Laboratory garners three pollution prevention awards

April 4, 2011

Laboratory garners three pollution prevention awards

Stephen P Wampler,, 925-423-3107
The Laboratory has received three Pollution Prevention Awards from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

The Pollution Prevention Awards recognize performance in integrating environmental stewardship practices that help reduce risk, protect natural resources and enhance site operations.

Among this year's awards, LLNL received one best in class award for electronic systems that replace paper forms, and two environmental stewardship awards for reducing its beryllium supplies and use of sulfur hexafluoride gas.

LLNL won three of the 21 Pollution Prevention Awards given throughout the NNSA system. The award recipients were selected by a panel of judges within the NNSA complex.

"I am very proud of LLNL's award-winning pollution prevention efforts," said Bruce Schultz, the Lab's Environmental Functional Area manager. "These prestigious awards are the result of continued excellence and commitment to preserving our environment."

Paperless systems save time, money

The Laboratory's "best in class" award, one of nine such awards given this year by NNSA, was received by LLNL's Global Security principal directorate, which develops technologies to counter and prevent terrorism.

In 2007, two employees -- Website Administrator Alda Vargas and Business Operations Administrator Renee Lopez -- within Global Security 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.

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 sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), a greenhouse gas, 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 effort won an environmental stewardship award in the "cradle to cradle" category.
The Lab employees who won the award are: Jan-Mark Zentler, Timothy Ross, Richard Fairchild, Keith Lewis, and Vern Switzer.

Recycling beryllium for other uses

LLNL has taken steps to reduce, and in many cases eliminate, the potential for worker exposure to beryllium, a rare, lightweight metal, through its beryllium reduction project. This work won an environmental stewardship award in the "health and environment" category.

While beryllium is used in a number of technological applications because of its unique properties, the metal also requires a rigorous safety program to reduce the potential of worker exposure.

In 2009, two LLNL directorates -- Engineering and Physical & Life Sciences -- determined that much of their stored supplies of beryllium were no longer needed and could be sent out for recycling or reuse.

A special negative-pressure enclosure was designed in a Lab building to safely inventory and process the material. In addition, a contract was established with an Ohio-based company, Brush Wellman Inc., to purchase the beryllium materials. This arrangement helped fund the labor and other costs, making the project a net zero cost effort for LLNL.

During the 2010 fiscal year, LLNL sent 2,086 pounds of beryllium materials for recycling or reuse, saving more than $28,000 in avoided disposal costs and earning $186,842 from Brush Wellman, a global producer of beryllium-based metals and composites.

The LLNL employees who worked on the Beryllium Reduction Project are: Dione Ancheta, Raymond Swan, Hank Glauser, Christine Ward, Steven Lee, George Fulton, Reggie Gaylord, Quang Le, Kat Tucker, Ronneil Estrellado, Todd Coble, Jody Drake, Joseph Stonich, David Boercker, Kimberly Dremalas, John Elliott, Ken Walden, Alan Olsen, David Sieg, Laura O'Brien, Gregory Cooper, Jonathan Marks, Jared Dominick, Jim Oldani, Gilbert Gallegos, Joel Bowers, Johann Lotscher, Denielle Chaves, Ryan Kamerzell, Warren Tenbrook, Richard Michalik, Joseph Woods, Steve Weinzapfel, James Janvrin, Anselmo Duenas, Gwynn Aldrich and Diana Larson.