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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

NNSA: Pantex 'Code Blue' like a safety review

NNSA: Pantex 'Code Blue' like a safety review
May 25, 2015 
By Jim McBride - Amarillo Global News

Top National Nuclear Security Administration officials have declared a “Code Blue” review of two nuclear weapons programs at the Pantex Plant, an NNSA spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

According to a statement from the NNSA, a “Code Blue” is declared when an issue or condition “could have a significant impact” on meeting nuclear weapons program requirements.

Pantex, located about 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, assembles, dismantles and modifies nuclear weapons for the U.S. atomic stockpile.

The plant, which employs about 3,000 workers, also stores tons of weapons-grade plutonium recovered from dismantled warheads.

“It’s not delaying any of our production or impacting operations,” Shelley Laver, deputy director of NNSA public affairs, said in a Friday interview in response to Amarillo Globe-News inquiries to the NNSA about the declaration.

“The Code Blue is essentially like a safety review. Basically by titling it a Code Blue, it’s going to ensure senior NNSA and (Pantex contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security) CNS management and other experts in our field are involved in it.”

The review focuses on the B61 weapon and the W80 weapon, Laver said. The B61 is an air-dropped nuclear weapon type that can be carried on a wide range of U.S. aircraft. The W80 weapon is a type of weapon designed to be deployed on Air Force cruise missiles and Navy Tomahawk missiles.

“Declaring a Code Blue ensures engagement of not only senior NNSA and Pantex management, but also other experts across the NNSA enterprise who can assist in resolving the issue. NNSA remains on track to ensure that this issue at Pantex is resolved and scheduled (weapon ) deliverables to the Department of Defense are met.”

The “Code Blue” designation is mostly to raise attention or the level of awareness to a particular issue, Laver said.

“It’s not even a condition of the weapons themselves. It’s more like a code that impacts management and everybody to kind of take a pause, step back and look at the issue than it is that is stopping operations or anything along that line,” she said.

Laver said she did not know how long the Code Blue declaration, which went into effect on May 4, would remain. Consolidated Nuclear Security on Friday referred the Globe-News to NNSA officials for comment on the issue.

Also on May 4, Consolidated Nuclear Security halted work at Pantex after workers questioned some of the plant’s nonnuclear assembly processes, plant officials said then. During the two-hour work halt, managers, supervisors and workers discussed quality and workmanship expectations ,and opportunities for improved worker training, CNS said.

“There were no worker, public or environmental safety concerns involved,” the company said.


Anonymous said...

You expect facilities to operate properly when the complex is under DOE - wrong!

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a scene from Red Dwarf...

Kryten: Are you sure you want to call a Blue Alert sir?
It does require us to change the bulb.

Anonymous said...

According to an August 2013 Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report on the Pantex Plant (which references NNSA’s Development and Production Manual), Code Blue “entails the creation of a response team that is activated for any identified problem that can result in a day-to-day unrecoverable delay to a given activity.”

The significant delay in work and subsequent cost increase due to a "Code Blue" incident at Y-12 involving Fogbank some years back may be the most well known example. I believe it's relatively rare for NNSA to call a "Code Blue," and this one involves the refurbishment of two different weapons. It bears watching.

Anonymous said...

Is "Code Blue" defined in the D&P Manual? A common medical definition calls for heroic life-saving action.

Anonymous said...

NNSA Sheds More Light on Cause For Pantex “Code Blue”
Weapons Complex Morning Briefing
The National Nuclear Security Administration released new details yesterday as to what led the agency to declare a “Code Blue” at the Pantex Plant. “A new hazard scenario was identified associated with use of the containers used to package specific explosive components,” NNSA spokeswoman Shelley Laver said in a written response to Weapons Complex Morning Briefing. The issue does not pose safety risks to either Pantex workers or the general public, Laver said. “A solution has been identified and is being implemented,” she said. “NNSA anticipates the Code Blue will be lifted by the end of June,” she said, adding, “NNSA will lift the Code Blue when we are satisfied the situation no longer requires it.” Pantex managing contractor Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC, late yesterday referred questions to NNSA.
NNSA said late last week that the “Code Blue” had been declared at Pantex after an “issue or condition” was discovered that could have “significant impact” on B61 and W80 weapons operations. “Declaring a code blue ensures engagement of not only senior NNSA and Pantex management, but also other experts across the NNSA enterprise who can assist in resolving the issue."NNSA remains on track to ensure that this issue at Pantex is resolved and scheduled deliverables to the Department of Defense are met,” Laver said last week.


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