Maintaining nuclear and national security

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) saw an opportunity to streamline two of the nation’s more critical nuclear defense sites: the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee and the Pantex Plant in Texas. By operating these facilities under a consolidated contract the DOE would benefit from eliminating duplicate systems and processes, and save money throughout the enterprise to reinvest in upgrading facilities that have been in use since the 1940s and 1950s, respectfully.

A Bechtel-led partnership was selected in 2014 to manage and operate the sites under a consolidated contract for the NNSA.

The team, Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC (CNS), improved performance at both facilities, while ensuring an uncompromising focus on safety, security, quality, and cost-effectiveness. CNS accomplished this efficiency by implementing shared business systems, innovative solutions, and applying lessons learned.

By 2020 the government had validated more than $750 million in cost savings, generating millions to fund site infrastructure improvements implemented by CNS. The funds are being reinvested in much-needed repairs and upgraded infrastructure at Y-12 and Pantex improving the safety and quality of life for employees.

The infrastructure transformation at both Y-12 and Pantex has made significant progress including the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Y-12; the John C. Drummond administrative building and High Explosives Pressing Facility at Pantex; and numerous technology demonstration facilities. We have also significantly improved maintenance at both sites, enabling more predictable production performance.

NNSA awarded a two-year contract extension to CNS in early 2018.

Bechtel's partners in Consolidated Nuclear Security are Leidos, Orbital ATK Inc., and SOC LLC. Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. is a teaming subcontractor.

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Expanded expertise at Y-12

Y‑12 was the first site in the world to electromagnetically separate uranium on an industrial scale, but that was only the beginning. Since then, the complex has amassed a wealth of uranium know-how:

  • Machining, recycling, and reprocessing
  • Securing and storing
  • Handling and transporting
  • Analyzing and detecting
  • Training others to safeguard uranium

Since 1994, the site has been involved in 16 international missions to recover nuclear materials, including in France, Italy, and Canada in 2013 and Belgium and South Korea in 2014. The team at Y-12 is responsible for:

  • Safely and securely storing uranium
  • Processing and manufacturing special materials vital to national security
  • Supplying highly enriched uranium for U.S. Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines (the very vessels whose power plants derive from the Bettis and Knolls atomic laboratories that Bechtel manages for NNSA and the U.S. Navy) 
  • Conducting tests and training as well as decommissioning weapons to help prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction

Upgrading to further the mission

The new Uranium Processing Facility is now under construction and will replace aging facilities in use since World War II. When complete, the $6.5 billion facility—the largest construction project in Tennessee history—will house enriched uranium operations, including assembly, disassembly, quality evaluation, metalworking, and product certification. The state-of-the-art building will replace several aging facilities at the Y-12 complex—using less space and benefiting from improved security and technologies.

Pantex and Y-12 play key roles maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, missions vital to national and global security.

Pantex

For decades, Pantex has provided technology for the manufacturing, evaluation, and testing of nuclear explosives, joint test beds, and other special nuclear materials. This experience uniquely qualifies Pantex scientists and engineers to provide technology solutions for a variety of problems. The Bechtel-led plant has organizations dedicated to computerized special tooling, test equipment (including critical nuclear explosive testers), packaging, and system engineering. Pantex is also responsible for:

  • Carrying out nuclear weapons life-extension programs
  • Dismantling and disposing of retired weapons systems
  • Surveilling active weapons systems
  • Developing, testing, and fabricating high-explosives components
  • Storing and surveilling plutonium pits, the cores at the heart of thermonuclear weapons

New infrastructure increasing safety and production

In addition to continuing the DOE’s mission to capture savings while upgraded aging facilities, Bechtel was able to negotiate the contract which brought Pantex employees its first upgraded administrative building since the plant was constructed over a seven decades ago.

The award-winning, 348,000-square-foot John C. Drummond Center (JCDC) was completed in 2018. The $115 million high-security facility relocates employees from its aging facilities into a modern, energy-efficient (LEED Gold) facility where employees can safely continue the mission of the NNSA.

In additon to the JCDC, the High Explosives Pressing Facility became operational. The new facility consolidates operations at half a dozen aging Pantex buildings under one roof. The facility greatly reduces the movement of high explosives at Pantex, increasing safety and aiding production, as high explosives moves can restrict other Plant operations.

A period of transition

During the contractor transition, between March and June 2014, our team—on schedule and under budget: 

  • Established the structure and processes to manage the two sites as one enterprise
  • Completed more than 3,000 schedule actions
  • Onboarded 7,800 employees
  • Inspected more than 400 facilities
  • Reviewed and approved more than 5,000 procedures
  • Consulted with dozens of community leaders and elected officials

The contract united the two sites—more than 1,100 miles (nearly 1,800 kilometers) apart—under a new, consolidated company, which continues to advance the mission of the NNSA.