Y-12 Blog

Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 9:42am

Y 12 employees, from left, Lisa Branstetter, Daniel Britton, and Lori Collazo in Y 12’s Recycle Center. Y 12 employees, from left, Lisa Branstetter, Daniel Britton, and Lori Collazo in Y 12’s Recycle Center.

Recently, Pantex and Y-12 were inspected by the Environmental Protection Agency. Y-12’s inspection also included a visit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Both sites came away with stellar reviews after three day inspections in areas such as hazardous waste management, training and compliance documentation.

“This is a significant accomplishment that does not happen by accident, but instead through hard work, diligence, and a commitment to excellence,” said Teresa Robbins, NNSA Production Office deputy manager.

In addition to inspecting waste storage areas, the inspectors looked at numerous records. These records included hazardous waste manifests, annual hazardous waste activity reports, waste reduction reports, and hazardous waste training and lesson plan content. Despite the volume of records reviewed, inspectors noted only one minor issue.

Inspectors at each site had positive things to say about the various processes and procedures that they had observed. Inspectors noted that the Material Evaluation Process (waste characterization) employed at Pantex far exceeds what is required by regulation and is better than what he encountered at commercial waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. At Y-12, the inspector even asked for a photo of an exceptionally good Y-12 practice to use as a benchmark for others.

“There are hundreds of folks doing the hard work every day and likely wonder if anyone will notice. Each one needs to know that excellence is a choice. And, the string of individual decisions they have made is having a positive impact on this site’s overall reputation,” said Bill Tindal, Y-12 site manager.

“Seeing that there were no violations or concerns identified during this on site inspection only proves that we have a great group of people here that really take pride in their jobs and processes,” said Todd Ailes, Pantex site manager.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 2:27pm

Students at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, create robots as part of the CNS-sponsored EV3 MINDSTORMS® Boot Camp.Students at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, create robots as part of the CNS-sponsored EV3 MINDSTORMS® Boot Camp.

Training minds one LEGO® at a time might seem a bit far-fetched, but at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tenn., that’s essentially the goal. During the summer, 25 of its students went through a series of problem-solving exercises and, using LEGOs, created robots for competition.

The students were part of the school’s EV3 MINDSTORMS® Boot Camp—a camp designed to stretch the minds of the youngsters while learning the basics of programming and design. The boot camp prepared the students for the FIRST® LEGO League season.

FIRST, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” teamed with LEGO group to form the league, which challenges young people to research real-world problems and find solutions. They go on to design, build and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology and compete on a tabletop playing field.

The boot camp was funded through the CNS Y-12 Community Investment Fund. A committee of Y-12 employees makes recommendations for distribution of funds.

“Thank you so much for the grant,” said Jane Shanafield, a teacher at Jefferson Middle School. “Because of your generosity, we were able to host the EV3 MINDSTORMS Boot Camp this summer and will now be able to compete in the FIRST LEGO League,” she added.

The CNS Y-12 Community Investment Fund is a partnership with the East Tennessee Foundation. For more information, go to http://www.easttennesseefoundation.org.

Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - 9:21am

Ben Green engages with North Middle School teachers helping equip them with emerging technologies in the classroom.Ben Green engages with North Middle School teachers helping equip them with emerging technologies in the classroom.

When young people are presented with a new technological device, they typically light up with excitement. It is like a toy that can be used to create, design, explore and understand things. Technology is a valuable teaching tool where learning seems more like fun than work.

Consolidated Nuclear Security’s (CNS’s) Ben Green of Technology Development and Mike Malone of Production are inspiring young people while helping equip school teachers with emerging technologies. At North Middle School in Lenoir City and Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, the investment sparks students’ interest in fields vital to the mission at Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12) and other high‑tech careers.

At North Middle, Green and Malone assembled a new 3‑D printer for the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) class and offered a tutorial on its operation to 14 STEM instructors and other teachers from the school.

Mike Malone explained, “3‑D printers provide a new medium for instruction. Anything normally drawn on a dry erase board can now be visualized with a model that students design and create themselves. Exposing students to this technology is vital because 3‑D design and printing have emerged as important tools in engineering and manufacturing. Offering training to the school teachers on this technology is a win‑win for the entire school.”

CNS is also helping with 3‑D printing at Robertsville Middle. STEM teacher Todd Livesay offers students an education extension program with a team of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA¬) engineers and managers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The students have developed conceptual ideas for a CubeSat — a small satellite launched from larger spacecraft in orbit. They presented their ideas and proposals to a team of NASA engineers and managers.

Next, students will engage in the processes of design, fabrication, assembly, launch and delivery of a fully launchable satellite that will be rocketed from Cape Canaveral. To do that, the students need a 3‑D printer, so CNS stepped in and is providing one to allow the students to manufacture their own designs for the CubeSat.

“By providing this technology and expertise to students and educators, CNS is helping facilitate STEM education, which CNS hopes, in turn, produces the next generation of employees,” said Kristin Waldschlager, Y-12 Education Outreach lead.

Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - 9:16am

Y‑12’s Megan Houchin, right, enjoys a Women in Nuclear networking event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. With her is Julie Ezold of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.Y‑12’s Megan Houchin, right, enjoys a Women in Nuclear networking event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina. With her is Julie Ezold of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

For two women who represented Pantex and Y‑12 at the U.S. Women in Nuclear national conference in July, the organization lives up to its acronym — WIN — by offering win‑win benefits of professional development and networking.

Megan Houchin of Y‑12 and Evalita Perez-Bobb of Pantex participated in the national 2016 conference, “U.S. WIN: Building on the Promise of Nuclear Energy,” held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Houchin, whose job title is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, is the president of the Oak Ridge WIN chapter. Perez‑Bobb, an electrical engineer who joined Pantex a year ago, is nearly as new as the recently formed Amarillo Pantex WIN Chapter, which is about eight months old.

U.S. WIN includes chapters from across the country, comprised of 8,000 women (and men) who work in nuclear and radiation‑related fields. The national organization is affiliated with WIN‑Global, an international organization in 100 countries.

“We do a lot of professional development. We call it womentoring,” Houchin said. “Most people think WIN is for nuclear engineers, but it’s not. It’s for anyone in the nuclear industry — which is everyone at Consolidated Nuclear Security.”

After joining Pantex about a year ago as an electrical engineer, Perez‑Bobb wondered if the organization offered peer networking like she experienced serving in the Navy. She was glad to hear that Pantex employees were establishing a WIN chapter.

Perez‑Bobb attended the conference as a last‑minute substitute and wasn’t sure what to expect. Walking into a panel discussion, she immediately recognized a familiar face and a connection to her naval service. Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Robert Willard, now president and CEO of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, was commanding officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln when she served on the aircraft carrier.

She said it was also amazing to see that two of the four panel speakers were women: Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy Corp., and Maria Korsnick, CEO of Nuclear Energy Institute.

“The women there were great, so inspirational. They were presidents, CEOs or top national experts in the nuclear energy field. I was grateful for being given the chance to socialize with so many women nuclear professionals in one place,” Perez-Bobb said.

Houchin had a similar experience as she chatted with a woman seated next to her at the lunch table, the president of one of the Savannah River Site operations.

Closer to home, the chapters meet monthly and often host guest speakers. Recent professional development topics include Facilitation 101 and networking. The chapters also take part in community outreach, such as Introduce a Girl to Engineering, and members speak at schools.

Posted: Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - 9:09am

Ashley Stowe (right) partners with Arnold Burger of Fisk University and other local universities and commercial partners to advance technologies that support Y‑12’s missions. Ashley Stowe (right) partners with Arnold Burger of Fisk University and other local universities and commercial partners to advance technologies that support Y‑12’s missions.

Ashley Stowe spent two years as Y‑12's Technology Fellow. During that time, he took a deep dive into the neutron detection work he’d begun with LISe™ (pronounced "Lisa"), the R&D 100 Award‑winning high‑efficiency thermal neutron detector. Stowe’s special assignment ultimately expanded use of the neutron detection crystal to other applications and further refined it for Y‑12’s mission work.

“New solid state radiation detectors are needed for nuclear nonproliferation and global security applications to find and secure nuclear materials and to keep the world safe,” said Stowe, the lead functional manager for sciences within Mission Engineering. LISe is sensitive and compact, opening the door to create better solutions.

“Ten years ago, radiation‑detection devices were as big as basketballs. Now, they’re significantly smaller. In fact, the LISe detector can be as small as the size of two nickels on top of each other,” Stowe said. “Compact radiation‑detection crystals offer a great advantage because they can be used much more easily in hand‑held and radiography applications. The high neutron sensitivity and small size allow us to find neutron signatures without the complications of gamma‑ray interference, which masks or confuses many detectors.”

With LISe as his launch point, Stowe explored a myriad of potential applications for the 6LiInSe2 crystal on which LISe is based. He authored 14 publications and gave 20 presentations worldwide on topics covering:
• neutron imaging in which the crystal acts like a photo plate;
• space applications, measuring neutron flux in the atmosphere;
• space experimentation to determine the feasibility of putting colonies in the atmospheres of other planets and
• astromining, looking in space for precious minerals such as helium or gold.

In his research, Stowe works closely with Vanderbilt University, Fisk University, the University of Tennessee‑Knoxville and commercial associates. “The fellowship certainly was a rich experience because it gave me the opportunity to fully explore the potential of LISe and engage local universities and commercial partners,” Stowe said. “Working together we discovered a second way LISe responds to radiation and built a prototype neutron imager with world‑class spatial resolution. That feat was recognized as a 2015 R&D 100 finalist.”

Since Stowe finished his fellowship work in late 2015, he has spearheaded the effort to update and expand Y‑12’s Technology Fellowship program. His experience will be integral in standing up the next iteration of the program.

“A key aspect of the new Consolidated Nuclear Security Fellows Program is the opportunity to develop collaborative partnerships with both universities and private industry to not only expand expertise, capabilities and research agility but also to showcase and pursue funding opportunities related to the development of the technology,” said Matt Smith of Y‑12’s Technology Development and Transfer office.

Stowe, who holds a doctorate in chemistry as well as a master’s degree in business administration, has four patents and a suite of six additional patents (in process with the U.S. Patent Office) related to the LISe technology.

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