Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, June 27, 2022

Pantex Turns to Data Virtualization for Nuclear Security 

Pantex Plant, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) facility where nuclear weapons are dismantled or modified for the Department of Defense, has developed a new program designed to secure the weapon product lifecycle information that is sent to engineers and scientists throughout North America.

Called the Product Realization Integrated Digital Enterprise (PRIDE), the NNSA-sponsored program will receive $30 million per year to develop applications specific to weapon dismantlement, surveillance testing, and disposal of both nuclear and non-nuclear material.

Previously, sharing weapon and surveillance information to other NNSA facilities, such as Kansas City plant in Missouri, Sandia Labs in California, and Y-12 in Tennessee, required Pantex to jump hurdles that ranged from converting data to a compatible format and complying with the high security restrictions between NNSA facilities. Because there was no central data repository, project cycles would often face multiple delays while engineers would request and wait to receive their data via email.

So to build the backbone of PRIDE, NNSA used an integrated digital environment with the help of Denodo Technologies that would help them more easily share and secure data across their facilities. Then, Pantex IT architects were tasked with deploying data virtualization for product lifecycle management (PLM) and surveillance data exchange. This virtualization layer meant that engineers wouldn't need to go directly to the PLM system to access this information, and additional licenses and training for some 500 individuals wouldn't be necessary. For surveillance data exchange, virtualization helped engineers to bypass email exchanges and manual entry into NNSA's Maxima Manufacturing Resource Planning system.

On the PLM front, Pantex moved from their existing document management system to a PLM solution from PTC Windchill that would store everything from weapon records to design and manufacturing drawings before eventually being fed into the data warehouse.

Pantex plans to roll out the PRIDE Project in phases over the next two years, and is working to deploy the data virtualization platform on a larger scale. It would span NNSA facilities from California to Tennessee, granted availability of budgets and approvals.

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