NNSS News (October - December 2019)
Elite emergency response agencies conduct counterterrorism training at the Nevada National Security Site
Approaching 250,000 individuals trained, the Nevada National Security Site’s Counterterrorism Operations Support (CTOS) team serves as the nation’s premier training organization for radiological/nuclear prevention and response training.
CTOS is one of seven members in the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium, operated under the National Preparedness Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency. Comprised of web-based classes, mobile deliveries at host locations and on-site NNSS courses, CTOS offers an unprecedented training experience for organizations and agencies nationwide. The program is administered by a diverse training staff, including individuals with first responder, emergency response and military backgrounds.
The Site hosted members of the National Guard Civil Support Team in December at its Phoenix and T-1 locations for exercises that demonstrated how responders establish zones, characterize hazards and operate in a unified incident command structure with other agencies.
“The biggest advantage CTOS has is its size, its strength and its resources,” said CTOS instructor Paul Lunny. “Each group brings its unique perspective of the job. The key is getting all these people who do this work on the same page.”
Past meets present
The Phoenix site is an industrial complex utilized in the early 1960s for Project Pluto, a program that explored development of nuclear-powered ramjet engines. After its closure, the facility began to be used for hands-on training in the early 1970s. Today, it can be safely adapted for different scenarios and disciplines through placement of sealed sources.
T-1 also features a historical connection conducive to present-day training. Low levels of radiation remain in the soil of the 10-acre training area from 1950s testing in addition to radioactive debris from the detonations, which gives participants a realistic perspective of working in a contaminated area.
“It’s all good training because we don’t get a lot of radiation training with large sources like you all have,” said Jeremy Murry with the 46th Civil Support Team, Alabama National Guard, who has completed three training courses at the NNSS. “It’s always good, especially for the new people on the team. Being around the history of it – we were out at the T-1 site where they actually did a blast there and we were actually picking up the radiation there at the site.”
Though training has been offered since 1999, the T-1 area was reconfigured following Sept. 11, 2001, to include city infrastructure. A locomotive, community buildings, vehicles and a Boeing 737 are some of the assets used to simulate real-world situations. Both T-1 and Phoenix maximize trainees’ usage of instruments and response procedures in weapons of mass destruction, radiological dispersal device and improvised nuclear device scenarios.
“The instructors were super knowledgeable, very professional and would explain anything in as much depth as you want them to,” said Amanda Plumer with the 52nd Civil Support Team, Ohio National Guard. “The Site has so many props and so many things you can do with scenarios. It was great. When you think radiation, you’re like, ‘I can’t be around that. I can’t be around there too long.’ They break it down, they give you examples and give you scenarios where you’re actually working around it and you check your dose and you can see it’s not as dangerous as it can be perceived as.”
CTOS’ outreach works to train state, local, territorial and tribal representatives to break down myths surrounding radiation and maximize the number of individuals capable of responding in a real-world situation. These groups include: law enforcement, emergency medical services, healthcare professionals, public safety communications, hazardous material units, search and rescue, and security and safety personnel. With varied clients, the focus remains on how each group supports an integrated emergency response.
“Anybody can be called to do this,” said CTOS instructor John Craft. “Regardless of your duty position, anyone can be engaged and probably will be.”
Scenarios during National Guard Civil Support Team training included working to identify activities in a clandestine laboratory, a traffic incident with a compromised source outside of a vehicle, conducting interior and exterior facility searches, and identifying sources in coordination with a fire chief incident commander. Teams practiced making detections through instrument readings, characterizing the field of energy, locating sources, identifying isotopes, personal protective equipment and decontamination, and communicating findings through the incident command structure throughout the entire process.
“There’s a lot of good training value that comes out of going somewhere that you’ve never been before, getting training, getting out of your element and to put focus on what you’re learning as opposed to your day-to-day operation,” said Riley Turner with the 52nd Civil Support Team, Ohio National Guard. “The radiological sources and instructors were great, very knowledgeable and very seasoned. Normally, we train with more button sources – smaller sources – that aren’t giving off as much radiological energy. Having actual sources and predetermined scenarios where the sources shine through in a certain way directionally was really good.”
Whether conducted remotely or onsite, CTOS continues to offer an unparalleled training environment in support of national security.
“We love getting out and meeting new agencies and building relationships with those agencies,” Turner said. “The NNSS is very good for an area and a common operating picture to grow.”
For more information about CTOS training and availability, offered at no cost to participating organizations, see http://www.ctosnnsa.org/index.htm.
NNSA unveils three new aircraft for nuclear incident response
Aerial Measuring System aircraft features specialized radiation detection systems
The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) unveiled three new aircraft for nuclear incident response at an event at Joint Base Andrews Dec. 18.
Equipped with specialized radiation detection systems, the new King Air 350ER aircraft will be used by NNSA’s Aerial Measuring System (AMS) teams to conduct measurements of air and ground contamination following a nuclear or radiological accident or incident and to conduct baseline surveys for normal levels of radiation in the environment in preparation for major public events.
One of the planes will be based at the Nevada National Security Site’s (NNSS) Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) at Nellis Air Force Base in Southern Nevada, and the other two will be based at the NNSS’ RSL location at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
Visit the NNSS’ YouTube page for video of the aircraft in action: complete video, b-roll.
DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, Associate Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation Jay A. Tilden, and Rep. Ron Estes (Kansas 4th District) delivered remarks at the event.
“AMS is a premier example of the critical work that NNSA does to make our nation and world safer,” Administrator Gordon-Hagerty said. “As part of its dual public safety and national security mission, AMS aircraft frequently support security preparations for high-profile events such as presidential inaugurations, the Super Bowl, Boston Marathon, and other major public events. Although these deployments are not well-known to the public, they’re part of a critical apparatus working behind the scenes to keep the American people safe.”
“The delivery of these aircraft will replace aging equipment to ensure the NNSA can respond to nuclear incidents,” said Congressman Estes (R-Kan.). “I’m especially proud that the hardworking employees at Kansas-based Textron Aviation were an essential part of fulfilling that goal. From general aviation to protecting national security, the significant impact of our community's aerospace manufacturing industry continues to grow.”
The new aircraft replace aging assets and improve AMS’ reliability and range in providing rapid, wide-area assessments of radiological or nuclear events anywhere in the continental United States.
AMS is a key component of the Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST), which encompasses all DOE/NNSA nuclear incident response assets. Other elements within NEST include:
- Radiological Assistance Program (RAP), which provides assistance for incidents involving radioactive materials
- Accident Response Group (ARG), which responds to any accident involving a U.S. nuclear weapon
- The Joint Technical Operations Team and National Search Task Force, which respond to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) device missions.
- National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), which provides real-time computer models showing the atmospheric transport of hazardous materials
- The DOE component of the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center (FRMAC), which responds to major radiological public health emergencies.
Click here to learn more about AMS.
Nevada National Security Site names chief scientist to lead technical capabilities with national laboratories, develop university opportunities
The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) has named Dr. Jose O. Sinibaldi as chief scientist and executive leader for NNSS science, technology, research and development programs.
Sinibaldi will cultivate the strategic plan for the Site-Directed Research and Development program and coordinate the NNSS’ future technical capabilities with Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Sandia National Laboratories. In his role, he will also help build a synergistic vision between the NNSS and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the University of Nevada, Reno. Additionally, he will serve as a member of the UNLV College of Sciences Advisory Board.
“We want to enhance our existing interactions, including our internship program and K-12 support programs, such as the Tech Trekker, as well as provide guidance for the College of Sciences that aligns with the NNSS mission,” Sinibaldi said.
The approach will be modeled after the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Experimental Science’s Stewardship Science Academic Alliances Program, which supports state-of-the-art research at U.S. academic institutions of relevance to the Stockpile Stewardship Program mission. (Stockpile Stewardship is one of the NNSS’ mission programs.)
“We want to connect our staff members with students as mentors with the idea that those students will one day support the NNSA mission,” Sinibaldi said. “We want to provide what students cannot get from other companies.”
Sinibaldi previously worked at LLNL for nine years, leading the development of experimental diagnostics for hydrodynamic implosions and subcritical experiments. Prior to this role, Sinibaldi served as a research faculty member at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he advised 67 graduate students in the areas of experimental shock physics and advanced propulsion systems as applied to research and development projects for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Sinibaldi holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in engineering from the Cooper Union. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and technical reports. He has presented numerous lectures and keynote addresses to various professional and international scientific organizations.
Nevada National Security Site employees receive highest Department of Energy internal recognition
Twenty-eight Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) employees have been selected as recipients of the prestigious Secretary’s Honor Awards, the Department of Energy’s highest form of internal employee recognition. The awards recognize notable career dedication and outstanding service to the Department of Energy and the American public during the past year. Recipients are selected by the Secretary of Energy.
The team will receive the honor for their work supporting the National Nuclear Security Administration Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and deployment of the NNSS Remote Sensing Laboratory Emergency Communications Network (ECN). The Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation works globally to prevent state and non-state actors from developing nuclear weapons or acquiring weapons-usable nuclear or radiological materials, equipment, technology and expertise. The ECN supports DOE Emergency Management, Emergency Response and International Emergency Management Cooperation missions through world-class networks and emergency operation centers worldwide.
“The joint efforts between Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and the Emergency Communications Network team illustrate the NNSS’ worldwide capabilities in support of national security,” said National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Field Office Manager Steven J. Lawrence. “The dedication of the 28 men and women being honored exemplifies our commitment to nonproliferation, emergency management and response.”
DOE Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will present the 2018 awards at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19, at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Nevada National Security Site video honors veterans who continue to serve
More than 400 NNSS employees committed their lives to our freedom in the U.S. military. Join us in thanking our heroes in honor of Veterans Day. To all who have served and currently serve:
Nevada National Security Site named as finalist in R&D 100 Awards
The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) was named a finalist in the 2019 R&D 100 Awards for its breakthrough Falcon Plasma Focus (FPF) device, led by NNSS Senior Engineer Brady Gall.
Dense Plasma Focus (DPF) systems create short, high-intensity neutron pulses, making them capable of detecting the presence of special nuclear material that may be hidden or inaccessible by visual inspection. However, DPF systems at the NNSS are large, stationary platforms. Developed by Gall, NNSS Technologist Joseph Bellow, Engineer Michael Heika and Master Technologist Michael Blasco, the FPF model is a compact, mobile version of the technology that can be easily transported and operated.
“With this recognition, I hope that our portable FPF technology will receive continued support to advance plasma science and nuclear physics research, create new business opportunities and, most importantly, serve our nation as a reliable non-proliferation capability,” Gall said.
The FPF represents a multi-year effort to utilize the technology for NNSS Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation missions and involves partnerships with scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL); Sandia National Laboratories; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Powder River Geophysical; Alameda Applied Sciences; and Sigma Science/Keystone Global Engineering and Technology, Inc.
The R&D 100 Awards will take place Dec. 5, during the R&D 100 conference in San Francisco. The NNSS has previously won six R&D 100 awards for its 2018 Silicon Strip Cosmic Muon Detectors, 2017 Geometrically Enhanced Photocathodes, 2013 KiloPower with LANL, 2012 Multiplexed Photonic Doppler Velocimeter, 2010 Movies of eXtreme Imaging Experiments (MOXIE) with LANL and 2009 High-Resolution Holography Lens entries. NNSS was also a finalist for its Argus Fisheye Probe in 2015.
Groundwater Open House offers public glimpse into NNSS environmental activities
On October 17, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program hosted the 8th Groundwater Open House at the Beatty Community Center in Beatty, Nevada. The public event provided community members information about ongoing groundwater characterization and long-term monitoring activities at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The EM Nevada Program team discussed the history, successes and long-term monitoring work being performed at the NNSS and how these ongoing efforts continue to keep the public safe from groundwater contaminated by historical underground nuclear testing.
Information provided at the Open House highlighted results of scientific investigations showing that groundwater in the area is safe, promoted long-term monitoring activities and shared results of sampling at Pahute Mesa, which is a groundwater characterization area located in the northwest portion of the NNSS. In addition, Nye County was on hand to discuss groundwater sampling activities conducted in the vicinity of Beatty, Lathrop Wells and Amargosa Valley. Results of Nye County sampling activities continue to show that the groundwater in the area is not contaminated from historic underground nuclear testing. Rounding out the team of experts committed to sharing their decades of knowledge on the NNSS and groundwater were representatives from the Desert Research Institute (DRI); Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS); National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Field Office; Navarro; Nevada Division of Environmental Protection; and U.S. Geological Survey.
Special visitors at the Groundwater Open House were Beatty Girl Scout Troop 775, who were enthralled during a groundwater demonstration by Navarro hydrologist, Jeff Wurtz. Troop leader, Carlotta Marinaro of Beatty, was excited for her troop to talk with the experts and view the groundwater video and posters, stating that it’s “good for them to learn about the environment and geology of their community, and to speak directly to the scientists who study it.”
The EM Nevada Program prioritizes transparent communications with communities neighboring the NNSS, particularly on the safety of the groundwater. This includes providing information that is published annually in the NNSS Environmental Report, which contains results of sampling conducted by the EM Nevada Program, DRI, MSTS and Nye County. Informing our neighbors and inspiring the next generation to look at the environment around them in new ways is one of the many reasons why timely, transparent communication continues to be a vital and important part of the EM Nevada Program.
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board (NSSAB) 2019 year in review
NSSAB works hard in fiscal year 2019 to include providing EM Nevada Program 10 recommendations!
The dedicated volunteers on the NSSAB had a very productive fiscal year (FY) 2019, hosting six public meetings in Nevada – four in Las Vegas, one in Amargosa Valley and one in Pahrump. During the course of these meetings, the NSSAB tackled multiple tasks related to groundwater, budget and radioactive waste management. As a result of their efforts, the NSSAB provided 10 recommendations to the DOE’s Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program.
The path to providing these educated recommendations involved many hours of briefings by subject matter experts and follow-up discussion by the Board. In addition, members also attended numerous meetings and conferences, such as the EM National Cleanup Workshop, RadWaste Summit, Devils Hole Workshop (groundwater conference) and Low-Level Waste Stakeholders Forum. They also visited/toured the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and other DOE cleanup sites.
The recommendations submitted to the EM Nevada Program provide invaluable insight into the public’s priorities on how environmental corrective actions and waste management activities are performed, and are considered when developing short-term and long-term plans for the Program. The 10 recommendations submitted by the NSSAB in FY 2019 include the following:
- Proposed ways to enhance the risk-informed scheduling process for the Radioactive Waste Acceptance Program.
- Ranked the Pahute Mesa groundwater corrective action area as the top funding priority, followed by a tie between Radioactive Waste Management Disposal Operations and Post-Closure Monitoring activities.
- Endorsed DOE’s plan for utilizing a more pragmatic approach for closure of the Pahute Mesa groundwater characterization area.
- Ranked the main objectives for Pahute Mesa groundwater well sampling as: (1) expand knowledge of the flow system, (2) refine monitoring network, and (3) support modeling.
- Recommended the EM Nevada Program continue conducting visual verifications of generators that ship and dispose waste at the NNSS.
Closing out FY 2019 activities at the September meeting, the NSSAB established their work plan for FY 2020. And to kick off the new fiscal year, the NSSAB visited the NNSS with a focus on sites related to items they will provide recommendations on in the upcoming year. More information on the NSSAB is available online at www.nnss.gov/nssab/.
What is the NSSAB?
The NSSAB is one of eight federally-chartered DOE advisory boards and is comprised of volunteer members from urban and rural communities in southern Nevada and bordering California that are located near the NNSS. Members meet to study and discuss DOE EM Nevada Program activities and provide recommendations from a community perspective on radioactive waste management/ disposal and transportation activities, the effects of historic nuclear testing on the groundwater, and other environmental corrective actions..
EM Nevada Program expects office move to save at least $3.2 million
All 97 employees of the EM Nevada Program and environmental program services contractor Navarro recently relocated to an energy-efficient office building, saving an estimated $3.2 million or more over the next 10 years and shrinking their workplace footprint by 25,000 square feet.
“What really stood out to me was how quickly the team got together and made this move happen,” EM Nevada Program Operations Support Deputy Program Manager Catherine Hampton said. “It was less than seven months from the day we signed the lease to the day we moved in. And to accomplish what we did in that short timeframe was quite an incredible feat.”
The EM Nevada Program may continue to lower costs by further reducing its space at the Molasky Corporate Center as the program completes its remaining cleanup mission. The EM Nevada Program is currently using about 15,000 square feet of space at the center, which is also home to offices of the Internal Revenue Service and Secret Service.
In a key cost-saving initiative, the EM Nevada Program used existing floorplans at the center instead of configuring new workplace spaces, repurposed sound absorption features, and relocated energy-efficient lighting from its previous location.
Safety was the top priority of move-in day. With more than 800 boxes, 100 bins, computers, printers, and other assorted equipment, staff members worked with multiple vendors to ensure a successful transition to the new location with no incidents or injuries.
For more information on the EM Nevada Program, click here.
Seven Defense Programs Awards of Excellence presented to the NNSS
The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) is a proud recipient of seven National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Programs Awards of Excellence.
The Award of Excellence is presented to individuals and teams in the NNSA enterprise who make significant achievements in safety, quality, productivity, cost savings, creativity, enhanced surety and stockpile stewardship capabilities. Included in the recognition for the 2018 calendar year is the Exceptional Achievement Award, which acknowledges extraordinary accomplishments in the nuclear weapons lifecycle process that utilize stockpile stewardship capabilities to further promote and advance national security objectives. The NNSS Nuclear Material Team received the NNSA Exceptional Achievement Award accolade.
"Special note of thanks to all of you who keep the mission going every day," said Assistant Deputy Administrator for Major Modernization Programs in the NNSA Defense Programs Office Mike Thompson. "Because of the legacy and heritage that you are all carrying on so well, we’re now in a position where, thankfully, the workload is ramping up. The work you are doing downhole in U1a and at all the other key facilities provides very important data that we’re anxious to get our hands on—the labs are anxious so we can move forward with the program of work we’ve got ahead of us. It’s a big deal."
The seven award-winning NNSS teams, comprised of more than 500 employees, are the Device Assembly Facility Argus Installation-Perimeter Protection Subproject Integrated Project Team, Electronic Security Systems Team, Dual-Imaging Radiographic Enhancement Team, Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research Team, Dry Alluvium Geology-2 Emplacement and Stemming Team, Sierra Nevada-Lamarck Fielding Team and the NNSS Nuclear Material Team.
STEM in action: NNSS contractor presents University of Nevada-Las Vegas $33,000 grant
Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) management and operating contractor Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS) awarded a $33,000 grant to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) to propel science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for local students.
The backing will help fund Rebel Science Camp, a program that allows 1,100 fifth-grade students from Clark County School District Title I schools to explore how science, technology, engineering and mathematics play into real-world applications through hands-on activities. The camp is facilitated by UNLV College of Sciences undergraduate students as part of their credit requirements.
Founded in 2017, Rebel Science Camp has grown each progressive year. The grant will enable more students to experience experiments offered through the program, which include building an aquifer, rock and mineral studies, color chromatography and climate change lessons.
“This really helps us expand the camp,” said UNLV Associate Professor-in-Residence Alison Sloat. “In the past, we’ve only been able to have six days of camp in the spring, and now we’re able to have eight. Before they come to camp, 51 percent of students want to be a scientist. After camp, it’s 68 percent. Their science knowledge is greatly increased.”
Rebel Science Camp is also a proponent for encouraging students to pursue a higher education. Following camp, 98 percent of participants report wanting to attend college.
“As the largest technology-based employer in Southern Nevada, MSTS is thrilled to help Clark County students explore infinite possibilities through STEM,” said MSTS President Mark Martinez. “These could be the future leaders of science-based industries, including the NNSS. We’re excited be a part of their introduction to incredible careers.”
Reaching for the Stars: Nevada National Security Site achieves safety and health excellence
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) recently recognized two Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) contractors.
NNSS management and operating contractor, Mission Support and Test Services, received the coveted Star of Excellence during the DOE-VPP workshop in New Orleans. Presented by the VPP Participants Association, the workshop is a component of the national symposium and is held annually.
The Star of Excellence is awarded to DOE contractors who achieve injury, illness and lost workday rates at least 75 percent below the Bureau of Labor Statistics national average for their industry code, meet annual DOE VPP goals and demonstrate strong involvement in the VPP Participants Association, VPP mentoring and outreach.
Also recognized during the workshop was SOC, the NNSS security protective force contractor. SOC was awarded the Superior Star for achieving injury, illness and lost workday rates at least 50 percent below the national average and demonstrating significant involvement in mentoring and outreach.
“It’s an honor to be recognized as a site that puts employee safety and health first,” says Nevada Field Office Manager Steve Lawrence. “We look forward to continued excellence in these areas as we remain committed to the DOE Voluntary Protection Program.”
The DOE-VPP promotes safety and health excellence through cooperative efforts among labor, management and government at the DOE contractor sites. DOE has also formed partnerships with other federal agencies and the private sector for both advancing and sharing its VPP experiences and preparing for program challenges in the next century.
The DOE-VPP has three levels of recognition: STAR, MERIT and DEMONSTRATION. Contractors whose programs meet the requirements for outstanding safety and health programs receive STAR recognition, the highest achievement level.
Nevada National Security Site releases 2018 environmental report
The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) released its annual environmental report for 2018, now available online at http://www.nnss.gov/pages/resources/library/NNSSER.html.
The 2018 NNSS Environmental Report provides the results of environmental monitoring and compliance related to all programs and activities conducted in and around the NNSS to protect the environment and the public.
“The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Nevada Field Office (NFO) presents this environmental report to summarize actions taken in 2018 to protect the environment and the public while achieving our mission goals,” said NNSA NFO Manager Steve Lawrence. “This report is a key component in our efforts to keep the public informed of environmental conditions at the NNSS and its support facilities in Las Vegas.”
Contents in the report include status and activities for environmental compliance and stewardship, radiological monitoring of groundwater and air, endangered species protection, cultural resources, outreach and more.