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The Tradition of Innovation at NNSY: Keeping the Workforce Safe Using NanoSeptic Technology to Fight COVID-19

By Allison Conti, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs Specialist | Aug. 11, 2020

NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. —

Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) has a long and storied tradition of utilizing innovative technology to support its mission and keep its workforce safe. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has strengthened the shipyard’s ongoing commitment to innovation as it seeks new ways to keep personnel safe while getting ships back to the Fleet on time. The newest invention to make its way through the gates of NNSY: NanoSeptic technology.

NanoSeptic technology kills pathogens using a photocatalytic reaction with embedded titanium dioxide nanoparticles. In plain language, it can provide a self-disinfecting surface for high traffic areas by using UV light. The technology uses a septic coating on self-adhesive plastic sheets which self-cleans every time it is touched.

According to Code 2310.4 (Ventilation Support) Branch Head Rob Harrington, “NanoSeptic technology can provide a self-disinfecting surface for high traffic areas that will protect NNSY employees from the spread of COVID-19.” Harrington added the supplier of this technology specified that the NanoSeptic sheets can last for over three months with minimal cleaning and maintenance.

The technology has been researched by NNSY’s Reactor Engineering Division (Code 2310) and championed by its Nuclear Engineering and Planning Department (Code 2300) Management as NNSY has rigorously and relentlessly pursued ways to keep its employees and their families safe. Harrington said, “We are well into the process of implementation on a trial basis.”

Since NanoSeptic technology is so new, research is still being conducted on the technology. To date, the technology has not been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO); however, those involved with the project feel positive about the future of the technology. Harrington said, “There are virtually no safety concerns and we have engaged with Code 106 (NNSY’s Occupational Safety, Health, and Environment Office) to ensure there are no safety concerns for the shipyard. Thus far, Code 106 is optimistic.” Though the CDC recently clarified that surfaces are not the primary way that COVID-19 can be spread, the NanoSeptic efforts help ensure employee health while highlighting NNSY’s diligence and commitment to workplace safety.

The project has been a team effort between Code 2310.4 and NNSY’s Supply Department (Code 500). Key personnel involved in the effort include Code 2310 Division Head Mike Kwiatkowski, Code 2310.4 Engineer Cynthia Raines and Code 2310.2 Engineer Ben Campbell, Code 500’s Mark Ragsdale, along with Harrington. It is the third project that Code 2310 has implemented to promote workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The others include development of a disinfecting Nuclear Standard Instruction (NSI), the use of hydrogen peroxide for disinfecting cognizant nuclear spaces, and the possible use of ultraviolet light (UVC) technology.

The NanoSeptic project and the efforts that predated it are an example of NNSY’s C.O.R.E. values in action, said Harrington. “It demonstrates that we care about our workforce and that we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to keep NNSY safe.”

In a recent message, Commander of Naval Sea System Command, Vice Admiral Bill Galinis said, “Our Shipyards showed the ingenuity required to get the job done in difficult times. From the shop floor to Code 100, you led the way to protect your coworkers.”

The health and safety of the workforce remains the top priority and NanoSeptic technology is just one innovative example of how shipyard employees are working diligently every day to help minimize the spread while maximizing the mission.