Pantex Blog

Affinity Spotlight: Women in Nuclear

Posted: Friday, February 2, 2024 - 07:46

Introduce a Girl to Engineering is one of the biggest volunteer events that members of Women in Nuclear participate in annually
Introduce a Girl to Engineering is one of the biggest volunteer events that members of Women in Nuclear participate in annually.

Cassandra H. started work at Pantex nearly two years ago, and enjoys the career she has.

“I like what we do, working in nuclear; there’s no other job like this at all,” she said. “The people you work with are good. It’s the puzzle, working with your hands, and staying busy.”

Her job role is one populated by a majority of men, and while she emphasizes the cohesion found with her peers, she adds, “it’s important to have sisters you can go to.”

The solution was to join one of the affinity groups that she learned about in orientation, Women in Nuclear, often referred to as WIN. This is an organization of women (and men who support women in the field) who work in nuclear energy and technology fields around the United States. The vision of U.S. WIN is to position the United States for the future of nuclear energy and technology through the advancement of women.

“With WIN I get to talk to other women and make friends I probably wouldn’t have met if I weren’t doing this,” Cassandra said. “You get to be social outside of your work area. It’s a place where women can get together and encourage each other. It’s very encouraging to go to the meetings, because I believe knowledge is power, and the more you know the more you can further your career. I’d like to see more women in the nuclear industry.”

An affinity group, also known as an employee resource group, is a group of employees linked by a common purpose or interest. Affinity groups play a vital role in ensuring an inclusive work environment where all are valued, included, and empowered to succeed.

One of the biggest events for WIN is Introduce a Girl to Engineering, which at Pantex is organized and run directly by the affinity group.

“Introduce a Girl to Engineering is an opportunity for women at Pantex to volunteer in the community for a day and be an example of success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math jobs,” said Pantex WIN Outreach Chair Brandi S.. “This event is a way to demonstrate that STEM is fun, creative, and girls can be great at it. Introduce a Girl to Engineering can be the spark that ignites interest in careers that benefit both the girl and the Pantex Plant in the future.”

Career ONE steers engineering grads toward right path

Posted: Wednesday, January 31, 2024 - 13:20

Pantex Career ONE Manager Steve C. (far right) with the latest class
Pantex Career ONE Manager Steve C. (far right) with the latest class.

Consumers may test drive a few cars before they find the right one. At Pantex and Y-12, Career ONE participants take a similar approach to find the right job.

Debuting in 2011, Career ONE (Opportunities for New Engineers) allows recent college graduates to participate in a job-rotation program during their first two years at the sites. The newcomers work in different engineering disciplines in 4– to 6–month increments and gain insights into each field so they can better determine which career path is the best fit.

“I found this middle ground between a job and an internship,” said former Y-12 Career ONE participant Erika R. “It is the perfect program.”

Workshops and training sessions further expand their knowledge and technical skills. In addition, they have access to state–of–the–art equipment and processes. Participants complete up to four rotations, which last a year at Pantex and between a year and 18 months at Y-12.

“It’s an opportunity to get a broader sense of what’s going on in the company and an opportunity to learn more,” said Pantex Career ONE Manager Steve C. “Helps them hit the ground running.”

Y-12 Career ONE Manager Kody C. added, “It’s a great program. These engineers are able to gain exposure to our mission and build technical experience. The managers have said how impressed they are with this organization and commented on how enthusiastic Career ONE classes have been.”

Participants, many introduced to Career ONE at job fairs, hail from schools such as the University of Tennessee, Tennessee Tech University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Texas Tech University.

The past two classes are part of a growth spurt for Y-12 Career ONE. The FY 2021 and 2022 groups boasted 14 and 15 members, respectively. The FY 2023 class had 19. At Pantex, the classes are smaller, with usually eight engineers entering the program each year. The program is in its fifth year there.

“We have plans to grow it,” Steve said. “In the next four to five years, would we would like to see it increase to about 15 people.”

As established groups finish their rotations, new grads come onboard, fostering a mentoring environment.

“Former Career ONE participants are the coaches for the current Career ONE class,” Kody said. “They help them get connected from a networking perspective.”

Although creating those connections is key to success at the sites, the opportunity to work in various areas of engineering is invaluable.

“For this generation that comes out of college, it’s all about choices,” Steve said. “They thrive on that.”

Among this generation is Claire F., who recently completed her final rotation at Y-12.

“This is my first job out of college,” she said. “Career ONE helped me to see my strengths and weaknesses and to see what parts of engineering I enjoy. I was worried coming into a new job and not liking it, but with this, I got a chance to try a few jobs. I really like my current position in Process Engineering, but I also enjoyed my time in Design. It’s been great to see all of the different sides. It gave me some really good options.”

The options also allow an easier entry into a new and sometimes daunting job world.

“Going in blind (to a single job) would have been intimidating,” said former Y-12 Career ONE participant Adam, who was deployed to Process Engineering. “This way, I got a chance to see what I liked and didn’t like.”

Also recently deployed to Y-12 Process Engineering is Michael H.

“This program has been fantastic,” he said. “It was perfect for my personality type. I’m always thinking, would I be better somewhere else or would I be happier somewhere else? Thankfully, I enjoy this job so much. It’s like a birds-eye view of what’s going on here, like being backstage, which is perfect, because I’m always craving knowledge.”

For former Pantex Career ONE participant Austin F., “I came in not knowing what exactly I wanted to do. All I knew is that I wanted to be an electrical engineer. Career ONE allowed me the ability to shift around and choose a group that was the best for me.” He works in the Projects Electrical Design group at Pantex.

There’s a good chance Austin and other Career ONE employees will remain at Pantex and Y-12 for years to come, which is good news. Both sites have been focused on attrition rates.

“Because of the positive experience they have in the program, they tend to stay at Y-12 for a while,” Kody said. “We set them up for success with all the access to the site.”

Steve has seen strong retention at Pantex as well, with Career ONE graduates on average working at the site for several years after program completion.

“It takes a few years to get acclimated and to contribute fully,” Adam said. “I could easily see myself being here five-plus years.”

Austin said, “The chances of me staying at Pantex are high, I would say, as long as I’m putting out quality work. I’m in a good group and I love the people here.”


Pantex plugs in to the future with electric-vehicle additions

Posted: Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - 07:44

Pantex recently received three Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickups.
Pantex recently received three Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickups.

“This is huge for sustainability,” said employee Alicia B. “This will help us in many categories of our sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions considerably.”

Rising gas prices, shifting consumer priorities and more continue to push Americans into electric vehicles in greater numbers. But what prompted Pantex’s change to new technology? Specifically, it was Executive Order No. 14057.

“There’s an executive order for sustainability that came through in 2021,” Alicia said. “One of the big initiatives in it is electric vehicles procurement. ”

It requires that 100 percent of the light-duty vehicles acquired for the NNSA fleet must be electric vehicles by 2027.”

Pantex employees designed a five-year plan to bring the plant into compliance. The three new Fords are a first step into a planned electrified future.

DOE set up a [project troubleshooting] team with a national renewable-energy laboratory,” explained employee Zac L. “They have been active in reviewing our plans and giving feedback.”

Of course, this transition involves far more than simply buying new vehicles and counting electrical outlets. Before the trucks can reach the hands of their ultimate users, a great deal of testing and evaluation must be done.

“You’ve essentially got [several groups that will] look at it from a safety perspective,” Zac said. They are not alone.

“Before we can charge it onsite, they’re going to have to look at everything … and determine if these will meet our strict safety standards,” Alicia said.

Maintenance and repair bring their own learning curve of procedures and certifications which are much different than current technology. Currently, one site mechanic is certified to work on EVs, but that knowledge will have to expand as the Pantex electric fleet grows.

“Ultimately, it’s a new technology, so people want to verify that it is safe before allowing it to be around the site,” Zac said.

I am mission success: Shaun L.

Posted: Friday, December 8, 2023 - 13:19
Pantexan Shaun L.
Pantexan Shaun L.

“Everything just aligned perfectly,” says Shaun L., in regards to his experience of becoming a part of his team at Pantex.

Starting as an intern, Shaun began to work on projects for his team while he was still a West Texas A&M University student. Some of those projects are still in use today by his department.

In the last month of his internship, a position became available, and Shaun sought to fill the vacancy when the opportunity arose. He was eager to join the team and held that “you can’t help but succeed in that group.”

Despite his status as a newer employee, Shaun has already received recognition for his work building a large collection of dashboards associated with site-separation progress. According to Shaun, he is a part of a team of extremely high performers and says that certainly a lot more people were involved than just himself. He was very quick to add that this was a group effort that he could not have done alone.

“As a new employee at CNS I believe you really have the ability to get what you want out of working here,” he said. “There are so many opportunities and things you can do and learn. My suggestion is to get involved in as much as you can as often as you can. The hard work and connections will pay off.”

How have your problem-solving skills grown as you’ve developed as an employee?
I’d like to think my problem-solving skills have become much more refined during my time at Pantex. Being able to give people the solution they need even when it’s sometimes not what they ask for is an extremely useful skill. A lot of times this requires you to think out of the box, provide multiple solutions, and most of all have the real problem identified.

What top strength do you bring to your organization and why?
My greatest strength is likely my work ethic. Taking pride in responding rapidly and having a personal set of values in the way I approach work has helped me consistently produce high-quality results. It’s also helped me build stronger relationships with colleagues and begin to build trust surrounding my work at CNS.

What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity and why?
I’m a bit of a car guy. Eventually when I get a little bit more space, I’d like to restore an older car. I also enjoy being outdoors and staying active, but most recently I’ve been spending a lot of time at a local winery helping make wine. The process is really interesting to me and I enjoy all that goes into it.

Pantex hosts 50% completion celebration of the B61-12 and W88 Alt 370

Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2023 - 13:23

Pantex Site Manager, Colby Yeary
Pantex Site Manager, Colby Yeary welcoming the audience

Pantexans and partners from across the National Security Enterprise gathered to celebrate the production halfway completion mark of the B61-12 Life Extension Program and W88 Alt 370. This milestone marks a significant accomplishment for Pantex, Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS), partners in the Nuclear Security Enterprise, the United States, and its allies. Having both programs reach the halfway point at the same time is a unique achievement.

“It took every one of you doing your part, working together with those thousands of others to achieve the common goal of modernizing these two weapons systems in order to continue to provide the nation with a safe, secure, and reliable nuclear deterrent,” said Dr. Rich Tighe, president and chief executive officer of CNS.

The B61-12 and W88 are strategically important weapons in our nation’s nuclear deterrent. The work done on these programs is critical to our nation’s defense plans for many years to come.

“The B61 gravity bomb is deployed by the U.S. Air Force on multiple platforms and has been in service more than 50 years, making it the oldest, most versatile weapon in the U.S. stockpile,” said Carlos Alvarado, deputy field office manager for the NNSA Production Office. He continued, “The W88 first entered the stockpile in the late 1980s. The W88 Alt 370 includes numerous updates to address aging concerns and enhance nuclear safety.”

Modernization of these weapons is vital to the mission.

“Working on such complex programs can be daunting, but the nation is better off as a result of your diligence and dedication. The work done at Pantex is in support of our national security strategy,” said John Evans, NNSA assistant deputy administrator for stockpile management.

The work on these two programs has not stopped. Reaching the 50% completion milestone is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

“An accomplishment such as this is only possible through teamwork and cooperation of everyone involved,” said Colby Yeary, Pantex site manager.