The Pantex Plant’s wildlife monitoring program

Approximately 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas, sits the United States Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration’s (USDOE/NNSA) Pantex Plant — the primary facility for maintaining and disassembling the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal and for interim storage of plutonium components. In 1999, the plant site — which covers 28 square miles — had only one newly hired wildlife biologist who faced a number of high-profile, regional management and conservation issues. Now, 15 years later, many graduates from West Texas A&M University in Canyon and Texas Tech University in Lubbock have advanced into their profession carrying unique experience gained while conducting wildlife research on this highly unusual property thanks to the formation of a unique research program.

Today, this collaborative effort dictated by the needs of the Pantex site has evolved into a well-respected wildlife conservation and management program that allows local university students to study a wide variety of topics including species with special statuses or the impact of wind energy on birds and bats. In three recent years — 2012, 2013 and 2014 — their research studies helped the Pantex program be recognized as the USDOE/NNSA’s winner of its single nomination for the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award, an achievement that has given even greater credibility to the ongoing programs.

This content is from an article published in the winter issue of The Wildlife Professional, the magazine of The Wildlife Society. Used with permission.

Here is a photo collection of the rich and varied wildlife found at the Pantex Plant.

A bobcat feeding her kittens. The green and pink ear-tags were placed on her when she was a kitten as part of a collaborative research project involving Pantex and West Texas A&M University.

An American bald eagle, which is common in the region during fall and spring, especially around black-tailed prairie dog colonies, wetlands and other water areas.

 NNSA Blog
A Swainson’s hawk being tracked by satellite to evaluate effects of wind energy development on this bird of prey during its time in North (nesting), Central (migration) and South America (winter).

 NNSA Blog
A mule deer buck resting at the Pantex Plant. Both mule deer and white-tailed deer inhabit its 18,000 acres.

 NNSA Blog

A Swainson’s hawk sporting leg bands and a satellite transmitter. If you look closely, you can see the antenna coming off the bird’s back. This research is through a collaboration between Pantex, West Texas A&M University, and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Texas Tech University.

 NNSA Blog
The Texas horned lizard, known as the "horny toad" by locals, is considered “threatened” in Texas. Pantex and West Texas A&M University studied this reptile for almost a decade including through the use of radio transmitters which the lizards carried around in a backpack placed carefully by West Texas A&M University researchers.

More common in the nearly treeless high plains of Texas than one might think, this porcupine found an apple tree at Pantex to his liking.

A young pronghorn.

 NNSA Blog
A Virginia opossum resting high in a tree.

A juvenile western burrowing owl in a prairie dog colony. Pantex and Texas Tech University have collaborated on research on prairie dogs and burrowing owls that has resulted in nine major publications.

 NNSA Blog
Migrating monarch butterflies resting on a tree. Pantex is already performing work under ongoing pollinator initiatives.

 NNSA Blog
There are several colonies of black-tailed prairie dogs on the Pantex Plant. These members of the squirrel family influence habitat diversity that is attractive to species that need burrows, shorter cover, bare ground, enhanced plant diversity or that are attracted to the abundant food source base of insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and birds that live there.

Dec 1, 2015 at 12:00 pm


HaliAnne Crawford is the first women at Pantex or Y‑12 to participate in the Weapons Internship Program.


Aaron Lee is the Y‑12 participant in the Weapons Internship Program.

Pantex and Y‑12 will both be represented during the 2016 Weapons Internship Class. HaliAnne Crawford, a process engineer at Pantex, and Aaron Lee, a shift technical advisor at Y-12, were selected to participate in the highly sought‑after internship. The program started Sept. 21 and runs through Aug. 25, 2016. During this time, Crawford and Lee will spend time at Sandia National Laboratories in a classroom setting and will visit the other nuclear sites.

“The first half of the course will be an intense education on weapon‑related material. Not only will the candidates learn technical details about weapon systems, they will also learn processes and site interactions that will provide a comprehensive picture of the Nuclear Security Enterprise,” said Colby Yeary, director of the stockpile program and chair of the Weapons Internship Program selection team. “They will visit a number of the sites to learn how things work firsthand.”

After visiting the sites, participants will spend the last half of the internship working on a specific project that will not only add value to the individuals but to the enterprise as well. Crawford has the distinction of being the first female from either site selected for the program. Read more about the program, Crawford and Lee

Nov 30, 2015 at 12:00 am


Thanksgiving is a time of celebration and reflection on the many reasons each of us has to be thankful.  We are grateful for the blessings of family, friends, and the opportunity to live in this great country.  We particularly appreciate all of you and commend your hard work and dedication in support of America’s Nuclear Security Enterprise.

As you give thanks, please consider those in need.  The Combined Federal Campaign is a wonderful way to make a difference.  Through Universal Giving you can donate to any of the 24,000 charities participating this year.

We wish you and your loved ones a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving!

 Frank Klotz and Madelyn Creedon

“Mission First, People Always”

Nov 26, 2015 at 12:00 am


Members of Pantex’s Protective Force on the firing range. The Protective Force successfully completed a recent assessment by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Enterprise Assessments.

The Pantex Plant recently hosted the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Enterprise Assessments, commonly known as EA, for a complete multi-topic inspection. The EA team consisted of approximately 100 subject matter experts in the topical areas of Safeguards and Security.

During the EA inspection, the Protective Force was required to perform a wide variety of tasks to demonstrate proficiency in protecting the site. During the inspection process, the Protective Force performed more than 250 limited scope performance tests.

“During daily inspection update meetings, Protective Force management relayed comments that they had received by the EA team. Some of the comments included that the force was ‘well prepared,’ ‘well trained,’ ‘professional’ and ‘committed’ among other great remarks,” Audy Jones, Safeguards and Security Operations, said.

Read more about Pantex’s performance during this inspection.

Nov 25, 2015 at 9:00 am


At their recent off-site continuous improvement session, the NNSA Livermore Field Office (LFO) in California unveiled their new set of core values:

  • Integrity – Trustworthy, Reliable, Ethical
    • We are responsible stewards of federal resources
  • Collaboration – Communicate, Support, Team-Focused
    • We work together, communicate clearly & help each other achieve our goals
  • Accountability – Ownership, Personal, Commitment
    • We accomplish our work by taking ownership, admitting mistakes, & meeting our commitments
  • Respect – Professional, Courteous, Compassionate
    • We value each other
  • Excellence – High Quality, Sense of Urgency, Dedicated
    • In all our actions, we seek to achieve the best within us

These core values were developed by the LFO Leadership Advisory Working Group (LLAWG), with input from all LFO employees. The LLAWG was established in December 2014 as the result of an earlier off-site continuous improvement session. The purpose of the LLAWG is to provide advice to Leadership in the management of LFO and to develop initiatives to achieve management and operational excellence. In addition to developing the new LFO core values, the LLAWG is working with LFO Leadership on a number of efforts, including succession planning and improving performance management.

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:34 am

R&D Magazine named 15 NNSA lab projects as winners in the 53rd annual R&D 100 Awards, which honor the 100 most innovative technologies and services of the past year.

The winners were selected by an independent panel of more than 70 judges. The R&D 100 Awards are often referred to as the “Oscars of Invention.”

NNSA winners:

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Zero-order Reaction Kinetics

This software package speeds up simulations of chemical systems by 1,000-fold over methods traditionally used for internal combustion engine research.

Large-Area Projection Micro-Stereolithography

A three-dimensional printing instrument that can fabricate products of substantial size yet contain highly detailed features in contrast to other 3D printing techniques that generally have to sacrifice overall product size to achieve small features.

High-Power Intelligent Laser Diode System

This laser system employs advances in laser diodes and electrical drivers to achieve two-to-three-fold improvements in peak output power and intensity over existing technology, in a 10 times more compact form that can scale to even larger arrays and power levels.

Los Alamos National Laboratory
SHMToolsStructural Health Monitoring is quickly becoming an essential tool for improving the safety—and efficient maintenance—of critical structures, such as aircraft, pipelines, bridges and dams, buildings and stadiums, pressure vessels, ships, power plants, and mechanical structures such as amusement park rides and wind turbines. Los Alamos engineers have developed SHMTools, software that provides more than 100 advanced algorithms that can be assembled to quickly prototype and evaluate damage-detection processes. It is a virtual toolbox that can be used to detect damage in various types of structures, from aircraft and buildings to bridges and mechanical infrastructure.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Columnar Hierarchical Auto-associative Memory Processing in Ontological Networks

Scientists designed CHAMPION to use human analysts and historical data to learn about the company it's protecting. Starting with advanced Semantic Web technologies, which translate human knowledge into something that's machine readable, CHAMPION then uses descriptive logic to reason whether activity is suspicious. For example, if a retail company's HVAC data back-up account tries to access the point-of-sale system, CHAMPION could use historical data to conclude that this is unusual. Once identified, the software alerts an analyst of the suspicious activity — in time to potentially thwart an attack. Cybersecurity isn't CHAMPION's only trick. Change its diet of knowledge and the software can learn to analyze financial services or health care data.

Hydrothermal Processing to Convert Wet Biomass into Biofuels

The ability to make useful fuels out of biological materials like plants has long been possible. The difficulty has been doing so economically. The technology created by the PNNL team hurdles previous challenges by making it possible to skip a long, expensive, energy-intensive step that most processes require — drying out the raw material. Instead, the PNNL process works directly with the wet slurry of raw material, be it a waste stream from thousands of homes, scraps from a food-processing facility, or long strands of algae.

Power Model Integrator: A system for more accurate energy forecasts

The Power Model Integrator is a new forecasting tool that delivers up to a 50-percent increase in accuracy and the potential to save millions of dollars in wasted energy costs. Energy forecasters working for utilities and other power organizations currently rely on a combination of personal experience, historical data and their own preferred forecasting model. Each model tends to excel at capturing certain grid behaviors, but not necessarily the whole picture

Pressurized magic angle spinning technology for nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy

A PNNL team created a way to make a sophisticated scientific tool much more useful for a variety of studies, including several aimed at answering important questions about energy and the environment. The method boosts our ability to look at complex samples under conditions that more closely mimic their real-world environments. The technology brings together the power of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which yields a remarkable peek into molecular interactions.

Subambient Pressure Ionization with Nanoelectrospray source

SPIN builds on a previous PNNL creation of a device known as the Electrodynamic Ion Funnel. The ion funnel comprises a series of electrically charged rings that effectively funnel charged particles of interest into a small space where they can be measured and manipulated. But collecting those particles and getting them into the ion funnel is challenging. Many escape before passing through the small aperture into the funnel. The new development, known as SPIN or Subambient Pressure Ionization with Nanoelectrospray, eliminates this problem by removing the aperture completely. The ion source now creates and sends particles to the funnel in a single system under the same atmospheric conditions, at just one-tenth the atmospheric pressure on top of Mt. Everest. As a result, nearly 50 times as many gas-phase ions enter the mass spectrometer than without SPIN.

Sandia National Laboratories
6.5kV Enhancement-Mode Silicon Carbide JFET Switch

A low-loss power switch based on a novel silicon carbide junction field-effect transistor will improve the efficiency of next-generation power conversion systems used in energy storage, renewable energy and military applications, as well as data center power distributions.

Lightweight Distributed Metric Service

Monitoring software provides detailed awareness of the system-wide performance of high performance computers and applications in production environments.

Integrated Circuit Identification

Authenticates integrated circuits, detects counterfeit electronics and verifies individuals’ identities and their transactions using a unique device signature and cryptographically secure challenge-response protocol.

CO2 Memzyme

An ultra-thin membrane that is the first cost-effective technology for carbon dioxide separation and capture to meet and exceed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) targets for helping to reduce the threat of climate change. This invention also won the R&D 100 contest’s Green Technology Special Recognition Gold Award.

LED Pulser

Uses light-emitting diodes instead of expensive lasers to provide high-brightness, rapidly pulsed, multicolor light for scientific, industrial or commercial uses. The Pulser’s small LED (light-emitting diode) source permits better detection of ignition via high-speed imaging and already has resulted in better understanding of injection, combustion and emissions formation in diesel engines.

Y-12 National Security Complex
Chemical Identification by Magneto-Elastic SensingThe product of a three-year Y-12-university collaboration, ChIMES is an inexpensive, small and portable chemical sensor with virtually limitless applications, including detection of chemical and biological warfare agents, toxic industrial chemicals, explosives and illegal drugs.
Nov 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm

In training, the Protective Force has looked carefully at this threat to identify trends, courses of action, and response techniques.

Training trumps everything.

Security Police Officers (SPO) at Sandia/California continue to far exceed the minimum standard of required training.

Pablo Maurino, the lead training instructor for the site, says the Protective Force conducts training throughout the year and officers participate in live fire training eight to 10 times a year. Firearms training is typically an eight-hour day; however, SPOs may also receive live fire training on the range in shorter durations while on shift as scheduling permits. Each SPO has to qualify semi-annually with a duty-issued Glock 9mm and the H&K 416 rifle.

“We all understand that 99 percent of an SPO’s career will consist of protecting a facility, its people, and classified documents, constantly deterring but never seeing the enemy,” says Pablo. “We train for the 1 percent, the one time we have to get it right.”

Read more at this link (look on page 3).

Each Security Police Officer has to qualify semi-annually with a duty-issued Glock 9mm and the H&K 416 rifle.

Nov 17, 2015 at 4:00 pm


National Security Campus Relocation Leader Brad Hughes, left, and NNSA Kansas City Field Office Site Manager Mark Holecek

The National Security Campus relocation project was recognized as an industry benchmark last week at the 12th annual Aviation Week Program Excellence Awards competition. Awards were presented Nov. 4 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The NSC’s contractor, Honeywell, received top honors in the Special Projects category for successfully completing one of the largest and most complex industrial moves in the U.S., the relocation of the National Security Campus in Kansas City.

The Program Excellence Awards recognize aerospace and defense organizations that achieve results and find new ways to be more innovative and efficient in delivering value to customers. Winners were selected by a panel of experts in program leadership and performance from industry, government and academia.

Several years of planning and project management enabled the successful relocation while maintaining a 99.8 percent product delivery record at both facilities. This shining example of private-public partnership saves the taxpayer $150 million annually and provides the greatest strengths of government and industry to be cost-effective, energy-efficient and sustainable while fully supporting a critical national security mission.

The Kansas City team was singled out for safely and securely relocating to the LEED® Gold certified facility from 2012-2014. The move was completed one month ahead of schedule and $18 million under budget, while maintaining site-best safety and security performance.

Nov 13, 2015 at 4:44 pm

LAS VEGAS – National Security Technologies, the management and operating contractor for the Nevada National Security Site, continues to conduct some of the nation’s most important national security work in the safest manner possible as recognized by consecutive safety awards from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The DOE each year recognizes safety at its locations across the United States through its Voluntary Protection Program, which was created in January 1994 to recognize and encourage excellence in occupational safety and health protection. The program closely parallels the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration VPP.

In February 2015, the company participated in a two-week recertification review as required, and in August 2015 it was announced that NSTec has again been awarded the VPP Superior Star for the fifth consecutive year.

Read more at this link.

Nov 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

Don Zecha, center, representative of the Savannah River Site R&D Assembly Load and Test Team, accepts the Defense Programs Award of Excellence from NNSA-Savannah River Field Office Manager Doug Dearolph, left, and NNSA Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Brigadier General S.L. Davis. 

AIKEN, S.C. -- The National Nuclear Security Administration has honored six teams of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) employees for their outstanding contributions to the nation’s defense, with special kudos for one team’s “exceptional” achievement.

NNSA Acting Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Brigadier General S.L. Davis presented the employees with Defense Programs (DP) Awards of Excellence, which is given for “significant contributions the Stockpile Stewardship Program.”  The award recognized their roles in initiatives that increased efficiency, reduced potential for error, developed new approaches for future work, and enabled safe operations following an unprecedented weather event. Gen. Davis also announced that one of the six teams is among a small number of honorees that he personally selected from all DP Award winners nationwide for special recognition.

Gen. Davis praised all of the award-winning teams for their accomplishments on behalf of the nation’s security, saying, “The extra effort put in by these people is really remarkable.”

Read more about it at this link.

Nov 4, 2015 at 10:37 am