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Pantex breaks ground for High Explosive Science and Engineering facility

FACILITY WILL REPLACE 15 OBSOLETE FACILITIES AT PANTEX WITH AVERAGE AGE OF 68 YEARS

Leaders from the Pantex Plant, Consolidated Nuclear Security, and NNSA broke ground on the High Explosive Science and Engineering Dec. 8.
Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

AMARILLO, Texas – On Dec. 8, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) marked an infrastructure modernization milestone with an internal groundbreaking ceremony to begin construction of the High Explosive Science and Engineering (HESE) facility at the Pantex Plant.

This facility is an example of our collective ability to find ways to adapt and deliver, streamline operations, improve efficiency, and provide a state-of-the art facility where our most important asset, our people, can continue our critical work.

HESE will replace 15 obsolete facilities at Pantex, which have an average age of 68 years and support the NNSA’s High Explosive (HE) Center of Excellence for Manufacturing. The facility will be used to qualify new HE and steward legacy HE returning from the nuclear weapons stockpile, as well as help develop and sustain high-quality scientific staff; support computational and experimental capabilities; and support development of additional evaluation and diagnostic tools.

“Consolidated Nuclear Security is honored to work alongside NNSA to modernize the infrastructure at Pantex, in support of our vital HE mission,” said Todd Ailes, Pantex Site Manager. “Today’s High Explosive Science and Engineering facility groundbreaking, follows on the heels of the Flexible Support Facility groundbreaking in September, which is another example of the changing landscape at Pantex. This facility will provide our scientists and engineers with new, state-of-the-art amenities that will help Pantex execute our mission and attract the brightest minds for decades to come.”

The 72,762-square-foot HESE is a major step in the ongoing infrastructure investment at Pantex. When completed, the HESE will consist of three structures: an HE Lab, an HE staging facility, and a Technology Development and Deployment Lab. The site preparation for the facility will be completed by a local small business contractor, SAM Engineering & Surveying, Inc. (aka SAMES), which was selected based on their proven track record.  

“For more than 50 years, Pantex has manufactured high explosive charges for every weapon in the Nation’s nuclear stockpile and is currently on the forefront of production and qualification of high explosives for the Stockpile Sustainment and Modernization Programs so vital to our credible nuclear deterrent,” said Dr. William A. Bookless, Acting Administrator of the NNSA and U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security. “The new High Explosive Science and Engineering Facility will upgrade aging infrastructure so that HE manufacturing support, surveillance, testing, and technology development will continue in the future and better enable Pantex to meet its NNSA mission as the High Explosives Center of Excellence for Manufacturing.”

The new HESE facility will also provide necessary laboratory space for a minimum of 73 technology development and deployment personnel to support the weapons complex mission. The HESE offices will feature a classified office area, an unclassified office area, an unclassified meeting room, a shower and change-out area for HE operators, and a closer proximity to the high explosives manufacturing operations at Pantex.

“This facility is an example of our collective ability to find ways to adapt and deliver, streamline operations, improve efficiency, and provide a state-of-the art facility where our most important asset, our people, can continue our critical work,” continued Acting Administrator Bookless.

HESE construction is scheduled to start in late 2020 with operation of the new facility slated to begin in 2025. When completed, it will join the High Explosives Pressing Facility, which began full-scale operations in May 2019, in further increasing the safety and efficiency of HE operations at Pantex.