National Nuclear Security Administration

X-ray technicians bring quality — and find fulfilling careers — at the Pantex Plant

June 6, 2019

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The completion of the W76-1 Life Extension Program (LEP) was not only an historic milestone, but also a prime example of the exceptional coordination and collaboration going on every day as NNSA works to strengthen our Nation through nuclear security.

“The dedication and teamwork I have seen from you all makes it clear why the delivery of the W76-1 was done ahead of schedule and under budget,” said NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, addressing the workforce at the Pantex Plant W76-1 completion ceremony. “Your work has strengthened the safety and security of the United States for decades to come. Please accept my sincere gratitude for a job exceptionally well done.”

To better understand how a major modernization program like the W76-1 LEP reaches the finish line, meet a group of Quality Assurance Technicians who work at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas – experts who perform non-destructive testing on nuclear weapons components to ensure they meet all required standards. Their contributions are invaluable.

Shelby Box of the Pantex Plant
Shelby Box of the Pantex Plant

After trying several areas of study that didn’t quite fit, Shelby Box discovered radiology. She earned an associate degree in radiologic technology and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s of applied science, with plans to graduate next year. Though Box started out in medicine, the exciting challenge of the nuclear security mission sparked her interest and led to a career change.

“A friend of mine in the medical field told me about openings for X-ray technicians at Pantex and convinced me to apply,” Box said. “I knew very little about the position at that time. I asked several questions during the interview process to have a better understanding and thought this would be a very interesting position and a great opportunity. I use some of the same machines here that I used in the medical field – just in an industrial setting.”

Laurie Phillips of the Pantex Plant
Laurie Phillips of the Pantex Plant

After 14 years as a Quality Assurance Technician, Laurie Phillips recently became a Skilled Manufacturing Supervisor. She now supervises technicians who assemble and disassemble nuclear weapons. Her extensive training has included qualification in the coordinate measuring machine, tube evaluation testing system, microfocus X-ray, laser gas exchange, and microfocus computed tomography (CT scanning).

“Knowing what I contribute on a daily basis, not only for our nation, but for global security is very satisfying,” said Phillips. “Interacting with different departments and entities throughout the plant and the entire enterprise is fulfilling. It’s great to know we are all working towards the same goal and it takes so many different people with diverse education and skills to accomplish the success we have here at Pantex.”

Bill Shannon of the Pantex Plant.
Bill Shannon

Bill Shannon earned an associate degree in applied sciences in radiology technology and came to work at Pantex after hearing about job openings from his brother-in-law.

“The best part of my job is getting to work on and see things that only a handful of people in the world have ever seen or touched,” he said. “I have really enjoyed getting to meet some high-level government officials that come to our area to tour our facilities due to the specialized work that we do.”

Kristin Gibson of the Pantex Plant.
Kristin Gibson

Kristin Gibson graduated with an associate degree in applied sciences in radiography and earned a certificate in magnetic resonance imaging. She has been a registered radiologic technologist since 2010. It was her father who inspired her to pursue civil service.

“I grew up with my dad being in the Air Force,” said Gibson. “Helping support our military is something that I have always valued, and this is a way that I feel that I can contribute. What we do requires a lot of teamwork and trust.”

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