When the USS Tennessee patrols the world’s oceans, stealthily submerged to depths unknown, the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarine is capable of carrying a payload of Trident II missiles tipped with W76 or W88 warheads.
Those warheads are produced as a result of work at Y-12, Pantex and elsewhere across the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
During a recent visit to Oak Ridge, five USS Tennessee sailors got a first-hand look at exactly what goes into ensuring the safety, security and effectiveness of the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
“It gave us an appreciation of the infrastructure that is there to enable this capability for us to go out and perform our mission,” said the USS Tennessee’s Commanding Officer Chas McLenithan.
While in Knoxville for Navy Week, they made a special visit to Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12, touring a production facility and the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. Joining McLenithan was Lt. Colin Williams, the submarine’s assistant weapons officer, as well as Master Chief Stacy R. Hammann, First Class Petty Officer Bryan Lynch and Second Class Petty Officer Merlin Hyland.
During the tour, they were briefed on assembly and disassembly operations at Y-12 and saw where the nation’s highly enriched uranium is stored.
“It definitely gave me a newfound appreciation for this part of the mission,” Williams said. “You do the same processes day in and day out, but you see all these patriotic people doing their job and doing it well. Everyone was very energetic and so enthused about what they did, explaining their processes to us as the end user. It was a great experience to talk to them and to say you guys make a great product. We know we can always count on them.”
Williams added, “What we saw was pretty amazing stuff, stuff you don’t get to see in your everyday job. Us being the end user, it definitely stood out in my mind.”
The Y-12 National Security Complex is a manufacturing facility which plays a vital role in the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Enterprise, helping to ensure a safe and effective U.S. nuclear weapons deterrent. The organization also retrieves and stores nuclear materials, fuels the nation’s naval reactors, and performs complementary work for other government and private-sector entities.