A new 20,000-square-foot high-explosives fabrication facility at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Pantex Plant should be up and running by January 2024.

Pantex broke ground on the new Advanced Fabrication Facility in Amarillo, Texas, the week of March 11 and was scheduled to move into the building in late 2023, said Jason Bohne, spokesman for Consolidated Nuclear Security, management and operations contractor for Pantex and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. Operations at the new facility should begin the following January.

“The Advanced Fabrication Facility (AFF) at Pantex will provide the clean working environment needed to maintain machining tolerances required for operations, allow for improvements in operations and efficiency, and free up much-needed footprint to execute the high explosives mission work,” Bohne wrote in an email. “AFF’s estimated construction completion timeframe is October 2023, and it is anticipated to be operational in January of 2024. As an industrial facility rather than [a] nuclear or explosives facility, the transition of AFF from construction to operations is expected to occur quickly.”

High explosive machining operations will be consolidated into AFF from a World War II-era building and one built during the Cold War. Once operational in 2024, the facility should restore high explosive machining capacity within the NNSA.

“While our facilities primarily serve to bolster our science and manufacturing capabilities, they are also an excellent tool for assisting and improving our most important asset, our workforce,” NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby said in a recent press release about the AFF’s groundbreaking. “The AFF will help recruit and retain the next generation of workers and enhance Pantex’s role in the enterprise as the High Explosives Center of Excellence.”

The NNSA will use Pantex’s high-explosive production operation in all of its weapons programs. Capabilities will include synthesis, formulation, pressing, machining and assembly as well as chemical, mechanical, and performance testing, according to the agency.