NNSA project to advance stockpile stewardship reaches key milestone
New diagnostic capability will expand possibilities for study of plutonium
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has approved the conceptual design and cost range for the Advanced Sources and Detectors (ASD) project.
ASD will lead to a more robust stockpile stewardship program by generating high-speed, high-fidelity X-ray images of subcritical experiments to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Subcritical experiments do not produce any nuclear yield.
“This new diagnostic capability will allow scientists to better understand how plutonium reacts under extreme conditions and further our ability to ensure the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent without the need for full-scale underground nuclear testing,” said Dr. Charles P. Verdon, NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs.
The ASD project is a cornerstone of NNSA’s Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments (ECSE) portfolio. ECSE will help ensure the capability, capacity and responsiveness of the Nation’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, as called for in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.
Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading this initiative in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, the Nevada National Security Site, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Based on the conceptual design, the cost of the ASD project is up to $1.1 billion and is expected to be completed in 2025.
Data Center makes grand debut at the NNSS
NNSS employees cut the ribbon to Area 6’s state-of-the-art Modular Data Center (MDC) Jan. 24.
Featuring equipment with a smaller footprint, the MDC is a joint venture between NNSS Procurement, Enterprise Infrastructure Programs and Information Technology that will support Site modernization for years to come.
“It’s a very, very successful project,” said Mission Support Senior Director Ray Alexander. “This is a key facility that will help support the experimentation. We like to celebrate our achievements—specifically, the achievements of our people.”
“The team came up with unique ways to efficiently and effectively ensure we were good stewards of government funds,” said Information Technology Director Chris Rankin. “We’re a team of options. We’re always looking at how can we do things better, faster, more efficient. It’s one team, one mission.”
The facility’s interior features cooling and heat extractors, a moisture control center and fire suppression system. Minimal surface space ensures clutter or waste is kept to a minimum. Overhead wiring allows for improved ventilation. “Everything about this building is remotely monitored – we know what’s happening,” Rankin said.
Thanks to technological advances that make equipment more compact and efficient, the MDC has capacity to support mission expansion along with future IT resource consolidation. Even with the current minimal space used, the existing system has duplicate data boxes to create a stable environment.
“It’s deployed in a manner that uses standards,” said Rankin, adding that components are not older than three to five years and are constantly rotated through new installation, repair and replacement processes for stability and flexibility.
A key feature of the MDC’s design is its scalability. The concept of the structure, used by major technology companies, allows for expansion in the future if space is needed.
“We didn’t want to build a new building,” said Principal Infrastructure Analyst Ron Duplex. “We wanted a modular-type facility that’s dedicated to the data center.”
Clark High School crowned Nevada Science Bowl champions, advances to nationals
Clark High School students reign as back-to-back champions of the Nevada Science Bowl, hosted by the Nevada National Security Site, after winning the regional title Feb. 2.
The students were awarded a $5,000 first prize for their math and science departments and an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the April 25 to 29 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Science Bowl. The Davidson Academy from Reno placed second, and Coronado High School from Henderson took third prize. The top 12 teams received cash prizes for their school’s math and science departments.
Thirty student teams from 25 schools in Nevada and Utah competed in the 28th annual Nevada Science Bowl, answering questions from science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
Each year, more than 15,000 students compete nationally for the opportunity to represent their school at the DOE National Science Bowl.
Sponsors of the 2019 Nevada Science Bowl include the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Field Office (signature sponsor), Mission Support and Test Services LLC, Environmental Management Nevada Program, Bureau of Reclamation, SOC, Navarro, JGMS, and the National Atomic Testing Museum.
For more information about the DOE National Science Bowl, visit: https://science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb.
Nevada Science Bowl to crown new champions Feb. 2
A new team of high school students will be crowned champions of the annual Nevada Science Bowl competition Saturday,
Feb. 2. First-prize titleholders are awarded $5,000 and will advance to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C.,
Now in its 28th year, the competition features 32 teams from 25 high schools in Nevada and Utah. Students answer questions from science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields in a fast-paced format throughout nine rounds. Students prepare for months leading up to the Nevada Science Bowl, hosted by the Nevada National Security Site. The competition heats begin at 7:30 a.m. at Vegas PBS with the grand-prize announcement at approximately 5:30 p.m. The top 12 teams will receive cash prizes for their school’s math and science departments.
Las Vegas’ Clark High School (pictured here) is the reigning titleholder. Each year, more than 15,000 students compete nationally for the opportunity to represent their school at the DOE's National Science Bowl, the largest and most prestigious science competition in the country.
NNSA to conduct aerial radiation assessment survey over Atlanta prior to Super Bowl LIII
The measurement of naturally occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness.
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) will conduct low-altitude helicopter flights over downtown Atlanta and areas in and around Buckhead Jan. 28-29 and Feb. 3, Super Bowl Sunday.
The flyovers are being conducted as part of security operations for Super Bowl LIII and will measure naturally occurring background radiation.
Atlanta residents may see a twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter, which is equipped with radiation-sensing technology and is operated by NNSA’s Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measuring System at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C.
The helicopter will fly in a grid pattern over the areas at 150 feet or higher at a speed of approximately 80 mph. Flyovers will occur only during daylight hours and are estimated to take roughly three hours to complete per area.
The measurement of naturally occurring radiation to establish baseline levels is a normal part of security and emergency preparedness. NNSA is making the public aware of the upcoming flights so that people who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed.
Learn more about the Aerial Measuring System.
NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty returns to the NNSS
The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) hosted the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty Jan. 15 and 16.
Her visit, which included an all-hands briefing with employees and a tour of locations of high importance to national security, marks Gordon-Hagerty’s second visit to the NNSS as Administrator in 11 months.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” she said. “We have a strategic roadmap of where we’re going to be in the next 20 to 50 years, and it’s dependent on places like NNSS to get the work done.”
Gordon-Hagerty emphasized the teamwork that spans headquarters, field offices, laboratories, plants and sites.
“We’re 44,000 people strong in our workforce,” she said. “Everyone contributes to the mission of NNSA.”
Gordon-Hagerty is no stranger to the NNSS, having previously served in the Department of Energy’s Defense Programs as the Director of the Office of Emergency Response, which had oversight of the NNSS’ Remote Sensing Laboratories’ (RSL) emergency response programs.
She brings more than 30 years of national security experience to her roles as NNSA administrator and advisor to Energy Secretary Rick Perry. In addition to her work in the Office of Emergency Response, she has served on the National Security Council staff as the Director of Combating Terrorism; at DOE as Acting Director, Office of Weapons Surety; and was a professional staff member on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. She has also held significant leadership positions in national security in the private sector.
“Our Nation depends on us,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “We’re the only ones who can do what we do at NNSA.”
NNSS represents at 2018, 2019 Project Leadership Institute
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
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.
“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.