Knoxville — Top leaders of The Texas A&M University System and the University of Tennessee System announced a strategic alliance Thursday for purposes of joining a team to compete for the management-and-operations contract of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee and the Pantex Plant in Texas.
Both university systems bring extensive experience in understanding the missions of these plants and experience in working with the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversee Y-12 and Pantex. The Texas A&M System is part of Triad National Security, which has managed Los Alamos National Laboratory since 2018. The University of Tennessee System is a member of UT-Battelle — the management team of Oak Ridge National Laboratory since 2000.
Additionally, West Texas A&M University and the University of Tennessee Knoxville, have been significant workforce development resources for Pantex and Y-12, respectively, and their roles would expand under this alliance.
“The drive to serve our nation and provide workforce training for the nation’s nuclear security enterprise are woven into our DNA at the Texas A&M System,” Chancellor John Sharp of the Texas A&M System said. “We are eager to work with the University of Tennessee System to serve these two important federal facilities.”
Y-12 and Pantex represent key nuclear production capabilities in the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
“Partnering with Texas A&M to explore ways in which our university systems can further serve the U.S. Department of Energy at Y-12 and Pantex is a no-brainer,” UT System President Randy Boyd said. “Both institutions bring experience in M&O contracting, broad workforce and talent development programs, and a commitment to serve our students, states and the nation.”
Pantex, near Amarillo, is responsible for maintaining the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Work performed at Pantex includes: support of the nuclear weapons life extension programs; nuclear weapons assembly and dismantlement; the development, testing and fabrication of high explosive components; and interim storage and surveillance of plutonium pits.
Y-12, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is the nation’s only source of enriched uranium nuclear weapons components and provides enriched uranium for the U.S. Navy. Y-12 also performs materials science and precision manufacturing, stores enriched uranium and supports efforts to reduce nuclear proliferation risk.
The Texas A&M System currently provides engineering support to Pantex and partners with Y-12 to provide critical training for the nuclear security enterprise. The Texas A&M System also provides workforce training across a broad range of functions from nuclear criticality safety to high explosives to the NNSA. The University of Tennessee also has extensive training and collaborative programs experience with Y-12 and more broadly with the Department of Energy.
These university systems will bring a strong workforce development and training portfolio to a bid team.
The NNSA released a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) two weeks ago for the management contract of Pantex and Y-12. It can be viewed at energy.gov/nnsa.
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 400,000 alumni around the world.