“The Last of the Big Dogs” has a new home after Pantex workers Wednesday delivered one of the few remaining B53 nuclear weapons cases to the Freedom Museum USA in Pampa, Texas.
The final B53, which received its “Big Dog” nickname from dismantlement workers due to its massive size, was dismantled at Pantex on October 25, 2011 in an historic ceremony. The B53 was a Cold War icon, and was the oldest, the largest and the most destructive nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal at the time it was retired.
Monica Graham, Pantex historian, was looking for a way to preserve the legacy of the B53 and honor the workers who built, maintained and dismantled it. The Freedom Museum, which is located about 45 minutes from Pantex, volunteered to take the weapon on loan to add to its large collection of historical military artifacts.
“This was an important effort to publicly display this iconic weapon that served in secret for decades, helping to ensure the safety of America,” Graham said.
The B53 was first put into service in 1962, a year when Cold War tensions were at their highest during the Cuban Missile Crisis. It served a critical role in the nation’s nuclear deterrent through the end of the Cold War, retiring from the active stockpile in 1997.
The B53 weighed around 10,000 pounds and was about the size of a minivan. Many B53s were dismantled in the 1980s, but a significant number remained in the U.S. arsenal until they were retired in 1997.
The B53 which was delivered this week consisted only of the outer casing of the weapon and is empty on the inside. It is one of only three such museum artifacts in the country built from a stockpile weapon. The others were assembled from training units or spare parts.
New entry signs installed at Pantex as CNS takes over site
Workers put up a new entry sign at the Pantex Tuesday after Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC, began its tenure as management and operations contractor at the plant.
Program has saved 800 tons of paper from landfill
Every year, the Pantex Plant uses thousands of pounds of paper that must be destroyed to protect sensitive information. For the vast majority of that paper, a trip through the shredder is not the end of its purpose, but only a beginning.
After a few weeks composting in a pile of feedlot waste, the paper goes on to help fertilize thousands of acres of crops across the Texas Panhandle and beyond, beneficially reusing a valuable resource and saving massive space in the landfill.
“This program goes hand in hand with our commitment at Pantex to be good stewards of the environment,” said Jimmy Rogers, Waste Operations Department manager at Pantex. “Reduce, reuse and recycle has become a way of life for us, and this is a great example of that effort.”
The idea to use waste paper for compost sprouted about 10 years ago when the Waste Ops Department was looking for a better outcome for the paper than burying it in the landfill. Traditional recycling was considered, but it can be expensive and difficult to find a recycler to take paper shredded as finely as security requirements at Pantex mandate.
One of the Waste Ops employees came up with the idea of combining the paper waste with another waste stream that is plentiful in cattle country: manure.
“It turned out to be a perfect solution,” said Bill Allen, section manager for Waste Ops. “We’re fortunate to live in a part of the country where we have abundant supplies of the ingredients for composting like this.”
Pantex ships a load of waste paper every week or two to Shannon Leavitt, who owns Natural Fertilizer Company in Wildorado. Leavitt’s company takes cow manure from a pair of feedlots in the area and spreads it into rows in empty fields, where the paper is mixed in.
After a few weeks of turning, compost is created in a process very similar to home composting that many people do in their backyard. Heat and bacteriological action break down the ingredients and sanitize the mix, creating a perfect fertilizer source that Natural Fertilizer sells and spreads across fields of crops ranging from vegetables to corn and wheat.
Leavitt said the compost provides a valuable mix of fertilizers to farmers across the area, although he ships to customers as far away as New Mexico and even Arkansas. The manure provides an environmentally friendly source of organic fertilizers nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. The paper breaks down into a good source of carbon.
“It’s a tremendous process,” Leavitt said. “That’s 100 percent waste material that we are converting to a very viable and beneficial material.”
Since the program started in 2003, Pantex has shipped 871 tons of paper to Natural Fertilizer. That material has not only been used to sustain the area’s abundant agricultural products, it has been spared from the landfill. Pantex pays Natural Fertilizer around $1,500 a year to take the paper, an amount that is slightly less than the cost of putting it in a landfill.
The program is all part of an ongoing effort to reduce waste streams from the Pantex Plant, which has become a huge point of emphasis within the Department of Energy Complex. This year, Pantex has diverted 89 percent of its construction waste and 65 percent of its municipal solid waste from the landfill.
Through pollution prevention efforts, Pantex has reduced hazardous waste generated at the site by 99 percent since 1987.
“These efforts help us meet goals established by the DOE, but we do this because we want to protect the environment,” Rogers said. “We live here. Our families live here. We feel an obligation to make sure we leave a cleaner environment to our children and grandchildren.”
Article by Jim Ray, Pantex Wildlife Biologist/Scientist
Well, summertime has arrived, again.
The June/July/August time frame is a busy time for the wildlife program here at Pantex. Nuisance animal calls have picked up as snakes are on the move and birds sometimes don't pick the best place to build their nests.
My hopes are—any day, now—to initiate annual surveys for, and mark Texas horned lizards; our only year-round threatened or endangered species (classified as 'threatened" by the state of Texas.)
But, there is a lot more going on!
West Texas A&M students have initiated surveys of birds and nests in plots of different habitat types across our 18,000 acres. A component of our monitoring association with the Pantex Renewable Energy Project (PREP), this consists of several rounds of surveys that will last throughout the summer. These involve visits to G.P.S. points, and the students record the birds observed and heard in the pre-determined-sized plot, over a specified period of time.
Fourteen of 21 Swainson's hawks that carried PTT/satellite transmitters to Argentina in the fall have made their way back to their nesting territories on and around the Plant. This work is also a portion of the monitoring associated with the PREP, and the year-round tracking ability is a bonus. The U. S. Geological Survey's Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Texas Tech University is taking the lead with this objective.
Last week, volunteers and I captured and equipped adult Purple Martins at a colony off-site with data logger tracking devices. Eleven were fitted with geolocators, like the 24 in 2013, while another 12 were fitted with G.P.S. tags, a much more accurate tracking technology. Both kinds of devices will record their journey from our area, and to and from their wintering areas in South America. This project is a partnership with the University of Manitoba (Canada), York University (Toronto, Canada), the Purple Martin Conservation Association (Erie, Pennsylvania), as well as others. More good migratory work and partnering displayed by Pantex/USDOE/NNSA! Think about it: G.P.S. technology that is now down to the size of the weight of a dime and we are the second entity to use them on this species, and among the first on any species!
Finally, during June, July and August, Sampling and Analysis personnel and I will conduct our annual mapping of prairie dog colonies at Pantex and at Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge (control site). This is a manner in which we monitor our prairie dogs, and we frequently use this data as a habitat layer, over-lain with the data from our animal-tracking studies.
It is a Wild Pantex, and there is plenty going on.
Photo: Participating in a range-wide tracking study of Purple Martins has played a role in Pantex/USDOE/NNSA's three-time nomination for the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award (2012, 2013, and 2014). An ASY male and a geolocator data logger.,/em>
Armed Forces Day commemorated at Pantex
The Pantex Plant honored veterans Wednesday at its annual ceremony to commemorate Armed Forces Day. Members of the Pantex Fire Department Honor Guard raised the American flag as attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem. Pantex has been holding an Armed Forces Day ceremony for more than 15 years to honor those who served.
Pantex has a long history of supporting military personnel and currently employs 782 military veterans amongst its workforce of approximately 3,100 people.