Sandia LabNews

TCR: Unique facilities, unique challenges

Test Capabilities Revitalization: Unique facilities, unique challenges

There is a common thought among the team members working on TCR. "This is exciting work," they say. "There’s a lot of pride of ownership in our facilities and our capabilities and we are eager to engage in support of all our missions," says Jaime Moya, Manager of Sandia’s Validation and Qualification Group 9130.

"It’s exciting to be developing new capabilities for new science," says Mike Valley, TCR project manager for the test organization (9134). But it’s also tough work for the entire team, he and his counterpart Paul Schlavin concede. Paul is the facilities project manager for TCR and a staff member in the Labs’ Corporate Projects Dept. 10824.

Paul estimates that up to 150 people have been involved in the planning and execution of TCR to date.

"This is clearly not a typical office or light lab project," says Paul. Although every project has its unique aspects, TCR is essentially about "creating process equipment on a building scale. We’re talking about 20-megawatt fires in a seven-story oven," Paul says, referring to the new FLAME Test Cell. Other parts of the project push the limits in mechanical, radiant heat, environmental protection, and blast technology.

The two project managers teamed with Bob Paulsen, Manager of New Mexico Stockpile Issues and Planning Dept. 2134, to determine what kinds of testing are needed and what facilities can provide them. "I bring the high-level requirements from the weapons community and I also help set priorities on what needs to be completed when," says Bob.

"Historically, we’ve had to depend on burn facilities in the Canyon Area for full-scale thermal testing," says Bob. "We were concerned that in the future, environmental restrictions might not allow that. We started by looking at the modification of an existing igloo in the Canyon Area, but Paul and Mike suggested we move some capabilities together indoors into Area 3. When we looked at the budget, it seemed possible.

"The Thermal Test Complex will allow us to test a full-scale weapon, minus the nuclear materials, indoors with a very controlled fire. With tests to validate the modeling, engineers will be able to computationally adjust conditions of the fire and orientations of the weapon and begin to understand how the weapon will respond in great detail," Bob explains. "That knowledge becomes critical in the event that a weapon might be involved in a transportation accident, for example."

"Everyone on the project has been faced with designing new solutions to meet issues. Every element has been carefully engineered to meet the system need," Paul says. In the case of the one-of-a-kind Thermal Test Complex facilities, staff members Alex Brown, Jill Suo-Anttila, Tom Blanchat, Walt Gill, and Jim Nakos (all 9132) worked hard doing analyses to support the design for FLAME, XTF, and the Electro-static Precipitator. Sheldon Tieszen (also 9132) assembled a team of thermal specialists to provide design input as well.

Another unique aspect of the TCR project has been the close working relationship among weapons customers, the test organization, and the construction team. "We have worked closely with the construction plans for the cable site and we actually have tests planned there before the project is complete," says Bob. At the aerial cable site, construction contract language calls for work to stop during specified blocks of time later this year so that weapon-related drop tests can be conducted at the site.

In addition to their liaison with Bob and the technical line, Mike and Paul are linked in an organizational chart with boxes reaching to DOE for oversight and funding; support teams in architecture and a variety of engineering disciplines; and support staff in security, safety, environment, finance, purchasing, land use, and other areas.

"We have a team approach with some good players involved," says Mike. "The key to success for our aggressive schedule has been strong support from senior management, strong buy-in from the organizations involved, and timely responses from the people."

"The strong support by Dr. Kevin Greenaugh at DOE headquarters and the shared vision between DOE and Sandia have been veryhelpful. To make a huge investment like this, you need a strong, integrated team to move forward," says Jaime