WILLIAM A. WEINREICH
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT,
MASON & HANGER CORPORATION
GENERAL MANAGER, PANTEX PLANT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, my name is Bill Weinreich. I
am a Senior Vice-President with Mason & Hanger Corporation and the
General Manager of the Department of Energy's Pantex Plant near Amarillo,
Texas. Thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am pleased to have
this opportunity to comment on some of the strategic and policy-related
issues facing the Department of Energy's weapons complex. Because it is
no longer designing, testing, or building new nuclear weapons, the Department
of Energy (DOE) is embarking on a major new Stockpile Stewardship and Management
Program to extend the life of existing weapons beyond their original design,
while preserving the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapons stockpile.
This "science-based" approach is designed to respond to the issues
associated with an aging stockpile without using previous methods such
as new designs and underground nuclear testing.
This new program will require significant changes and improvements to
DOE's Weapons Complex as a whole-not only in terms of facilities and capabilities,
but also in the areas of overall management and internal and external oversight.
Not only must we ensure that we extend the life of the Department's aging
R&D and manufacturing facilities, but also, we must update our capabilities
to allow us to successfully and safely meet this critical, new obligation.
I have a unique perspective on the challenges facing the weapons complex
which I would like to share with you today that is based on my role as
Manager of the Pantex Plant and my experience with the Nuclear Navy Program.
Pantex is one of four production facilities in the complex. It is responsible
for assembling and dismantling nuclear weapons, evaluation and maintenance
of nuclear weapons, fabricating chemical high explosive components, and
storing plutonium components removed from dismantled weapons.
Pantex has an outstanding safety record and has been an exceptionally
good custodian of the Texas High-Plains environment. The safety of people
and protection of the environment are always first at Pantex. We have demonstrated
that these priorities are completely compatible with meeting our critical
defense mission at the highest levels of performance.
Prior to the end of the Cold War, Pantex employees repeatedly answered
the readiness requirements of U.S. Nuclear Policy. Through five decades
of demanding change, Pantex workers demonstrated dedication, competence
and flexibility in responding to surges in production demands and growth
in the number of concurrent new weapons systems that required assembly.
Now, I'm proud to say, they are exhibiting the same kind of commitment
with the safe dismantlement, downsizing and long range stewardship and
management of the aging stockpile.
At the same time, we have significant challenges facing Pantex and the
weapons complex as a whole. These challenges threaten to undercut our ability
to continue our mission in a safe and effective manner and to support the
changing needs of the stockpile in the future.
As a result of my experience with the Nuclear Navy Program, I've learned
about managing intricate nuclear operations such as those at Pantex. The
Nuclear Navy's system is proven and effective. It involves a clearly defined
and stable mission; clear lines of accountability and responsibility; required
technology; rigorous training and qualified employees; appropriate standards
and the effective application of those standards; careful attention to
maintaining the needed formality in operations; performance validation
based on line self-assessment, germane measurement, independent oversight;
and a practical effective management system that integrates these components
into a seamless results-oriented system.
Without this system, complex nuclear, nuclear explosive and high explosive
operations can degrade quickly and easily, raising questions of safety
and long-term reliability. It is extraordinarily difficult to return operations
to the highest performance levels and ensure continued safety and reliability
after operations have degraded.
These principles were cultivated and well-understood by the Navy. The
civilian nuclear power industry learned these lessons only after a series
of accidents and a number of high level safety reviews forced them to focus
on the problem. This experience is instructive as we discuss ways to extend
the life of the weapons complex and move into the future.
The Pantex Plant is one of two production sites, along with the Kansas
City Facility, that, regardless of stockpile levels, will have a vigorous
ongoing production function. Our production activities will not decline
significantly in the near term, even if the stockpile continues to decline.
In fact, our workloads are likely to increase in the event that we continue
to dismantle weapons while we also perform life extension programs on the
systems which will remain in the stockpile. Our operations are critical
to the safety and reliability of the stockpile. We are a key component
in the overall weapons complex team.
The operations at Pantex are highly complex. When you go out on the
floor at Pantex and see the operations there, you quickly understand the
importance of the training, skills and experience of our workers. We conduct
these complex operations with technicians who are highly trained and experienced
in very specialized areas. There is no margin for error in their performance.
We do not surround our technicians with scientists or engineers to conduct
these activities. It would not be cost effective or appropriate to conduct
operations in such an environment.
We use a system of detailed, written procedures with the necessary specifications
and standards that our workers follow closely. But, there is still a great
deal of information and knowledge needed to design and perform the job.
This comes from experience, training, practice and rigorous performance.
That body of knowledge is one of the keys to our safe, successful performance
over the years.
Under the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Programmatic Environmental
Impact Statement (SSMPEIS), DOE considered moving the Pantex functions
to the National Laboratories in an effort to consolidate the functions
of the weapons complex at fewer sites. The SSMPEIS has now confirmed and
validated that the mission at Pantex should be downsized, but continue
because it would be cost prohibitive to transfer our activities to another
I believe that was the right decision from an operations standpoint
as well. The Pantex function cannot be moved without DOE losing the years
of training, experience and a culture that have made its Pantex operations
safe and reliable for the past 40 years. That loss would be irreversible.
The same concerns apply to maintaining the capabilities, infrastructure
and workforce at the Pantex Plant as it is downsized for the future. We
simply cannot allow the capabilities or performance at Pantex Plant to
degrade. My fear is that we are quickly approaching a point where problems
that are now manageable with relatively minor investments will require
major investments later to avoid potentially serious adjustments to schedules
or impacts on safety and reliability. If we allow Pantex Plant - and the
other production components of the weapons complex as a whole, to languish
- we may reach a point where truly safe operations and support for the
stockpile are impossible.
The people, facilities, equipment and technologies at Pantex are a critical
part of a carefully balanced system. We need to keep those facilities and
capabilities current with emerging technologies from the laboratories and
the other production plants to ensure that the entire system continues
to perform at the highest levels.
We have funding issues for infrastructure requirements that we are working
with the Department to resolve. I urge you to continue your support for
funding in this area. We also have funding concerns in the operations arena.
We are discussing with the Department avenues to resolve those issues and
to build in greater efficiencies at Pantex in the future.
For example, our mission workload has not decreased over the past 5
years. In fact, it has increased and may increase further in the near term
before decreasing. Stockpile life extension programs were not part of the
financial considerations in the SSMPEIS; the impact of these programs were
to be considered at a later date. However, these programs are being accelerated
and we are having to expend funds now for enhanced surveillance activities
and advanced manufacturing technologies.
By closely studying our processes to eliminate unnecessary steps and
by evaluating overhead functions to eliminate non-value adding activities,
Mason & Hanger has been able to achieve cost reductions of $31 million
in FY95 and $23 million in FY96. This has enabled us to absorb increased
requirements related to the weapons mission as well as enhance safety.
These efforts to become more streamlined as we proceed with downsizing
will continue. However, these new mission activities must be factored into
the planning soon or downsizing efforts and funding will not be properly
correlated with actual needs.
Also, we are approaching the point where further economies in operating
costs will be dependent upon the investment in new technology strategies
for manufacturing, tooling production, integrated safety, product quality
and safety, environmental monitoring, and safeguards and security. We are
identifying requirements and opportunities in each of those areas as well
as the potential to eliminate unnecessary requirements that result in higher
At the same time that cost reduction pressures have been applied, the
compliance and management practice requirements for ES&H have been
increasing. As measurement technology improves, the regulatory expectations
for environmental care become more stringent. As concerns for health and
safety of workers and the public increase, the level of expected standards
Advanced technology must be applied to offset the need for additional
manpower to meet these increasing levels of compliance and public acceptability.
The application of ES&H technology also will make it easier to integrate
safety and environmental protection into the line operations, thus reducing
the high cost of manpower for staff oversight.
Mr. Chairman, I want to stress that these are all manageable issues.
At Pantex, we have identified an average of approximately $5 million in
infrastructure requirements per year to ensure that the Pantex system can
continue to meet its critical weapons complex role in the future. But in
the long run, based on the lessons of the Nuclear Navy Program and the
Civilian Nuclear Power Industry, these are expenditures that must be made.
They must be made now to avoid more serious problems in the future-the
potential impact on stockpile safety and reliability and on operational
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today, Mr.
Chairman. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.