At NNSA’s Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, a new green approach to cleaning weapons parts was brought online recently at the plant. The old cleaning solvent created sparks that ignited vapors which led to the task of finding a new solvent. Finding an ideal replacement for the commonly used isopropyl alcohol was an ambitious undertaking that involved multiple sites and spanned a decade. Rigorous testing and research conducted at Pantex, as well as national laboratories and universities, offered as a solution hydrofluoroether, itself a known fire suppressant.
The result is a safer way to clean parts and systems without the burdens of bonding, task exhaust or stopping work due to lightening alerts because of the potential of fire. The latest in a series of tests proved that the non-flammable solvent is stable indefinitely when kept in refrigerated storage, which reduces by at least $500,000 the material costs over one weapon’s life extension program.
Pantex’s Plant Directed Research and Development program was instrumental in project and included representatives from NNSA, the Department of the Navy, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, Kansas City Plant, Y-12 and Lockheed Martin Space Systems.