate into various areas of the plant and my job is to find an engineering home for them to be value added both personally and to the organization while finishing their degree.”
Mattern continued, “The VTE Program is a huge benefit to CNS, the national security mission, and the veteran. It’s a win/win for everyone. The mission manager gains additional support during the internship period, and the veteran gains experience and skills to be successful post-graduation.”
That is something with which Daniel Sims, piping lead for Y-12’s Piping/Chemical Design, agrees. “Aly is able to handle smaller projects to gain experience in this stage of her career while we’re focused on larger more complicated designs. It’s been great to have her involved, ready to learn, and take on tasks she can manage with a little oversight from us. She is going to do well.”
Gibson said of being in the Veteran to Engineer Program, “It’s an opportunity to pursue my goal of becoming an engineer without completely restructuring my life.”
Working in multiple disciplines has allowed Gibson to see the big picture of how the different pieces of the mission intertwine and work together. “It makes me a more well-rounded person so when I do get to my actual job later on, I’ll be able to complete my work knowing how decisions I make affect others down the line,” Gibson said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across things here at the plant that relate to stuff I’m learning at school or something suddenly makes sense to the Blackhawk I’m on.”
As a veteran himself, Mattern mentioned, “The military gives you a ton of life experience and skills that don’t necessarily directly translate into civilian life. Having the VTE Program helps veterans during that transition period to figure out where they fit in.”
When asked about her overall experience in the program, Gibson said, “The folks here are great. Everyone here wants to see me succeed, and I’m given a lot of support towards that eventual goal of joining CNS as a full-time engineer.”
If you or someone you know is interested in participating in the VTE Program, more information can be found online or by emailing VetsToEngineers@pxy12.doe.gov.
Every day, employees at Y-12 National Security Complex solve problems in the course of serving the national security mission. In the course of this work, some technologies are developed that may have broader utility and impact in the private sector.
In some cases, CNS is able to grant a technology license to private businesses, as was recently the case with Weatherly Consulting, LLC, a small, woman-owned business. Weatherly Consulting now has a copyright license for Y-12’s Readiness Certification Assurance Tracking Software (RCAPTS). The software, which was developed by Y-12 program manager John Raulston and subcontractor Garrett Cook, will help streamline the readiness review process for Weatherly Consulting’s customers.
Software streamlines complex processes
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requires a disciplined, systematic, documented, performance-based examination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and management control systems. This review ensures a facility can be operated safely and provides the basis for DOE to direct startup or restart of the facility, activity, or operation.
Navigating that requirement efficiently and effectively led Y-12 to develop RCAPTS as a web-based, multi-user tool that manages readiness projects, reviews, and associated activities. By managing workflows automatically and providing real-time status updates, the software assists users in completing readiness verification and certification as required by DOE orders.
Designed to eliminate or supplement paper-based administrative tasks, RCAPTS could also be used by software companies, engineering firms during construction and/or startup activities, and operating firms using complex processes in a highly regulated environment.
Big impact for small business
Weatherly Consulting is primarily focused on readiness verification in nuclear operations. The business was established in 2008 by Janet Weatherly, Owner and Principal. Licensing RCAPTS will streamline the core business, according to Weatherly.
“I am extremely excited about gaining access to the RCAPTS technology for my business and how it will help improve the readiness review process,” said Weatherly. “Being familiar with it already, it is definitely user friendly and can be used with very little training.”
There are several administrative requirements that must be documented before starting any review or assessment. The software automates this part of the process.
“It does everything for you,” said Weatherly. “You can sort by functional area, core requirements, and prerequisites—all within a minute. It cuts out so many steps.”
CNS Technology Transfer actively manages and commercializes technologies that employees created and facilitates licensing those technologies to private companies to enhance the nation’s competitiveness.
Grant Allard, University and Industrial Partnerships program manager, agreed the software would create a complementary service for Weatherly Consulting and their approach to the overall readiness review process.
“The RCAPTS software puts all of the readiness data at the user’s fingertips,” said Allard. “It allows for faster, more reliable decisions and reviews on projects in real-time, and reduces cost. Working with a small business to transfer this one-of-a-kind technology for commercial use has been especially gratifying.”
The CNS team was able to guide Weatherly through the copyright-license process so that she could begin utilizing the software.
“I definitely recommend business owners collaborate with CNS on useful technology and software for their business,” said Weatherly. “They make the process so easy.”
Consolidated Nuclear Security President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Tighe.
Take 5 minutes and learn about Consolidated Nuclear Security’s Richard Tighe, president and chief executive officer. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Tighe and his younger brother Jim played high school football for a legendary Iowa coach — their father Dick Tighe, whose career included more than 400 wins during 63 uninterrupted seasons.
Teamwork and football were familiar themes in the Tighe (pronounced “tie”) household in Webster City, Iowa. That “Friday night lights” culture of the small Midwestern town helped shape Tighe’s leadership philosophy.
“Everybody plays a part on the team,” he said. “In football, you might have to wait until your senior year to play, but the contributions you make to the team while you wait your turn are important.”
In his first few months as president and CEO, Tighe has been busy meeting National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Production Office and CNS leadership teams; local, state, and national elected officials representing the West Texas and East Tennessee areas; NNSA leadership; and site and laboratory directors from across the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
Tighe is taking advantage of the extensive knowledge of the CNS team.
“There is tremendous knowledge and experience at both sites; by working to be inclusive, I’m able to use this to the best advantage in informing decisions,” he said. “I’m new to CNS, but even the most experienced person at Pantex or Y-12 can’t be an expert in all aspects of our work or the sites. Getting input from other people helps all of us take advantage of the full expertise available.”
Before joining CNS, Tighe served in roles with Bechtel and Lockheed Martin, and he is no stranger to the Nuclear Security Enterprise, having spent more than a decade at the Nevada National Security Site. Tighe was also a postdoctoral fellow in the Nuclear Science Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California.
“Coming back to NNSA is like coming back to my roots,” he said. “It takes me back to my foundation in nuclear physics, which helps me understand the mission of both sites and how it fits into the broader Nuclear Security Enterprise.”
What daily task lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission? How/why does that task let you know you’re working toward the mission?
No two days have been the same, so far. Meeting and talking to employees during tours and all hands meetings helps me to put their work in the context of the bigger picture of our mission.
How does patriotism factor into your life?
Patriotism becomes most meaningful to me when I think of the role the U.S. plays with our allies and adversaries around the world. It’s rewarding to be involved with such an important purpose and mission.
What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
When I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Nuclear Science Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I was the lead investigator for the work involved in the discovery of Sb 105 (antimony 105), a nuclear isotope along the proton drip line that has implications for nucleosynthesis. I proposed and planned the experiment, analyzed the data, and wrote the journal article.
What’s your favorite outside of work activity?
When we lived in Maryland, my daughters were involved in high school sports and also played on travel teams. My wife and I enjoyed traveling to their games and tournaments. My daughters and I had a tradition of running in a Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving. While I seldom run in 5Ks or other races these days, I typically run four times each week. I also really enjoy watching college football, particularly watching and attending Notre Dame games.