Pantex Blog

Patriotism has deeper meaning at Pantex Plant

Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2021 - 09:30

9/11 Memorial
As the nation approaches Patriot Day, the memories created by the attacks on September 11, 2001 will forever be engrained in the minds and hearts of Americans, and those events forever bound the nation together in Patriotism. The memories of that day will never be forgotten, and each year the anniversary of the September 11, tragedy brings Americans together to remember the bravery of both first responders and everyday heroes.

As lasting tribute to those first responders and everyday heroes, a memorial with a connection to the 9/11 tragedy was built right here at the Pantex Plant. That connection? A piece of steel from the World Trade Center.

This steel was incorporated as part of a permanent memorial monument to those lost on 9/11 and can be found outside of the Pantex Fire Department.

“It is extremely appropriate that we place this memorial in front of the building that houses our first responders, because it serves as a symbol of our gratitude for the service they provide to this Plant,” Mark Padilla, Assistant Manager for Programs and Projects with the NNSA Production Office (NPO), said at the monument’s dedication in 2013. “It also serves as a bridge between our first responders and the first responders who gave their lives on that fateful day.”

Plans to create the monument at Pantex began in 2009 with a letter to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requesting a piece of the World Trade Center for a memorial monument. Once onsite, the steel was cut onsite in Pantex’s Machine Shop.

“It is important that we can visually see something tangible and realize that what we do at Pantex is important to our freedom and the American way of life,” said Donovan Morgan, retired Pantex Fire Department battalion chief, who spearheaded the memorial initiative.

Craft Supervisor and member of the Navy Reserve John Herrera oversaw work done on the steel in the Machine Shop. “I revere the World Trade Center steel just as I would a piece of steel from the USS Arizona,” he said. “On the USS Arizona, we had military personnel from the Navy and the Marines die on board when it sank. At the World Trade Center, we had civilians die from the deliberate attack.”

“During the attack at Pearl Harbor, the sleeping giant awoke,” said Herrera. “During the attack at WTC, it united all fellow Americans, both civilians and serviceman, as brothers and sisters. It changed the way we live and made us more aware of the existence of terrorism around the world. As I walk past the WTC memorial, I will remember the civilians that died on that day and the dark moments this nation has endured.”

In addition to the monument in front of the Pantex Fire Department, two other pieces of steel from the World Trade Center are on display at the NNSA Production Office onsite at the Pantex Plant and at the Pantex Visitor Center.

Each of these monuments and displays is a permanent reminder of the lives lost on September 11, 2001, and the patriotism of all Pantexans and the roles we play in national security.

9/11 Memorial at Pantex (2: 15)

Below are the reflections and remembrances on September 11, 2001, from some of Pantex’s first responders.

On September 11, 2001, my wife and I were on our way to the Chicago O’Hare International Airport returning home from vacation. On our way to the airport we heard the gut-wrenching news that the Towers had been struck and that the United States was under attack. After returning home and to work as a firefighter, I noticed that the relationship between the public and their local firefighters had grown in response to the 343 brave firefighters that lost their lives while trying to save others.
— Jamie Hall, Firefighter, Pantex Fire Department

On the day that the Twin Towers fell, I was eating breakfast with my pregnant wife and baby boy. As I looked into my son eyes, I couldn’t help but consider the many children waiting at the door for a parent who would never return. I watched as Fire, Police and EMS freely gave their lives in service to others. On that day, we were a nation that lost its innocent but renewed its allegiance. Out of the rubble a nation was forged, once again we became the “United” States of America.
— Joshua Brown, Captain, Pantex Fire Department

The Pantex Fire Department was completing daily readiness checks of apparatus, communication equipment, and personal protective equipment. I was in the department’s training room when a firefighter came and said an aircraft crashed into a New York skyscraper. It was a very hard and traumatic day for America. America and the world lost many precious lives that day, and continue to lose 1st responders and civilians today due to the contamination and exposures they encountered during the response and cleanup endeavor.
— Bill Ho Gland, Assistant Chief, Support, Pantex Fire Department

I think it hit the members of the firefighter brotherhood harder than most can imagine because when we watched those towers fall, we knew that there would be several firefighters killed and we felt the pain of loss personally. I have spent a lifetime caring about the well being of people I do not know, and that was what those 343 brave souls were doing that fateful day.
— Tony Dompe, Battalion Chief, Pantex Fire Department

How easily our lives can be taken from us. I will always remember that a lot of people died that day, and I will never forget that 343 firefighters died that day.
— Steve Lasher, Firefighter/Paramedic, Pantex Fire Department

In the aftermath, people from all aspects of life, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, reached out to support those in need with complete disregard for their own safety. It was truly a remarkable example of the spirit and devotion of all Americans.
— Jeremy Baker, Paramedic, Pantex Fire Department

What I most remember about that day is the feeling of helplessness. As a first responder, it is the hardest thing in the world not to help when help is needed. I guess we all helped in our own way by ensuring we fulfilled our firefighter responsibilities at home.
— Timothy Hunter, A Shift Battalion Chief, Pantex Fire Department

This article was originally posted on Sept. 11, 2019


Studies of migratory birds continue at Pantex

Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 14:48

The purple martin is one migratory bird species Pantex biologist Jim Ray researches.
The purple martin is one migratory bird species Pantex biologist Jim Ray researches.

Back in 2019, the Council for the Conservation of Migratory Birds awarded Pantex and the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award. That award recognizes a project conducted in partnership with a federal agency that contributes to migratory bird conservation efforts.

The Pantex work was led by biologist Jim Ray of the Environmental Compliance department. Jim’s project, in conjunction with universities and conservation groups, developed a migratory bird management and research program that demonstrated a commitment to on-site migratory bird protection, outreach and diverse research strategies, and conservation efforts through North, Central, and South America.

That award was just another acknowledgement in conservation efforts still being pursued at Pantex. Those on-going efforts include two newly published research papers on migratory swallows, specifically the purple martin, which is the main migratory bird being studied.

“Purple martins give us a perfect opportunity to interact with the public and display our commitment to the environment,” said Ray. “It started with banding and then we joined the collaboration led by the University of Manitoba. We are one of 18 sites that deploy (miniature) tracking devices but one of only two currently active in the south, including Florida.”

Pantex biologist Jim Ray and a student place a tracking device on a purple martin.
Pantex biologist Jim Ray and a student place a tracking device on a purple martin.

The newest set of research data focused on a couple of different sets of circumstances regarding migration. The first research found that the breeding latitude, specific sections of the country from north to south, is a significant factor in spring and fall migration timing, and the timing of nesting. This was revealed through analyses of data stored in data-loggers called light-level geolocators that were deployed on adult purple martins using tiny backpacks. Future studies will examine these timing patterns and climate change.

Miniature GPS backpacks

The second research examined migratory birds’ flight patterns. This time, using miniature Global Positioning Satellite backpacks, researchers got new data: confirming that more than 90% of the birds attempted open water crossings of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, including night flight in about a third of those attempts. This kind of research, demonstrating night flight to help achieve time-and energy-savings through ‘short cuts,’ has never been attempted before.

According to Ray, “Geolocator and GPS technology allows—for the first time—an opportunity to study birds on a year-round basis, including in their wintering areas, and in the case of the purple martin, the Amazon River basin of Brazil.”

Ray added that possible future research may examine monarch butterflies, burrowing owls, and the effect of wind energy on bats.

Summer camp shares STEM knowledge

Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 11:32

First graders with Pantex Site Manager Todd Ailes
Pictured are several first graders with Pantex Site Manager Todd Ailes, learning about computer coding using equipment purchased in part by a $5,000 donation from CNS.

This summer, the Don Harrington Discovery Center was the place to be for kids from the Amarillo and Panhandle areas to have fun and learn about science through summer camps ranging from oceanography to engineering and some of the computer code in between. The camps took place from June 7 through July 23.

“Early coding skills are important for young children because they integrate problem solving, communication, and thinking,” DHDC Executive Director Wendy Taylor said. “Coding builds the foundation for a lifelong love of learning and exposures children to STEM careers like computer programming, robotics, and engineering. We are thrilled to teach children as early as three years old these skills during Coding Camp and other Discovery Camps this year.”

CNS donated $5,000 to help DHDC purchase some of the equipment needed to enhance this year’s camps.

Interns major in summertime learning

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2021 - 15:33

A political science major at UT, Asya H. is gaining knowledge about nuclear safeguards during her internship.
A political science major at UT, Asya H. is gaining knowledge about nuclear safeguards during her internship.
Asya H. comes from a family of engineers.

Her father, Ali, is a civil engineer and assistant director with Tennessee Department of Transportation; her brother, Arda, graduated in the spring with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. So, it seems she is a natural for the CNS Summer Internship Program.

However, Asya didn’t follow in her family’s footsteps and engineered a different path to her internship and arrived a UT political science major.

“My dad is a math whiz,” she said. “He can solve calculus problems in his head. All that math and science goes over my head.”

The rising senior is among 51 CNS interns, who hail from 13 states and 25 colleges. Y‑12 boasts 36 interns, while Pantex hosts 15. With an almost 50 50 split among male and female participants, the majority of interns, 33, are engineering majors, followed by computer science degree seekers.

“The intern program is definitely growing,” said Cristy Landrum, a human resources recruiter at Y‑12. “We had 40 interns last summer. We’re excited to welcome the interns onboard.”

The program began June 7 and offers specialized professional development training, which enhances communication networking, career goal setting, and professionalism. Each intern has a defined work scope and a summer project, which will be showcased at an expo August 10. The program ends August 12.

In summer 2020, the program went virtual because of the COVID‑19 pandemic. This year students have the choice of onsite, remote, and hybrid participation.

The lone political science major (with emphasis on international affairs) in the program, Aysa is going the hybrid route, spending a couple of days on site at Y‑12. Her goal is to become a lawyer and specialize in international nuclear law.

“It’s a very niche kind of field,” she said. “I have a lot to learn. I’m reading lots of legal documents,” which she is doing under the guidance of internship mentor Hannah Hale, a program manager within Global Security and Strategic Partnerships at Y‑12.

This summer, Aysa is primarily working with NNSA’s NA 241, Office of International Nuclear Safeguards. Within the office, she supports NA 241’s International Nuclear Safeguards Engagement Program — whose mission is to work with partners from around the world as they adopt and implement international nuclear safeguards agreements — a pivotal part of the nuclear non nonproliferation regime. For her summer project, she will participate in and support a virtual workshop about import and export reporting requirements under a safeguards agreement with 13 Middle Eastern states.

Kennedy V. is focusing on explosives technology at her third summer stint at Pantex.
Kennedy V. is focusing on explosives technology at her third summer stint at Pantex.

A great introduction
As a three‑time intern at Pantex, Kennedy V. has gained a lot from the program.

“It has helped me develop my networking skills and grow as a scientist and engineer,” said the first year West Texas A&M University graduate student. “It’s been great. The hands on experience at West Texas A&M is limited, so coming to work in the Pantex laboratory, I was excited to gain more knowledge using the technology I learned so much about during my undergrad.”

This summer, Kennedy will examine things that go boom, but not really. She is an intern in Explosive Technology in High Explosives and Materials Testing.

“My project will involve the analysis of LM 17 mock composition, using a near infrared spectrometer,” she explained. “The mock material acts as a non‑energetic simulator for inclusion in test assemblies, where actual explosives would be hazardous or unnecessary.”

The composition of the mock explosive should react similarly to its real counterpart without detonation.

The process is only one stage of explosives testing, which has improved over time.

“Once developed, the near infrared technique should only take a couple hours to get composition results,” Kennedy said. “Newer methods have advanced this process to a few days, and there was even a time when it took multiple weeks.”

Kennedy, who also has an undergraduate professional chemistry degree, said “I love explosive technology. It’s a great introduction into the engineering world.”

Y 12 intern Joshua W. holds the sensors used in the ChIMES (Chemical Identification by Magnetoelastic Sensing) Sensor Miniaturization project.
Y‑12 intern Joshua W. holds the sensors used in the ChIMES (Chemical Identification by Magnetoelastic Sensing) Sensor Miniaturization project.

Keeping it current
Intern Joshua W., a senior at Texas Tech University, has returned for his second summer at Y‑12.

“It has been a really great time,” said the electrical engineering major. “The technology is crazy. You learn a lot of stuff in school, but to actually see it play out in a real application is so different.”

Last summer, Joshua’s project was ChIMES (Chemical Identification by Magnetoelastic Sensing) Sensor Miniaturization. The technology differentiates types of and amounts of chemicals present in a system. Chemicals can be sensed through metallic and nonmetallic barriers. When a sensor that is attached to a magnetic wire is exposed to chemicals, the tension applied to the wire changes. This change alters its magnetic properties. For the project, Joshua’s objective was to help transform the tabletop device into a more portable version.

For summer 2021, “It’s a new project, same device,” Joshua said. “There’s still a lot of work to do.” This time he will focus on the device’s sensors.

“I’m going to learn how to fabricate the sensors for target materials,” he explained.

Also, Joshua hopes to install a new circuit board on the device. He has worked on the board for months as a research at Texas Tech.

“I’m integrating the board with a system that’s already built,” he explained. “I’m implementing lab work with a real project. I built this thing and [I am] not sure if it will work on the real device.”

Joshua acknowledges that many hands and minds have touched the ChIMES project.

“There is a long line of interns who have been working on this,” he said. “I’ve just added some of my own flourishes.”

Recognizing our IT systems administrators

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2021 - 15:26

Kami Bush, who supports CNS’s VMware virtual infrastructure, stands in front of a Y-12 server rack in Building 9117.
Kami Bush, who supports CNS’s VMware virtual infrastructure, stands in front of a Y‑12 server rack in Building 9117.

Think about your daily routine for work. Often, technology plays a role that is front and center. As a collection of hardware, software, applications, and networks, it has undoubtedly grown to serve as a gateway to how we connect with others, find information, track data, or essentially solve problems.

As end users, we infrequently question how or why technology works; it only matters that it does. Yet, behind the secured doors of an internal server room or the screen of a computer supervising our CNS network is an IT systems administrator ensuring that we’re operational and online.

“Our team of administrators are critical to how we connect and perform as an enterprise,” said Brad Burdett, director of IT Operations, who leads a team of more than 50 systems administrators.

From monitoring computer servers and data storage, maintaining virtualization and VPN capabilities, deploying new applications, to solving unplanned system outages, Information Solutions and Services’ systems administrators touch every point of technology at Pantex and Y‑12.

“The most essential skill an IT systems administrator can have is critical thinking,” said IT systems administrator, Kami Bush, who specializes in hardware, storage, and virtualization at Y‑12. “Planning a deployment, creating architecture, or troubleshooting a problem all require critical thinking skills. It’s important that we’re able to see not only the ‘forest,’ but also the ‘trees’ within.”

Keeping attention to detail, the scope of IT systems administrators requires that they look beyond the big picture and into to the ”trees” to monitor operational risks to existing and newly procured hardware, software, or applications connected to our internal network. With more than 2,000 servers and 2,4000 applications connected to the network, it is no easy task.

“The most challenging part of my career is keeping up with the technology. As soon as you get well‑versed in a version or architecture, a new one that is more efficient or powerful replaces it,” Bush said. “That constant advancement means you never get bored, but you also are always challenged to read up on the cutting edge as it will eventually be the new normal.”

Ask any systems administrator and most will agree that change is inevitable in technology. After 15 years at Pantex, IT systems administrator Edmond Keller has served witness and contributor to its growth at the site.

“I have been in the technology industry since 1985. While that does not quite qualify me as ancient in the industry, I am a bit of a dinosaur,” Keller said.

For point of reference, 1985 was also the year the .com domain was born.

“The technology industry consistently reinforces that when you think you have something figured out, there will be an event or situation which proves you really don’t know what you think you know. It is guaranteed humility training,” he said.

Entering the era of digital transformation across our nation and our sites, technology will continue to evolve to better serve the lives and work of our people. As we move from wired to wireless or cords to clouds, you can guarantee that an IT systems administrator will be behind it. In recognition of the 22nd annual IT Systems Administrator Appreciation Day this year, we thank all of you for your work and dedication at Pantex and Y‑12.