Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist
What is the purpose of this blog? Well, Pantex has a story tell. One that is far removed from perception that naturally arises concerning a facility that serves as the primary disassembly and maintenance location for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.
The Wild Pantex story reveals itself not only by a growing amount of chatter among Plant employees that focuses on wildlife sightings, wildlife projects, and outside recognition for our programs, but also is evident in the media, through internet searches, and at meetings involving wildlife professionals .
Would you believe that I can hardly go anywhere on Pantex without being asked by Pantex employees how my projects are going? And that I am frequently told that one of the great things about working out here is the wildlife that we see?
Most people don’t realize that Pantex and its leased lands cover more than 18,000 acres and much of it is representative of farmland off-site: shortgrass prairie, playa wetlands and cultivated agriculture. Add to that, prescription habitat management, much like that would occur on public wildlife lands, and you have a place that is literally teeming with wildlife. Oh, and Pantex and collaborators are very much in the middle of proactive research on various species and issues that face our region.
Through this blog, I hope to share my observations of, and experiences with wildlife and wildlife work at Pantex. I’ll describe observations to you, take you with me on outings, have an occasional guest blogger that is familiar with Pantex wildlife programs, and even brag a little bit when the wildlife program attains some recognition. I hope to post on a weekly or semi-monthly basis. There is definitely a wild side to Pantex and I’ll use this blog as a vehicle to share it with you. Please feel free to share this link with others that enjoy wildlife or that appreciate entities that take great strides to contribute to wildlife conservation.
These twin mule deer fawns were observed in 2012. They were being raised near a parking lot. It was a hot day, and they had taken refuge in the shade under a parked vehicle.
NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application Brig. General James C. Dawkins, Jr., was at the Pantex Plant last week to present Defense Programs of Excellence Awards to more than 80 people for their efforts over the past year.
Dawkins presented awards to 88 members of five different teams who worked on projects ranging from metallography of weapons components to analysis of plastic bonded explosives to work on the B53 and B83 weapons. In his comments, he emphasized the importance of the work done at Pantex to help ensure the safety of the country through maintenance of an effective nuclear deterrent.
Dawkins was joined by NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart and B&W Pantex General Manager John Woolery in making the presentations.
Warhead Measurement Campaign- B53 Nuclear Explosive Like Assembly (NELA)
The Warhead Measurement Campaign team exceeded customer expectations by providing extraordinary support of the Defense Programs/Nuclear Nonproliferation warhead measurement campaign. The WMC objective is to obtain a standardized set of signature data from the enduring stockpile and some historical U.S. warheads, pits, and canned subassemblies to provide enhanced predictive capability for the national security community.
B83 Production Team
The B&W Pantex B83 Production Team achieved a significant NNSA milestone following the authorization of the new B83 Tooling Upgrade process by successfully completing the B83 Surveillance workload in FY12. The B83 Tooling Upgrade team, in its implementation of the new process and tooling, was faced with numerous challenges and delays throughout, but remained focused on the goal. They worked diligently to overcome all obstacles and achieved authorization for the new tooling and process on April 26, 2012.
High Explosive Automated Machine Tool Team
The Pantex Plant’s High Explosives Manufacturing department implemented an automatic machine tool changer and tool identification system to increase the safety and efficiency of high explosive machining operations. As tools are being loaded, information programmed on an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip on the tool ensures the proper tool is loaded and programed for the needed operation. The shift from administrative controls to engineering controls saves time and improves the safety of high explosive machining operations. The tool changer was officially approved and in use for explosive machining operations in the 2nd Quarter of 2012.
Plastic Bonded Explosive Polymers Analytical Team
The Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC) lab is an integral part of surveillance testing for determining the molecular weight of the binder in plastic bonded explosives. During FY 2012 the GPC lab experienced significant increase in workload. By implementing efficiencies throughout the lab more samples are analyzed in a shorter period of time and instrument calibrations time was improved by as much as 83% in some areas. These efficiencies allowed the GPC lab to meet the scheduled deliverables as well as unscheduled requests to analyze anomalous polymer samples. The GPC scientist presented two papers to the NSE community at the Polymeric Material and Adhesives Conference (Polymac) detailing the new, more efficient methodologies.
Metallography Laboratory Team
The Pantex metallography laboratory team significantly improved metallography lab efficiencies, provided cost savings to the plant, and improved safety in their work processes during FY12. Improvements were made in the preparation of Special Nuclear Material (SNM) metallography specimens resulting in a 50% percent decrease in overall cycle time and a 45% decrease in premium hours worked in the metallography lab. The team also researched and implemented reusable and user friendly silicon molds that could be removed from the cured epoxy by hand without the need for hand tools. This improved not only the safety of the process but also had an indirect effect of improving the overall specimen quality. Metallographic analytical results, in some cases, were given to the customer the same day as the specimens were received. Cost savings are estimated at $30K for just the Pantex metallography lab alone in FY 2012. In addition to the improved epoxy implementation, the metallography laboratory analyzed chain links from new and old hoists after new hoists began to show early wear that exceeded allowances. The team provided chemical analyses results along with recommendations for a solution to the hoist manufacturer and Pantex system owners. Based on the recommendations and the analyses performed by the metallography lab, the manufacturer agreed to provide funds to replace the hoists, saving the government $160K in FY2012 while ensuring weapons production activities requiring hoists were adequately protected.
B&W Pantex volunteers dish up barbecue at the recent Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Good Times Celebration and Barbecue Cook-off. For more than a decade, Pantex has been a leading contributor at the event, which is the Chamber’s largest fundraising event of the year. Pantex firefighters cooked up more than 500 pounds of meat for the cook-off.
Pantex firefighters flush water from a fire hydrant at the Plant this week. Each of the 250 hydrants on the Plant are flushed and tested annually to ensure they function properly and flow enough water to provide fire protection capabilities at Pantex.
By repurposing an old decontamination trailer, rather than buying a new one, B&W Pantex Radiation Safety personnel recently saved Pantex approximately $100,000.
In 2012, the search began for ways to improve the emergency response capabilities of the Pantex Radiation Safety Department with a mobile decontamination trailer. The purchase of a new trailer through the U.S. General Services Administration was approved at a cost of $122,000, but B&W Pantex kept searching for a less expensive alternative.
The search led to an available trailer already at Pantex that was in critical need of repair. After a lengthy search, employees from the Radiation Safety Department found a local business that could refurbish the trailer for $23,000.
The trailer is fully equipped with four showering units, water supply, self-contained waste handling, two 80-pound propane tanks and its own generator. It is intended for use in decontaminating victims in the unlikely event of a radiological or chemical accident. The trailer is currently slated to be used to decontaminate victims prior to moving them into the site’s medical facilities, but it remains mobile and could be used in other locations.
Through innovative thinking and a willingness to look for new solutions to existing problems, B&W Pantex personnel improved the radiation safety capabilities of the site while utilizing a local small business to control the cost of the project.