NNSS represents at 2018, 2019 Project Leadership Institute

PLI 18 19
Ben Simpson (pictured here, lower right) with the 2018 PLI graduates.

Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) Senior Principal Intelligence Analyst Marlis Breitkreutz, Nonproliferation Program Manager Dr. Alexander Plionis and Senior Principal Project Manager Jeff Biagini have been selected for the prestigious 2019 Project Leadership Institute (PLI). The structured year-long program assembles leaders throughout the Department of Energy (DOE) to build a network of project delivery practitioners.

Breitkreutz will represent NNSS Mission Execution, Biagini for Mission Support and Dr. Plionis for Program Integration. The program is comprised of five in-person instructional sessions, one online session and a cumulative capstone project.

“The most exciting part of this is getting to be exposed to world-class program management,” said Breitkreutz, who, along with Biagini and Dr. Plionis, will join up to 22 other DOE representatives to form the 2019 PLI cohort. “How have they succeeded? How have they failed? How have they made their project management better because of their successes and their failures? It’s exciting to be exposed to so many people who do this,” she added.

In 2018, Senior Principal Engineer Ben Simpson became the first Site employee to complete the PLI program, a partnership between the DOE and Stanford University. “Most programs outside our company are more commercial focused,” said Simpson. “This one appealed to me as a DOE link and being able to go share with people who have similar experiences.”

The PLI was created in 2014, following an analysis by the Contract and Project Management Working Group at the request of former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. The findings determined greater enterprise-wide perspective regarding project management was needed.

Key objectives from the course include strategic thinking and analysis, organizational and general management skills, team building and communications that can be applied to real-time DOE assignments. “The people [who are part of the PLI] are on largescale, complex projects,” said Simpson. “You build an environment and network of best practices or network sharing.”

For more information about the program, visit the PLI website.

Mercury site makes milestone modernization strides

Building 1 groundbreaking
Breaking ground for Building 1 in Mercury.

The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) has paved the way for transformation of its Mercury campus.

Site employees gathered Nov. 28 to mark the official start of construction for Building 1, the first building of a major modernization project in Mercury. The morning’s festivities also commemorated the recently installed 424-kW solar project at NNSS’ fire station No. 1, which holds the credential as the first net-zero energy building within the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (the Nuclear Security Enterprise). Building 1 will also be credited as a net-zero building, utilizing power produced by the new solar array.

“This Site will enable the first of several buildings that make up Mercury modernization,” said NNSS Deputy Site Director and Mission Support and Test Services* Vice President John Benner. “This is a key part of our overall strategy for modernizing the infrastructure of the Site. The design and construction of Building 1 is integral to our accelerated deployment of similar buildings out in the forward area. I want to recognize our NNSA sponsors and NFO (NNSA Nevada Field Office) for continued support of infrastructure modernization across the Site. These projects are absolutely necessary to support the Site users, our workforce and our national security missions.”

Along with building construction and solar-powered energy, the Site’s existing infrastructure will be upgraded, featuring improved underground utilities, roads, solar carports and lighted pedestrian walkways. The renovations are part of the NNSS’ effort to feature High Performance Sustainable Buildings (HPSBs) with LEED Gold and net-zero energy design criteria.

solar ribbon cutting
MSTS Vice President John Benner (center left) and Nevada Field Office Manager Steve Lawrence (center right) cut the ribbon at the fire station No. 1 solar project.

“We’re introducing modern technology in a manner that leverages existing infrastructure to the extent possible,” said NNSS Principal Project Manager Carlos Ramirez. “We’re trying to consolidate not only the buildings, but the infrastructure itself and reduce the size of what is actually needed.”

Built in the early 1950s, Mercury once saw up to 15,000 employees per day, compared to its present-day staff of 3,000. The consolidation concept began when assessing how to progress the campus environment with the NNSS’ future.

“We’ve come a long way with our plans and where we’re going,” NNSS Enterprise Infrastructure Programs Director Joel Leeman said at the event. “In a short period of time, in 2019, you’re going to be inside of a new building.”

Once preparation work is complete, construction of Building 1 is scheduled to begin in January, with employee occupancy in FY2020. The complete campus build-out, scheduled through 2028, includes eight new facilities, an Information Technology hub and future expansion buildings.

*Mission Support and Test Services serves as the management and operating contractor for the NNSS.

NNSA continues Source Physics Experiment series in Nevada


Multiphase campaign uses buried explosives to generate seismic and acoustic signatures similar to those emitted by an underground nuclear detonation

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) recently completed the second underground, chemical explosion in the second phase of the Source Physics Experiment (SPE), which is designed to advance the United States’ ability to detect underground nuclear explosions.

The SPE is a multiphase campaign using buried explosives to generate seismic and acoustic signatures similar to those emitted by an underground nuclear detonation.

“The SPE trials strengthen our nuclear security and continue to provide important data to improve our ability to monitor potential explosions across the globe,” said Dr. Brent K. Park, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.

Research teams from the Nevada National Security Site, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and the University of Nevada-Reno collected data about the unique signatures generated by this experiment using high-resolution accelerometers, seismometers, infrasound sensors, and high-speed video.

A total of four experiments are planned as part of this phase. Seismic data collected from the SPE experiments are made available to researchers around the globe for analysis via the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology website at http://www.iris.edu/hq/.

NNSS, Virginia Tech partner to demonstrate UAS radiation detection capabilities

As the sun rose over the Palanquin Crater at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), scientists and researchers from Virginia Tech and the NNSS’ Remote Sensing Laboratory gathered to perform innovative test flights on a unique Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).

“We’re doing an aerial radiological survey of the Palanquin site, and it’s actually a good use for UAS,” said Paul Guss, an NNSS distinguished scientist.

The Palanquin nuclear test took place at the NNSS in April 1965 as part of the Plowshare Program, leaving behind the perfect venue for these test flights. This area was chosen because the low levels of radiation that remain allow the UAS to gather realistic data. Using this technology will allow data to be safely gathered in the event of a radiological incident.

“If there was a nuclear detonation,” Guss said, “you would have to send people in to get samples. With the UAS, you can determine what the right sites are to go in and get your samples. We understand that, if there was a detonation, we would want to know who did it very quickly.”

This partnership between Virginia Tech and the NNSS will help gather valuable data to aid national security. Andrew Morgan, a pilot from Virginia Tech, provided more insight into this state-of-the-art technology: “We are flying a prototype H3D Apollo radiation detector which uses CZT crystals around and over, and possibly in, the Palanquin Crater to survey the plume and contamination area.”

CZT (cadmium, zinc, telluride) is a semiconductor that can be used to detect radiation. Virginia Tech’s unique system, which has the ability to send two aircraft up at once, was custom built specifically for the NNSS. The system uses one aircraft to direct the other. One is sent directly over the operator, which sends signals to the other aircraft, which makes the measurements. They can control, navigate and send the data right back.

“If you don’t have a device like an aerial system or UAS, then you’re putting people in harm’s way to get that data,” Guss said, “so you’re incurring a health risk to people.”

This important technique will help scientists understand where to go to do their sampling without the risks to personnel.

“It demonstrates a capability for nuclear forensics and attribution we’re establishing here at the NNSS,” Guss said.

NNSS employees celebrate year of giving back

Employees wrapped 2018 with thousands of charitable volunteer hours, dollars and donations given to local community organizations. As part of the Site’s annual giving campaigns, contributions were presented to the Firefighters of Southern Nevada Burn Foundation, Clean the World, U.S. military families, The Salvation Army Angel Tree, Jacob E. Manch Elementary School, Three Square Food Bank, Marine Toys for Tots and Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada.

Highlights from 2018 are featured in the Holiday Wrap-Up video. Thank you to all who support the community during the holiday season and throughout the year.