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Vol. 51, No. 1        January 15, 1999
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

On a roll: Building on teamwork, W76 recertification program moves from one success to another

Sandia team makes basic contribution to stockpile stewardship

By Bill Murphy

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Sandia's four-year-old W76 Neutron Generator Recertification Program -- a key player in DOE's overall stockpile stewardship effort -- has met with such a high degree of recent success that the British hired this diverse Labs group to do the recertification work on the neutron generator assembly in a similar British nuclear weapon. And now, DOE has assigned the program's team, led by Norm Schwentor (14302), to work on a similar effort for the W78 Minuteman warhead.

[Neutron generator recertification]
RACK 'EM UP -- Victor Baca (14302) slides a tray of W76 neutron generator tubes into a dessicator cabinet at the Explosive Components Facility. The tubes are kept clean and dry in the cabinets while they await processing in the W76 Neutron Generator Recertification Program. (Photo by Randy Montoya)
Download 150dpi JPEG image, 'neutron_pix.jpg', 1 Mb

The W76 program cuts across many organizational boundaries under the overall coordination of Defense Programs Products and Services Division 14000.

Norm says the team's work has been challenging and rewarding.

"We're basically making the stockpile better," he says. "We're contributing to a major upgrading of the stockpile and that's very satisfying."

The W76 neutron generator assembly is one of the limited-life components (LLCs) in a nuclear weapon that must be recalled periodically for test and reconditioning under DOE's LLC program.

The W76 recertification program, which moved from Pinellas in Florida to Sandia/New Mexico in 1994 along with all other neutron generator production, got off to a somewhat rocky start. In its early days, Norm says, there was an adversarial, us-against-them attitude, "us" being Sandia and "them" being DOE.

Norm, who came on board the program in 1996 -- he'd spent 17 years as a team supervisor in the machine shop -- emphasizes the cross-organizational, team-based aspects of the W76 program. He made one big difference early in his new position -- he mended fences with DOE and helped steer the program on a track that emphasizes trust-building, cooperation, and customer responsiveness. The program now is on a roll. By incorporating quality processes, the team has reached a level of sustained excellence. "In the last two years," Norm says, "we've had 45 consecutive successful Quality Assurance Inspection Procedures (QAIPs) [from DOE]."

The W76 recertification process consists of three stages involving several different organizations across Sandia:

Accompanying each of the three stages is a massive amount of paperwork, required for programs directly involving nuclear weapons components.

Among the centers involved in the W76 recertification program are: 1400, 1500, 1800, 2100, 7800, 9100, 10000, 12000, and 14000.

While offering high praise for every team member for their contributions to the program's success, Norm singles out two individuals for special mention.

Jim Krupar (2151), Norm says, came with the W76 program from Pinellas, and was instrumental in helping bring Norm up to speed.

"He was a fountain of knowledge," Norm says. "He has a phenomenal memory; he knows the complete history of every neutron generator [in every W76]. He was an incredible asset for me personally and for the overall team effort."

And quality engineer Glenn Roubik (14408), Norm says, helps keep the program on the straight and narrow.

"I'm a 'keep it simple, stupid' sort of guy," Norm says. "Glenn is very detail-oriented. He makes sure the program isn't too simple to be successful. He complicates things, but in an appropriate, good sense."

Last modified: January 14, 1999

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