Y-12 Blog

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2023 - 7:48am

Pantexan Chafin H.
Chafin H. pulls double duty when it comes to serving others; he works at Pantex and is a lieutenant colonel (select) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.

Once a month, Chafin H. loads up his Suburban and points the truck north toward Colorado Springs.

Chafin is a project manager in Construction Projects at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, but he’s also a lieutenant colonel (select) in the U.S. Air Force Reserve at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. And while the trip usually takes about 6 hours and covers more than 350 miles, there’s not a lot of distance between the two missions he performs: National security is the priority.

“For U.S. veterans, a career at Pantex or Y-12 is a continued service to our nation. By working at Pantex or Y-12, we help ensure the reliability of our nation’s greatest deterrence against authoritarian aggression—the U.S. nuclear triad,” said Chafin, who has been an instructor pilot in the Air Force Reserve for 8 years after 9 years of active-duty service.

Pantex and the Y-12 National Security Complex, which are managed and operated by Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), often offer sought-after vocations for those who have or continue to serve in our armed forces. It’s no surprise that 29% of the Pantex workforce and 18% of the Y-12 workforce have former military experience.

Like Chafin, more than 30 employees remain active in the armed forces, often through the reserves, serving double duty for the nation.

“Serving in the military and working a full-time civilian job is tough and very busy,” said U.S. Navy Reservist and Y-12 Quality Technical Procedures Specialist Scott B. “We are always on the go, but most of us wouldn’t change a thing. I am very proud to have the opportunity to wear our nation’s uniform, but we are just regular people who have had the opportunity to help our country the best way we know how.”

In recognition of Armed Forces Day, celebrated on May 20, some employees shared how their roles at the sites allow them to continue service to our nation.

“The operation and functionality of our sites have a direct impact on national security,” said Jonathan C., an engineer in the Facility Design Group at Y-12 and a first lieutenant in the Tennessee Air National Guard. “If the operational status of the facilities and the sites is impacted, then we may miss key objectives, which have second and third order effects.”

“In the Army, I dealt with nuclear targeting, nuclear disablement, and counterproliferation,” said Jimmy M., a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, who is a SkillBridge intern working in Y-12 Product Manufacturing Engineering. “At CNS, I can support the other end of our nation’s nuclear deterrent and assist in the training of other DoD elements. I continue to serve because I enjoy the challenge, and I feel as though I am supporting my country.”

Scott thanked CNS and his colleagues for supporting those who remain active in the armed forces.
“Y-12 and CNS have been the most supporting companies I have worked for since transitioning from active duty to the reserves,” Scott said. “I know that my team always has my back when I have to be out on orders for the Navy. I’m able to complete my training and return seamlessly.”

Mike F., a master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force National Guard and an instructor in Production Training, agrees the support of the company, coworkers, and even DOE are important.

“I have had several supervisors support me in my role to serve our nation. I’m also thankful to our DOE headquarters leaders who feel strongly in supporting us serving our nation,” Mike said.

U.S. Army National Guard Second Lieutenant Robert M., who is a Y-12 Project Controls scheduler, added, “I definitely feel like working at Y-12 allows me to continue to serve the nation. When I come to work, I get to actually see America’s nuclear deterrent actively being used. From the history of the plant to the individual projects and individuals who make things happen, it is incredible to see.”

His peer Allison D., a captain in the Tennessee Army National Guard and a Project Controls scheduling associate, said, “My role at Y-12 has allowed me to continue to serve the nation through providing the products through which we are interfacing with foreign nations. By doing so, I’m understanding their capabilities and threats they can bring to the world.”

“Being in the guard has helped me become more confident and able to think on the move,” Robert said. “A popular saying is that ‘No plan survives first contact,’ so being able to prepare contingencies and to think and adjust on the move has been a very valuable skill that the Army has taught me. I personally like to remind myself that I may not be able to control every situation, but I can always control how I react to it.”

“The National Guard helped me develop a positive self-improvement mentality and taught me to aim for excellence in all I do,” Jonathan said. “I learned to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and to bounce back when you hit a wall and keep moving forward. It changed the way I view the world and taught me to appreciate the small things. It has made me into a better leader, a better follower, and a better communicator. All these aspects turned me into a better friend, family member, and (soon to be) husband.”

Y-12ers Jonathan C., Allison D., Scott B., and Jimmy M.
These Y-12ers remain dedicated to serving others. From left: Jonathan C., Allison D., Scott B., and Jimmy M.

Posted: Tuesday, May 2, 2023 - 8:07am

The HEUMF Connector (HCON) will connect HEUMF and UPF
The HEUMF Connector (HCON) will connect HEUMF and UPF, providing a more efficient way to transport production material between the two facilities.

San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County, New York and New Jersey have the Lincoln Tunnel, and in the near future, Y-12 will have the HEUMF Connector (HCON) to UPF.

January 2023 marked 13 years since HEUMF became fully operational. During a four-year construction project, a rough-graded site was transformed into the massive concrete and steel structure that serves as our nation’s central repository for uranium. Approximately 300 ft. x 475 ft., HEUMF has areas for receiving, shipping, and providing long-term storage of uranium.

Before HEUMF receives the uranium, uranium “recycling” currently takes place in Building 9212, a large chemical processing facility that was built during the 1940s in the early era of nuclear weapons production. Since then, it has been modified many times to meet changing national security missions. It was optimized for the large nuclear weapons production mission necessary during the buildup of U.S. thermonuclear forces in the 1950s and 1960s.

Moving the uranium from Building 9212 to HEUMF requires coordination between the two facilities, and material is transported on a special nuclear material vehicle (SNMV), endearingly nicknamed “the goose” by those who work with it routinely. Security police officers accompany the SNMV, and transports have to be scheduled well in advance based on the logistics associated with delivery.

For Special Nuclear Materials Operations production specialists like Bill Hale, the transport game changes once the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) and HCON are complete and in operation.

“It’s going to be night and day as far as efficiency goes,” said Hale. “UPF Integration is leading teams to ensure HEUMF has a process to support UPF.”

UPF will provide new floor space and consist of processing capabilities for uranium casting, oxide production, and salvage and accountability operations to support the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, defense nuclear non-proliferation, and naval reactors. On the east side of UPF's Main Process Building, material will be transported directly to HEUMF through HCON. Material will be delivered to the HEUMF dock and transported through HCON; UPF will then be able to accept the material through a door.

From a construction standpoint, HCON really is a mammoth. At completion, HCON will be 475 feet long and contain 180 tons of steel, over 13,000 feet of conduit, and 5,300 cubic yards of concrete. To put these numbers into perspective, the steel weighs more than the Statue of Liberty, the length of conduit is four times the length of Navy Pier in Chicago, and the concrete could fill 25,000 bathtubs.

UPF and HCON are an engineering feat and, once operational, will be a huge win for Y-12 operations.

“We’ll have a straight line between HEUMF and UPF to transfer material that is protected from the elements and devoid of any other site obstacles. Being in a secure, protected environment also will alleviate the need for a security police officer to accompany the material transfer,” said Julie Huff, Y-12 Operations. “Fulfilling the mission requires us to optimize our strategies, and HCON truly is all about efficiency.”

Posted: Monday, April 17, 2023 - 9:38am

A new scale at Third Mill
A new scale, left, is now about 10 ft. away from the rolling mill, right, at Third Mill. A forklift manipulator, far right, carries depleted uranium plates to the scale. Before the new scale was installed, the forklift had to travel about 150 ft. to reach the scale.

A new scale at Third Mill shows a project does not have to cost millions of dollars to hold a lot of weight at Y-12. The device was installed in Building 9215, where depleted uranium is processed. The scale cost about $3,000 and has shaved 32 minutes off each individual billet campaign, which translates into many hours saved each year and increased productivity.

The scale replaces an older one that was located more than 150 ft. away from the rolling mill where the billets (bars of metal) are rolled into plates. A forklift with a manipulator carries the individual plates from the rolling mill to the scale to be weighed and then places them on a rack.

The new scale cuts 32 minutes from a metal process.
The new scale cuts 32 minutes from a metal process. A rack, on which rolled plates are placed, sits on top of it.

Previously, the forklift had to travel down a long hallway to get to the scale, which took a bit of time. The new scale is now about 10 feet from the rolling mill, which reduces travel time for each billet run. A billet yields 16 plates, and the forklift took 2 minutes to transport each plate to the scale, which amounted to 32 minutes per billet run. With the scale now just a few feet from the rolling mill, the drive time is drastically shorter.

In addition to the time savings, the scale has freed up the mill, reduced material handling and movement, and decreased concerns of transporting material through the area. There is more time on the mill for additional work, and the shorter distance to the scale increases efficiency and decreases risk of injury.

Hallway to old scale
Before the new scale was installed, a forklift carrying individual plates had to travel down this long hall to a scale.

Posted: Monday, April 17, 2023 - 9:23am

Brad Russell, the Sustainable Acquisition Program manager
Brad Russell, the Sustainable Acquisition Program manager, wants employees to know buying green is more than a saying; it is a way of life at Pantex and Y-12.

As a government contractor, Consolidated Nuclear Security is required to abide by government regulations. One requirement is purchasing sustainable products, which provides opportunities for CNS to make positive choices for the environment.

CNS's newest Sustainable Acquisition Program manager, Brad Russell, is one of those experts guiding those purchases. “It is great when CNS and the sites are recognized for the outstanding work they do in achieving sustainability,” Russell said.

According to Russell, when CNS purchases sustainable products, “we’re not only making better choices, but we’re showing CNS's commitment to our environment. Purchasing sustainable products helps to establish a healthier environment for employees because we’re eliminating products that off gas, like cleaning products, flooring, and paint; reducing the amount of hazardous material on site; and reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide that causes climate change.”

It all adds up because the federal government is the single largest consumer in the world. “Federal sustainable purchasing is a big business,” Russell said. “Products range from remanufactured toner cartridges, post-consumer 100% recycled content paper, green electronics, bio-based cleaning products, compostable or biodegradable food containers, and non-toxic construction material.”

GreenBuy Award Winners

Congratulations to Pantex and Y-12 on each receiving a GreenBuy Award for purchasing achievement in FY 2022.

Pantex received the silver level for purchasing six priority products in four categories.

Y-12 received the gold level for purchasing 10 priority products in six categories.

This fiscal year, Russell and his program have set several goals, including increased purchasing of bio-based and recycled content. “In FY23, we want to introduce at least ten new sustainable products, issue a user-friendly quick reference guide that highlights sustainable products readily available, and replace some flooring [at Y-12] with sustainable flooring.”

When looking to buy products, at work or at home, Russell encourages checking out the product description. “Most items have a description that tells you if it is bio-based or made with recycled content,” he said.

The team tracks purchases of sustainable products at Y-12. “We like to know if you liked it, did not like it, and why. This information helps us in recommending products for future users as well as providing feedback to our vendors.”

The data collected on purchases is also used to track how well CNS and its sites do in meeting those government expectations and to show how the program has grown. Both Pantex and Y-12 have received several awards for purchasing sustainable products, with the U.S. Department of Energy GreenBuy Awards being the most recent example. This program recognizes DOE sites for excelling in their “green purchasing” and going above compliance requirements.

“Being recognized by DOE shows they recognize CNS goes beyond the requirements. The Sustainable Acquisition Program is here to make a difference and figure out what purchases can change and be more sustainable,” Russell said. “Submitting award nominations and being recognized for our efforts is really rewarding.”

Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - 4:55pm

Toby Williams, Director of Global Security Analysis and Training (GSAT), tests out an AR headset under the instruction of Avrio Analytics CEO Alicia Caputo.
Toby Williams, Director of Global Security Analysis and Training (GSAT), tests out an AR headset under the instruction of Avrio Analytics CEO Alicia Caputo.

Training workers in high-hazard jobs safely can be a challenge. At the Oak Ridge Enhanced Technology and Training Center (ORETTC), new training methods will eventually remove many of the obstacles by placing trainees outside the hazard bubble and into virtual environments.

That is one takeaway from the recent Extended Reality (XR) Symposium at the new Emergency Response Training Facility in Oak Ridge.

Subject matter experts from across the Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE) and industry converged to share ideas on technology training and digital transformation. The center’s array of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tools was on full display as demonstrations and panel discussions took place throughout the facility.

Y-12’s ORETTC Director Ashley Stowe said the goal of the symposium was to increase partnerships and also make participants aware of the potential of these advanced training tools.

“We had almost 60 participants — evenly split between those who’ve used XR at work and those who have not,” Stowe said. “As a result of the symposium, we have commitments to collaborate and interest to apply the technologies.”

Toby Williams, director of Global Security Analysis and Training (GSAT) at Y-12, said one of the goals of the symposium was to learn best practices.

“We wanted to bring together a variety of groups, labs, and sites that are doing work in augmented and virtual reality space and learn from each other about our successes and failures,” Williams said.

Machelle Sumner, GSAT senior program manager and symposium organizer, agreed with Williams.

An XR Symposium attendee tries out an AR headset.
An XR Symposium attendee tries out an AR headset.

“The XR Symposium gave us an opportunity to strengthen our collaborations with our partners and with the National Security Enterprise (NSE) to continue moving us into the future. With the first building complete at ORETTC, the team is ready to hit the ground running and put this technology to use,” said Sumner.

Representatives from HaptX demonstrated haptic glove technology, which is already being used at ORETTC. This technology is also at the center of new glovebox training being developed for future courses at the facility.

Haptic gloves enable users to feel the virtual environment instead of just seeing it. The sensation of touch adds that extra piece of reality to the training environment.

“The use of HaptX gloves in virtual training environments provides the user with the ability to build muscle memory, both mentally and physically,” said ORETTC Instruction Technology Lead Austin Arnwine.

HaptX was one of several groups to demonstrate its technology. Avrio Analytics brought its immersive AR training platform, designed for high-risk, low-occurrence scenarios. The company has used it to develop single-player drills and exercises and multiplayer tabletop exercises for response training at ORETTC. The University of Central Florida discussed its work on digital twins, which involves creating a digital representation of a building that a user can walk through and explore using AR/VR technology. Again, this form of technology is a facilitative tool when training for high-hazard situations.

Keynote speaker Mark Sage, executive director of Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance, shared the bottom line: “AR and VR have the potential to improve safety, increase productivity, lower costs, and enable knowledge to be shared more easily across the NSE.”

ORETTC is a large part of the future Sage describes and a future both Stowe and Williams want to see grow.

“These XR technologies, while powerful, are toys unless we apply them correctly. Everything we do at ORETTC funnels technology through an educational lens so that we are using the correct technology in the correct way at the correct time to achieve the learning outcome we desire for our customers,” said Stowe.

“Training using AR and VR technologies is happening, and I am excited to know we are helping to close the gap and leading the way in this area,” Williams said.

Machelle Sumner, Global Security Analysis and Training (GSAT) Senior Program Manager, kicks off the XR Symposium with a presentation in one of ORETTC’s training classrooms.
Machelle Sumner, Global Security Analysis and Training (GSAT) Senior Program Manager, kicks off the XR Symposium with a presentation in one of ORETTC’s training classrooms.