The lead that flies at the Pantex Firing Range has to land somewhere, and when it does, it could create a potential contamination hazard. That’s why a group of Pantexans got together to find a better way, and created a program that shows how Pantex goes the extra mile to protect the environment.

The project to “green” the firing range had two components encompassing both indoor and outdoor firing ranges, which are used to train Security Police Officers (SPOs) in the use of firearms. The effort reduced by tons the amount of hazardous waste generated during normal operations of the ranges.

“At Pantex, we are continually looking for ways to accomplish our mission while minimizing the impact on the environment,” said B&W Pantex General Manager John Woolery.

The indoor range was annually generating approximately 2,400 pounds of lead-contaminated waste through the use of lead bullets. Although much of the lead was recycled, about 1,100 pounds of lead-contaminated air filters and sludge were not recyclable and had to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Additionally, lead dust released when the bullets struck targets created an airborne hazard for the SPOs.

To correct the issue, Pantex switched to a new bullet trap, abated lead in the range building and changed over to non-lead ammunition. The indoor rounds, which are generally made from compressed copper or zinc, are frangible, meaning they break into pieces upon impact and don’t create an airborne dust hazard like a conventional lead bullet.

The amount of lead waste generated by the indoor range is dwarfed by the amount of lead that lands in the outdoor ranges. Outdoor ranges at Pantex are backed by earthen berms that are covered by a layer of dolomite, a mineral that is used to trap bullets that pass through targets and strike the berms. When the dolomite layer becomes packed with lead over many years of use, it creates a ricochet hazard and must be replaced.

Normally, the nearly 1,500 tons of lead-saturated dolomite would have been sent to a hazardous waste landfill, but the team decided it would be much more environmentally sound if only the lead was sent to the landfill. The team found a contractor who could sift the lead out from the dolomite, and the material was reused to cover the berms.

As a result, only 24 tons of lead contaminated waste was generated and disposed, and 1,440 tons of dolomite was diverted from the landfill and beneficially reused. Although the environmental aspect of the project was the main attraction, the recycling effort also saved money, reducing the shipping and disposal costs by more than $400,000.

“We feel like the firing range project was a win-win for everyone,” said Bill Mairson, manager of the Environmental Safety and Health Division at Pantex. “Not only did we protect the environment from tons of lead contamination, we protected our personnel from an airborne lead hazard, and we saved taxpayer money in the process.”

Apr 20, 2012 at 1:00 pm

It's the little things
In just five months, the Jack Case Center at NNSA's Y-12 National Security Complex has not only achieved compliance with a national building standard for energy sustainability, but has also accomplished a 21.4 percent reduction in energy consumption.

This reduction makes the 400,000 square foot facility Y-12’s first building to meet High Performance and Sustainable Building (HBSB) compliance, which is intended to create more efficient and environmentally friendly work areas. Under Presidential Executive Order, buildings associated with federal operations that are greater than 5,000 square feet in size will be HPSB compliant. Y-12’s New Hope Center is also in compliance, but had already met the requirements through LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Certification.

Dino Herrera, Deputy Associate Deputy Administrator for Infrastructure and Construction says, “As the stewards of federal facilities, we strive to achieve substantial energy savings and avoid costs with improved efficiency. This effort has had a positive impact for both Y-12 and NNSA, and the Jack Case Center will account for 29 percent of NNSA’s progress towards this year’s HPSB goals.”

The Jack Case Center was built with many energy-efficient measures already in place. Motion-activated bathroom fixtures have helped promote water conservation in check. Lighting fixtures utilize highly efficient fluorescent lamps, exterior walls are insulated, and all exterior windows are double-paned, insulated, and made low-emissivity glass.

For more information, click here.

Apr 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm

In its 15th year of participation, Kansas City Plant provided more than 50 volunteers to the annual Blue River Rescue effort. Each year KCP joins hundreds of community volunteers of all ages to help pick up trash and plant trees during the largest one day stream clean-up in Missouri.

The annual Blue River Rescue event successfully cleaned up approximately 100 tons of trash along its banks.

The effort calls on community volunteers to be environmental stewards of a 22-mile stretch of land that surrounds the waterway which flows near the Kansas City Plant.


Apr 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm

NNSA BlogThe National Ignition Campaign (NIC) team recently conducted the first “convergent ablator” experiment using an X-ray streak camera to measure the velocity of the capsule implosion. The ablator is the plastic material surrounding the fuel in a NIF capsule that blows off (ablates) when heated by the X-rays inside the hohlraum. This causes a rocket-like implosion that compresses and heats the fuel to the conditions required for fusion.

Convergent ablator experiments measure changes in the capsule at various stages of the implosion. A thin metal foil called a backlighter is placed behind the hohlraum to generate X-rays that illuminate the capsule during the implosion, much like a strobe light.

In the March 24 experiment, 181 NIF beams heated the depleted uranium hohlraum with 1.475 megajoules of ultraviolet light, while eight beams heated the x-ray backlighter target located on the opposite side of the streak camera.The backlighter pulse illuminated the imploding capsule, and the ablator edges cast a sharp shadow on the detector.

About the image:

The first continuous streak camera record of a NIF implosion, captured by the diagnostic instrument manipulator insertable streak camera. The broad bright region extending the length of the record is the x-ray backlighter. The dark line in the center is the shadow of a fiducial (reference) wire over the hohlraum diagnostic window. The slanted lines are the shadows cast by the ablator as it implodes. The image shows the ablator moving inward and then exploding after stagnating near the center of the capsule. The bright x-ray self-emission at “bang time,” the peak of the implosion, can be seen at the center.

Apr 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Dr. Njema Frazier

Dr. Njema Frazier, a physicist in NNSA’s Defense Programs, has been selected as a Nifty Fifty speaker as part of the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Dr. Frazier will be speaking on “The Physics of Roller Coasters” to students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on April 12.

NNSA is among more than 100 science and engineering institutions and organizations across the nation who has teamed up with the program to send top researchers as speakers to middle and high schools throughout the Washington, D.C, region, helping to inspire students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The Nifty Fifty are an integral part of the festival’s mission to actively involve leading researchers from science and engineering institutions and organizations. Speakers were carefully chosen by festival organizers from hundreds of applicants for their differing fields, talents, divergent backgrounds and ages. Their names were submitted by more than 500 of the festival’s leading partner organizations and then were culled down to the top 100.

Nifty Fifty speakers were also selected for their ability to convey the importance of science to young audiences and to the non-science public. Speakers will fan out in March and April to schools across the greater Washington, D.C., region.

The Nifty Fifty scientists and engineers include high technology entrepreneurs and financiers, policy makers, actors, journalists, educators, researchers, explorers, storm chasers, video game developers, alien hunters, astronauts and brain surgeons.

For more information on the USA Science & Engineering Festival see the Festival website.

Apr 11, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Pantex Hickman

When he hopped into the firetruck for his last run Monday, Pantex firefighter Bill Hickman was ready to turn over his title to a slightly younger person.

Hickman, who at 78 was thought to be the nation’s oldest firefighter, marked his retirement Monday with one last drive under the flashing lights of a firetruck to a ceremony at the Plant to commemorate his 48 years at Pantex.

“I wholeheartedly salute Bill for his years of service at Pantex,” said Pantex Fire Department Chief Mike Brock. “It’s impressive to me to see how well he has taken care of himself and remained a valued member of this department. It’s always hard when you see someone with that kind of experience walk out the door.”

The International Association of Firefighters does not track the ages of all of its members, so the organization cannot say with absolute certainty that Hickman is the oldest active (non-volunteer) firefighter in the country. However, IAFF officials say they are unaware of an older active firefighter, so they presume that Hickman is the longest serving.

Hickman came to work at Pantex on March 30, 1964, as a boilermaker and welder. He joined the fire department in 1970 and has spent more than 30 years as a motor pump operator. He said he still wakes up every morning and does stretches and calisthenics, which allows him to complete the grueling firefighter combat challenge in well under the required seven minutes.

“48 years is a long time,” Hickman said. “For the most part, it’s been a very enjoyable ride. I’m glad for the time I spent at Pantex. But at 78 years old; it’s time.”

Apr 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm




B&W Pantex metal worker Charles Thomas runs a water jet machine cutting out pieces for a 3-D Tyrannosaurus Rex puzzle. The metal shop employees completed the puzzles to present at Tuesday’s 30th annual Step UP to Success program, where middle school students from across Amarillo, Texas, come to learn about various career options.

Thomas presented a program on pursuing a career in the skilled trades, using the puzzles to show what is possible in the hands of a skilled craftsman. Other Pantexans made presentations about careers in emergency services and engineering.

Apr 5, 2012 at 9:00 am


B&W Y-12 presented a check this week for $25,000 to the Boy Scouts of America, Great Smoky Mountain Council, to go toward the Great Smoky Mountain Council Capital Campaign, which supports capital development projects at Camp Buck Toms and Camp Pellissippi.

At left, Joey Andrews, Pellissippi district executive and Larry Brown, Scout executive, accept the contribution from Bill Klemm, B&W Y-12 deputy general manager and senior vice president of Operations, and Paul Wasilko, deputy manager, Uranium Processing Facility Programs and also BSA Pellissippi district chairman.

This money is in addition to a $5,000 B&W Y-12 corporate contribution (and individual employee contributions of $4,100) made in February, bringing B&W Y-12's total contribution for this year to $34,100.


Apr 5, 2012 at 8:00 am

NNSA is working with a small group of interested companies to further develop their approaches in support of potential reuse opportunities for the Bannister Federal Complex in south Kansas City.

In October 2011, the NNSA issued a Notice of Availability for the transfer, sale, or lease of its property at the Bannister Federal Complex. As a result, the NNSA received a substantial response from various companies, which included redevelopment plans that extended beyond the bounds of the NNSA property to include the GSA property. The current proposals include plans for the entire Complex, including NNSA’s portion and the portion owned by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

NNSA, with GSA as a cooperating agency, is currently working on a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study, which is analyzing multiple disposition plans related to the Bannister Federal Complex. Under NEPA, the study will consider the impact of each proposed federal action on the quality of the human environment.

Consistent with the NEPA process, NNSA will work with the small group of companies to further develop their approaches in support of potential reuse opportunities. This approach allows conceptual design and feasibility studies to be performed while not limiting the choice of reasonable alternatives available to the agency.

Apr 4, 2012 at 2:00 pm

NNSA BlogSavannah River Nuclear Solutions, LLC (SRNS), in partnership with the Society of Women Engineering and The Ruth Patrick Science Education Center, recently extended invitations to middle schools throughout the greater Aiken-Augusta area to select young women to participate in this year’s “Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day.”

Each participating school selected and sent to this event three female students  who have shown an interest in a career involving engineering. The event is part of a greater effort designed to help area students take small steps toward easing the shortage of workers skilled in engineering disciplines. 

During the day-long event, the participants also had an opportunity to interact with women currently working in various fields of science, technology and engineering. In addition, each received a special gift for attending.

The primary goals of these outreach programs are to enhance interest in science, mathematics, engineering and technology and to support improvements in education in the Central Savannah River Area by using the unique resources available at the Site.

The DOE Savannah River Operations Office provides a variety of science and literacy outreach programs at the Savannah River Site by funding and coordinating the efforts of several organizations.

Apr 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm