Morning Briefing - February 28, 2024
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February 28, 2024

Pantex plant temporarily halts operations, evacuates personnel, due to nearby wildfires

By ExchangeMonitor

Operations at the National Nuclear Security’s Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, were suspended Tuesday evening because of nearby wildfires, but workers were recalled for Wednesday’s shifts.

Several large wildfires are burning north of Amarillo, where the NNSA’s nuclear weapons assembly-and-disassembly hub is located. They include the Smokehouse Creek Fire, which has burned half a million acres, making it the second-largest wildfire in state history, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

The fire is zero percent contained, according to Texas A&M. The entire Texas Panhandle is under a “high” or “very high” fire danger rating, according to the Wildland Fire Assessment System.

Pantex personnel were evacuated on Tuesday evening out of an abundance of caution, a National Nuclear Security Administration spokesperson at agency headquarters in Washington told the Exchange Monitor. Around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Pantex officials decided normal day shift operations would resume on Wednesday “because the fire threat at that time was stable,” the spokesperson said.

Pantex fire personnel created a fire barrier in cooperation with local fire departments, though there was never an immediate fire threat  onsite, the NNSA spokesperson said.

While local news outlets, including the Amarillo Globe-News reported a temporary suspension of operations at the plant, the Pantex website reports normal operation Wednesday morning with no alteration to shift schedules. The site lists normal operations for the day, swing and graveyard shifts at the plant, as of Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

Likewise, an employee hotline on Wednesday morning played a pre-recorded message that “the Pantex plant is open for normal operations. All personnel are to report for duty according to their assigned schedule.”

A Pantex Plant spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for information about the status of operations at the facility. 

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