Lab earns two EStar awards

June 2, 2011

Lab earns two EStar awards

Stephen P Wampler,, 925-423-3107
The Laboratory has received one Environmental Sustainability (EStar) award and an honorable mention from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The awards recognize projects that demonstrate excellence in pollution prevention and sustainable environmental stewardship. Fifteen EStar awards and three EStar honorable mentions were awarded from 186 nominations submitted across the DOE complex.

LLNL's EStar award recognized the Site 300 sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) project, which found ways to minimize the use and release of SF6, a greenhouse gas. The Laboratory's honorable mention award was given for the Global Security Principal Directorate's paperless eSystems project. Global Security's project garnered a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) "best in class" award earlier this year.

The awards will be presented during a ceremony on Oct. 12 at the DOE Forrestal headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Use of gas reduced in equipment

For a number of years, employees at the Flash X-Ray system at Site 300 -- LLNL's experimental test facility -- have worked to reduce the use of SF6 in the system's instrumentation.

An induction linear accelerator, the Flash X-Ray facility is used to produce X-rays for the creation of high-speed radiographic images of the implosions of high explosives. The SF6 gas is used in high-voltage closing switches, gas-filled trigger switches, a compressor, an accumulator and in supply lines.

Initially, staff at the Flash X-ray facility considered using gases other than SF6 for the system, but SF6's affinity for free electrons, something that makes it essential for quenching arcs that could damage equipment and pose a safety hazard, make it the ideal gas.

Among the steps that have been undertaken to reduce the amount of SF6 gas released are the installation of a reclamation system to capture gas before maintenance, the replacement of PVC pipes with copper pipes and a recirculation system to purify the gas for reuse.

Since 2006, the SF6 usage for the Flash X-ray facility has been reduced from about 920 pounds to less than 115 pounds per year.

The Lab employees who won the award are: Jan-Mark Zentler, Timothy Ross, Richard Fairchild, Keith Lewis, and Vern Switzer.

Paperless systems save time, money

In 2007, two Global Security employees -- Website Administrator Alda Vargas and Business Operations Administrator Renee Lopez -- decided to try to find a better way to handle employee office moves. Lopez leveraged her experience with Lean/Six Sigma methodologies and teamed up with Vargas to design a solution.

As counterterrorism projects within the directorate start and finish, about 200 employees supporting Global Security change offices each year. The old process required at least three different forms for each move.

Vargas and Lopez decided with management support to develop an electronic system, called eMove, to process and approve employee moves online.

Now in its fourth year, the eMove system has resulted in improved communication within Global Security, increased productivity as well as saving paper.

In the early part of fiscal year 2010, the duo designed a new electronic system - dubbed eTravel - for handling approvals and processing for employees traveling to scientific conferences and other locations. In its first year, the eTravel system cut travel approval and processing costs from about $300,000 to $68,000, saving about $230,000.

"I applaud the men and women from throughout the national security enterprise who are committed to improving the way we do business while reducing the environmental impacts of our work in the communities that host us," said Don Cook, NNSA' deputy administrator for Defense Programs. "The EStar awards demonstrate NNSA's efforts to transform a Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a modern and efficient 21st century nuclear security enterprise."

The LLNL Pollution Prevention/Sustainability (P2S) Program prepares nominations for these awards in November of each year. LLNL programs are encouraged to contact Jennifer Doman, P2S program manager, with information on noteworthy projects performed in fiscal year 2011 to be considered for next year's DOE and NNSA environmental awards.