A W87/MK21 Flight Test was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in late October. The Minuteman III missile carried a single, hi fidelity W87/MK21 Joint Test Assembly and was launched using standard ground launch procedures. The JTA re-entry vehicle was targeted and successfully detonated in the Vicinity of Illeginni at the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll.
CNS employees at Y-12 built the canned subassembly (with surrogate material replacing special nuclear material), and Pantex produced the high explosives and assembled the final weapon for this test. In the absence of nuclear testing, JTAs are an essential component of our ability to ensure the effectiveness of stockpile nuclear weapons. They prove that all non-special nuclear material components of the weapons and their launch systems work as designed.
Gen. Kevin Chilton, former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, recently spoke to Pantex employees and delivered a clear message: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for what you do every single day.” During the Jan. 26 all hands address, he encouraged employees to be proud of themselves, calling the mission “unique,” “vital” and “special.”
Chilton, who is now working with Consolidated Nuclear Security to support Pantex and Y 12 missions, was at Pantex as a member of a Technical Advisory Board focused on enhancing mission delivery. His talk with employees emphasized the importance of the CNS mission, linking employees’ roles to the broader nuclear deterrent.
“One thing I’m certain of, folks, is that we in this room, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will absolutely need and depend on every one of you and the work you do to provide security for them and our great country,” he said. “For that and your dedicated and hard work, I thank you again.”
And he noted that more work will be coming to Pantex and Y 12 as nuclear weapons work ramps up in the coming decades.
“The cycle is picking up right now, and it’s picking up fast. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done, and there are those who doubt we can do it,” Chilton said. “And then there are those like me who are counting on folks like you to make it happen because we have to make it happen. It’s just so important to our country.”
In addition to thanking employees for their work, Chilton explained that the purpose of the United States’ nuclear stockpile is to deter and assure — deter those who think striking us wouldn’t be so bad and assure our allies that the U.S. can provide protection. Chilton said our nation has used nuclear weapons as a deterrent every day since they were first fielded. “We have been 100 percent successful,” he noted.
Aside from stressing the importance of a strong nuclear deterrent and the role CNS plays, he peppered his remarks with stories of his days as the commander of STRATCOM, his long and prestigious Air Force career and his service at NASA, where he was on three space shuttle missions: Endeavour (1992), Endeavour (1994) and Atlantis (1996), which he commanded.
About 70 university researchers and government and industry experts from across the country, including Consolidated Nuclear Security employees, joined forces at the first ever National Energetic Materials Consortium hosted by Texas Tech University.
Pantex’s Christopher Young said, “There are a great many types of energetic materials and an array of applications. The explosives used by the Department of Energy are a specialized subset and have very stringent requirements in regards to their precision, timing, reproducibility, sensitivity and ageing characteristics.”
NEMC was formed by leading universities across the U.S. to combine technology and science within the academic community with the manufacturing resources of private industry. The aim is to bring critically needed innovations to the energetics sector of the national technological industrial base; NEMC is designed to allow for a rapid transition of new materials to a modernized industrial base.
“Acceptance and performance testing of explosives has been accomplished at Pantex for DOE since the 1960s,” Young said. “We’ve teamed up with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on this work. Current data acquisition strategies are continuously balanced against new technologies and ever evolving requirements.”
There was a strong showing from Pantex and Y 12 presenters.
Pantexan Patrick Goguen said, “It was a great opportunity to share ideas with some of the leaders in academia, government and industry related to advancing the frontiers of energetic materials. Rarely can you get such a diverse audience together to have such a focused interchange.”
CNS was one of the sponsors of the event, held in Lubbock, Texas, and is collaborating with Texas Tech University in research and development areas.
Pantex Emergency Management just received a giant communications boost with the installation of the Emergency Management Information System, or EMInS. Y 12, the Pantex sister site, has used EMInS for many years. The addition at Pantex brings the two sites closer in their management of emergency events.
Pantex Emergency Services now uses the Emergency Management Information System, or EMInS. From left: Maribel Martinez, Brenda Graham and Greg Roddahl.
“Pantex and Y-12 are required to maintain an Emergency Management Department to oversee activities needed during an emergency that may affect employees, the public or the environment,” said Daniel Gleaves, Emergency Services senior manager at Pantex. “Y-12 has an outstanding Emergency Management Department, and EMInS is one of the primary reasons.”
EMInS is an interactive computer program used to provide real-time information, data, graphics, maps and video capabilities necessary to efficiently manage an emergency. The software provides a structured means of recording emergency information and sharing it among Emergency Response Organization cadre members.
Maribel Martinez, Emergency Management Program section manager said, “The implementation of EMInS at Pantex starts the integration of resources, datasets and information throughout Pantex and Y-12. These improvements are designed to enhance coordination efforts. It is a tool our ERO can use to ensure constant situational awareness and helps to create a common operating picture to improve our operations and information processes to ensure the safety of our employees and our neighbors.”
The Pantex EM team works closely with its National Nuclear Security Administration counterparts to continuously revitalize the ERO.
Gleaves said, “We continually review our plans to look for improvement opportunities. EMInS is one of those opportunities. Using this system will allow us to communicate all issues involved in an emergency. Team members can discuss specific issues on private team boards or submit updates, questions or suggested media facts to appropriate EMInS users.”
A phased implementation of EMInS capabilities will allow state and local agencies some access to the system. These agencies participate in Pantex drills and exercises and would respond in the event of a real emergency. EMInS will help in coordination of response efforts and information flow; this will improve communication and performance.
“We recently provided EMInS training to members of the ERO team followed by a drill.” Gleaves said. “We were very pleased with the outcome and look forward to showing how the software enhances our performance during upcoming drills and exercises,” he added.
Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist
A pair of western bluebirds sporting legbands at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
One of the great things about my profession is the opportunity to meet fellow wildlife professionals and see the great things they are doing. One such 'wildlifer' within the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration complex is Chuck Hathcock from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). We both serve on the U.S.D.O.E. Migratory Bird Working Group and we have been corresponding for a couple of years. Although we have never met, it is clear that we appreciate each other’s work. Upon hearing a little about Chuck and his intern Maria Musgrave's work on two cavity-nesting birds at LANL, I invited them to contribute to a guest blog on Wild Pantex.
The Avian Nestbox Network at the LANL by C. Hathcock and M. Musgrave:
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is a multi-disciplinary research facility operated by Los Alamos Nuclear Security, LLC (LANS) on a site that is approximately 39 square miles, mostly on the Pajarito Plateau.
About 25 percent of the area is developed, which means that LANL provides habitat for a variety of animal life including herds of elk and deer, bear, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, rodents, numerous species of bats, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates; and a myriad of resident, seasonal, and migratory birds; along with federally-listed threatened and endangered species. Much of the region functions as a refuge for wildlife because of access restrictions, the lack of permitted hunting, and management of contiguous U.S. Forest Service lands.
As a LANS biologist in the Environmental Protection Division, my primary role is to minimize impacts to sensitive species and their habitats and to ensure all activities and operations comply with federal and state regulatory requirements for biological resources protection. I feel fortunate to work at this institution and to be able to help in the conservation of imperiled species. Keeps me pretty busy.
One of the long-term studies I manage is the Avian Nestbox Network (ANN). The bulk of the fieldwork is done by wildlife interns. I’ll let our post-baccalaureate intern, Maria Musgrave explain.
The color of a bright sky and a cheerful, friendly song: it’s no wonder that bluebirds have long been symbols of happiness and good luck. But that’s not the only reason that scientists at LANL created the ANN to study bluebirds and other secondary-cavity nesting birds.
The ANN began in 1997 and the main objective is to measure bird populations and productivity as an indication of the health of the ecosystem at LANL. Since then, the ANN has reached nearly 600 nestboxes and is a full-time job for four students during the field season. During the breeding season, birds are looking for the perfect place to build their nests and lay their eggs; fortunately, by providing them with nestboxes it is also ensures a way to easily monitor them.
There are two target species that are banded and closely studied: the Western Bluebird and the Ash-throated Flycatcher. Upon finding one of these two species in a nestbox, that nest is closely monitored so that the nestlings can be banded and the success of the nest can be documented.
There are many possible reasons for a nest to be unsuccessful, and LANL is trying to better understand these occurrences; it is often due to predation, but it is not always clear. To this end, one recent addition to the project has been the use of iButton temperature data-loggers that take readings from within the nests and outside ambient temperatures. With this data, it hopefully will become more clear when a nest becomes too hot or too cold, or the exact time when there are no longer live birds in the nest.
The nestboxes span many of the canyons and mesa-tops on LANL and surrounding areas. By studying the nests at these various sites, there is a growing long-term dataset that can give valuable insight to how avian populations are changing.
Some of the nestbox locations are in areas formerly impacted by mission work but these and other factors not directly linked to LANL, such as climate change, predation, and hazards on wintering grounds. For the students and scientists working on such a grand scale project like ANN, each nestbox represents a piece of the greater whole. And it’s not bad working with bluebirds every day!
A nestling male western bluebird receives a uniquely-coded legband which aids Los Alamos Nuclear Security, LLC, biologists in studying this cavity-nesting bird at Los Alamos National Laboratory.