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.
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