NNSS News (October - December 2022)

screenshot of virtual Science Bowl winners in squares

NNSS 2022 YEAR IN REVIEW: Looking back on some of this year’s highlights

NNSS hosts 31st annual Nevada Science Bowl, virtual for second time

On Feb. 5, the NNSS virtually hosted more than 100 students in the 31st Annual Nevada Science Bowl. For the third year in a row, Davidson Academy earned first place and the opportunity to represent Nevada at the Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl.

Read more about this year’s event.

Dr. Marylesa Howard wins 2022 Sidney D. Drell Science & Technology Award

NNSS’ Dr. Marylesa Howard, a manager in Diagnostics Research and Material Studies, won the 2022 Sidney D. Drell Science & Technology Award. The annual award recognizes one individual who exemplifies excellence in the intelligence, homeland security and national security communities.

Marylesa Howard in pink hard hat, safety glasses and black shirt
Marylesa Howard

Read more about this recognition.

MSTS team wins prestigious Pioneer Award for Excellence

The Business Operations unit of Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS), the NNSS’ management and operating contractor, earned the Pioneer Award for Excellence, the second highest honor granted by the Southwest Alliance for Excellence (SWAE).

Read more about this prestigious recognition.

Site Occupational Medical Director recognized as Health Care Headliner

In February, NNSS Site Occupational Medical Director Dr. Alex Malone was recognized by local business publication Vegas INC as one of its 2022 Health Care Headliners, in the Community Outreach category.

To read Malone’s story, leave the NNSS’ website and visit Vegas INC’s website.

NNSS teams recognized with NNSA Defense Programs Awards of Excellence

NNSA recognized 10 NNSS teams with Defense Programs Awards of Excellence March 15. Adding further prestige to the honors, NNSA additionally awarded an Exceptional Achievement merit to six NNSS teams. More than 170 federal, contractor and National Laboratory personnel were recognized for their contributions to various Defense Programs projects.

Read more about the award.

NNSS supports execution of Miramar at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The NNSS supported the execution of Miramar on April 5 at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Site 300 facility, delivering diagnostic, analysis and operational support. All five first- and second-tier diagnostics delivered excellent data. An extensive collaboration across LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment and the NNSS, Miramar is a major milestone in an upcoming subcritical experiment series, named “Nimble.”

Read more about Miramar.

large room with multiple people getting an exercise briefing
Cobalt Magnet 22 Full-Scale Consequence Management Exercise

NNSS joins federal, state, local partners for Cobalt Magnet 22 radiological incident exercise

The NNSS joined more than 30 local, state and federal agencies May 16-20 to participate in the Cobalt Magnet 22 exercise in Austin, Texas. Led by NNSA, the exercise was a high-level drill designed to train the agencies to coordinate responses during, and ensure preparedness against, radiological threats. The exercise scenario simulated a radiological attack on the city of Austin, prompting response personnel to practice protecting public health and safety, providing emergency relief to affected populations, and restoring essential services at various locations throughout the city.

Read more about the exercise.

NNSS welcomes more than 100 students in fourth annual Student Program

The NNSS’ 2022 Student Program provided 106 students—a 100% increase from 2021—with internships, either virtually or in-person.

Nearly half of the participating student interns attend Nevada schools, including the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; the University of Nevada, Reno; the College of Southern Nevada; and Touro University. The remaining students represented more than 20 states throughout the United States.

MSTS achieves EVMS certification

In June, MSTS achieved Earned Value Management System (EVMS) certification, which will enable U1a Complex Enhancement Project (UCEP) leaders to make high-quality decisions surrounding cost, schedule, and risk.

While implementing an EVMS is a contract requirement for all NNSS work, certification of the system by the DOE is required on capital line item projects exceeding $100 million, such as UCEP.

“The certification process is quite rigorous and is designed to stress a site’s system to the limits, expose areas that need improvement and ensure appropriate controls are implemented to maintain cost and schedule performance,” said NNSS Program Integration Office Director Jon LeMarr. “Implementation assures higher credibility for the government that taxpayer-funded projects are delivered with best value.”

The credibility achieved through certification opens the door for UCEP to move from the planning phase to the execution phase, and the next round of funding to make it happen. Read more about Earned Value Management.

Read more about UCEP at the following stories:

Veolia trains with hazardous chemicals at one-of-a-kind NNSS facility
Training prepares students to fight accidental spills involving toxic materials

students in protective suits spraying a powder-like substance from hoses
Fuming acid response training at the Site

As part of a two-week, intensive training course in June, employees of Veolia trained at the NNSS’ Nonproliferation Test and Evaluation Complex (NPTEC), the largest facility for open-air testing of hazardous materials and biological simulants in the world. (All projects are conducted within environmental and safety regulations.)

Due to the nature of materials used by Veolia, spills in transit or at production facilities possess a high potential to produce a massive vapor cloud. Such spills could endanger employees who work with the chemicals, and could pose a risk to the broader public. The topography, wind predictability and location of NPTEC offers partners like Veolia a secure, controlled, and realistic environment for training to mitigate those risks.

“We’ve shown over the years that the training at the NNSS is highly effective in reducing the severity of unintended releases,” said Veolia Operations Chief Brad Van Scoik. He said the company has used the services at NPTEC every two to three years since 1992.

Read more about this work.

black drone in flight over desert
An Anduril Ghost drone in flight

Private defense company to test leading-edge technologies at the NNSS

Privately owned defense products company Anduril is on the front line of a new generation of defense contractors. Its focus is on achieving advances in software engineering and computing rather than, say, shipbuilding or aircraft design. To achieve these breakthroughs, Anduril has some unique requirements for airspace testing—requirements that they will meet through an agreement with the NNSS.

As part of this new NNSS-Anduril partnership, NNSS has made available land and airspace for Anduril research and development and testing. In addition to Anduril, the NNSS hosts a number of other national security partners from the federal government and the private sector.

Read more about this work.

NNSS improves buildings’ energy efficiency

In July, the NNSS obtained High Performance Sustainable Building (HPSB) certification for the Mercury Dorms and Buildings 23-531, 23-532 and 23-535, improving the NNSS’ portfolio with energy-efficient facilities and focusing further on sustainable design principles.

1,000 feet below the Earth’s surface, NNSS hits construction milestone

In late July, NNSS leadership gathered with more than 200 craft workers, construction workers and facility support staff to mark the end of the highly successful first phase of UCEP—UCEP 10—and formally kick off the next phase, UCEP 20.

A $560 million construction project, UCEP 20 will install the infrastructure that will support the expansion of underground subcritical experiments at U1a. Estimated to take about three years, it will involve hundreds of employees working both day and night shifts, amounting to 20 hours a day. UCEP 10—a $50 million construction project—came in $3 million under budget and one year ahead of schedule.

In recent years, MSTS leadership and employees have helped to grow the NNSS’ annual budget from $480 million to $920 million. UCEP has been a major factor in the additional investments.

Read more about this milestone or watch our video.

MSTS earns five-year contract extension

NNSA announced it will exercise Option Terms 1 through 5 of its contract with MSTS, which took over as the NNSS’ management and operating contractor on Dec. 1, 2017.

group of MSTS employees in red shirts receive award in ballroom
MSTS representatives receive the Star of Excellence plaque from DOE's Office of Worker Safety and Health Assistance Director Brad Davy.

Read more about NNSA's contract extension with MSTS.

MSTS receives DOE Star of Excellence

MSTS has been awarded the DOE Voluntary Protection Program (DOE-VPP) Star of Excellence, the highest level of achievement awarded by DOE-VPP. The award recognizes accomplishments at all MSTS-managed sites and facilities.

“No matter where in the country you are, if you’re part of MSTS, that commitment to excellence is there,” said Environmental, Safety and Health Director Stacey Alderson, “and it shows.”

Read the full article on MSTS’ VPP recognition.

Learn more about DOE-VPP and the Star of Excellence award.

NNSS receives EPEAT Purchaser Award for sustainability in IT

gold EPEAT plaque on desk in front of computer monitors

The NNSS was recognized by the Global Electronics Council (GEC) as a 2022 EPEAT Purchaser Award winner.

The EPEAT Purchaser Award recognizes organizations for excellence in sustainable procurement of electronic equipment identified as more energy efficient, less toxic, longer lasting and easier to recycle than products that do not meet EPEAT criteria, while also addressing labor and human rights issues along the entire supply chain.

GEC is a non-profit organization that manages the EPEAT ecolabel. Read more on the NNSS’ recognition.

NNSS Machine Shop addresses niche need in the Nuclear Security Enterprise

Late last year, the NNSS collaborated with Pantex Plant on special tooling for NNSA’s W80-4 Life Extension Program. As a result of the NNSS Machine Shop’s successful delivery of the requisite tooling, the NNSS fulfilled approximately $2 million in new work in 2022 and received additional orders from National Weapons Laboratories collectively resulting in an additional $5.3 million in work in support of NNSA’s Weapon Modernization program.

Amber Guckes in gray jacket standing behind table with three detectors on it
Dr. Amber Guckes is pictured with gamma ray detectors at the NNSS.

NNSS delivers seven fully assembled gamma ray detectors

The NNSS completed a Level 2 Milestone—an important or critical event and/or activity that must occur in a project cycle to achieve the project objective(s)—by delivering seven fully assembled gamma ray detectors.

This is a critical first step toward creating a gamma ray detector “wall” 1,000 feet underground at the NNSS’ U1a facility. Upon completion, the “wall” will measure 3 meters in diameter and comprise 151 detectors, which will be used as part of future Neutron-Diagnosed Subcritical Experiments (NDSE) work.

As Cygnus machine approaches 5,000 shots, NNSS completes refurbishment

When the Cygnus dual axis X-ray machine was originally put to work underground at the NNSS’ U1a facility in 2004, it was only expected to be in service for about two years and a few hundred shots (essentially, a single series of subcritical experiments). Its high-resolution X-rays taken 1,000 feet under the desert were so successful, however, that it’s become the workhorse supporting stockpile stewardship initiatives ever since.

silver and blue Cygnus dual axis X-ray machine underground at U1a, two men in hard hats in background
Cygnus machine underground at U1a, pictured in 2005.

The NNSS completed refurbishment of the Cygnus machine this year, significantly increasing the lifespan and efficiency of the Cygnus source, which is approaching 5,000 shots and has been the sole U.S. radiographic capability for shock waves studies involving plutonium.

Read more about Cygnus in the NNSS’ U1a fact sheet.

NNSS supports JASPER enhancements

The NNSS supported qualification testing for the Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (JASPER) facility 40mm ultrafast closure valve system (UCVS) at the Big Explosives Experimental Facility (BEEF), a critical part to the development of a 40mm projectile and target capability for JASPER. The 40mm capability will allow for more target real estate for diagnostics than what is available in a 28mm configuration, a requirement for future actinide experiments. Qualification of the new 40mm UCVS is important for bringing new capabilities online at JASPER and allowing use of the same UCVS for both launch tube diameters, which is beneficial in controlling the cost of fielding shots.

NNSS expands satellite coverage for international nuclear/radiological emergency communications

The NNSS continued to occupy a place on the world stage with the Emergency Communications Network (ECN) Program. As the program grows, so does its bandwidth and international coverage. In April and October, the program supported NNSA’s NA-80 Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation exercises in Asia by providing deployed responders, Mobile ECN kits, field training, and Network Operations Center reachback. In May and August, the program provided the same deployed support to NNSA’s NA-232 Office of Nuclear Material Removal exercises in Europe. They also provided real-world support to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve from June through November during hurricane season. The DOE and NNSA rely on the ECN Program satellite capability and highly trained emergency responders to facilitate these global events.

“ECN is one of the best teams in government,” said NNSA Chief Information Officer James Wolff, who visited the NNSS’ ECN office earlier this year.

In addition to technical support for exercises and readiness posture for real-world events, the program also maintains rigorous cybersecurity oversight of its network. In August, the ECN Program passed the Command Cyber Readiness Inspection Site Assistance Visit on its first attempt. Fewer than 10% of testers pass the first time. The achievement is a major step toward establishing interconnectivity for classified communications with other government agency mission partners: a key mission requirement for DOE/NNSA responders.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 by the numbers
*The NNSS’ FY22 runs from Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022

Check out the impressive numbers the NNSS achieved in the article below.

NNSS Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 by the numbers

*The NNSS’ FY22 runs from Oct. 1, 2021 through Sept. 30, 2022

a power substation pictured at the Site
Upgraded Frenchman Flat Subsation

Substation upgrade

In December of 2021, the NNSS completed several important upgrades to the Frenchman Flat Substation, improving power system reliability in support of mission work, progressing the broader NNSS power modernization strategy, and greatly extending substation operation.

The completion milestone was achieved two weeks ahead of schedule and under budget, enabled by application of the NNSS Project Delivery Initiative, which is driving improvements to project development and execution across the NNSS. Successful execution of the project was specifically identified as a critical commitment on NNSA’s NA-50 Office of Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations (now the NA-90 Office of Infrastructure) FY22 Make It Happen List.

These improvements will greatly extend substation operation, improve reliability of our power system to support missions, and progress the broader NNSS power modernization strategy.

Record safety performance

Despite challenges associated with oscillating pandemic conditions and expanding NNSS work, the NNSS’ management and operating contractor, Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS), ended FY22 Sept. 30 with a record safety performance: a TRIR [total recordable incident rate] of 0.35 and a DART [days away, restricted or transferred] rate of 0.08. These rates are well below the average 2021 NNSA TRIR of 1.2 and DART rate of 0.66. Additionally, the MSTS DART rate is at an all-time low for the life of the contract and the past 13 years of the NNSS.

Level 2 Milestones

The NNSS in FY22 completed 24 Level 2 Milestones—important or critical events and/or activities that must occur in a project cycle to achieve the project objective(s).

Protecting the public

pilot inside helicopter over looking Indianapolis 500 track
The Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measuring System team surveys the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The NNSS’ Remote Sensing Laboratory aided in protecting the public through aerial and ground radiological monitoring during 10 events garnering national attention:

  • Las Vegas New Year’s Eve
  • Rose Bowl
  • Super Bowl LVI
  • State of the Union Address
  • Boston Marathon
  • Washington, D.C. Independence Day Festivities
  • 9th Summit of the Americas
  • Indianapolis 500
  • World Games
  • United Nations General Assembly

The leadership, operational support and data analyses the NNSS provides for these events keep the nation safe from potential radiological events and provide critical subject matter expertise and continuity for National Nuclear Security Administration Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) missions.

Diversity & Inclusion

The NNSS’ seven affinity groups focused on awareness, recruitment, retention, networking and mentorship, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach and workforce inclusiveness.

Site-Directed Research and Development

NNSS’ SDRD program funded 39 exploratory research projects and 16 feasibility studies. The team also published 30 journal publications.

Counter Terrorism Operations Support (CTOS)

three side-by-side photos of personnel scanning stadium seats, the back of a man wearing a Boston Fire shirt, and multiple people sitting in a classroom with a checkered rug and TV screen on the wall
CTOS training in the classroom and the field

NNSS’ CTOS program in FY22 trained 13,647 first responders, for an all-time total of 286,746 certificates. CTOS develops and delivers training for emergency responders to take immediate, decisive action to respond to terrorist use of radiological or nuclear weapons of mass destruction, such as radiological dispersal devices and improvised nuclear devices.

Environmental management

The NNSS securely disposed more than 635,000 cubic feet of classified and low-level/mixed low-level waste, transported to the NNSS in 791 shipments. This critical disposal capability supports DOE cleanup and other activities at federal sites across the U.S. involved in nuclear research, development and testing, and ongoing national security and science missions. During FY22, the NNSS waste acceptance review team increased onsite facility evaluations, extensive profile verifications, and radiography to validate that the waste received for disposal is consistent with the characteristics (radiological and chemical composition) in the approved profile. These efforts also fulfill commitments made to the State of Nevada.

STEM and community sponsorships, support

Throughout FY22, the NNSS donated $696,000 in the following areas: universities ($308,000), K-12 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) organizations ($225,000) and community organizations ($163,000). Additionally, 247 NNSS volunteers donated 915 hours over the course of 10 community events, while 75 NNSS Fire & Rescue volunteers donated an additional 1,300 hours over the course of 11 community events. And finally, 77 NNSS volunteers donated 465 hours over the course of 18 STEM events.

Tours and visits

The NNSS hosted a total of 105 tours and visits in FY22. After tours and visits were paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NNSS hosted its first tour of the year on Feb. 23. U.S. Rep. Susie Lee and her staff learned about the NNSS’ programs, research and development work, and role in the U.S. national security mission.

The NNSS welcomed several other high-level visitors throughout 2022, including NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby, DOE Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and many more.

Starting July 20, the NNSS also began hosting public tours again. Public tours were first offered to the backlog of more than 750 people who had been scheduled to attend 2020 tours that were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tours were then opened to new sign-ups Aug. 29, with all available slots filling up in fewer than five hours.

EM Nevada Program highlighted in EM Year in Review

pink building with white tank to left and another building to right
Test Cell C

Program accomplishments spotlighted in annual report

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) released the 2022 Year in Review, outlining major accomplishments and environmental cleanup progress over the past calendar year. The EM Nevada Program was among the DOE sites highlighted for their work over the period.

“EM’s mission in Nevada continues to progress on multiple fronts: a completed soils program, three of four groundwater corrective action areas transitioned into long-term monitoring, and regulatory closure achieved at 99% of currently identified industrial-type sites,” said EM Nevada Program Manager Rob Boehlecke. “We are proud of our accomplishments as a program and excited for the work to come.”

The DOE Office of Environmental Management released a site-wide report that can be found at Year in Review | Department of Energy, detailing achievements across the EM mission scope. EM Nevada was highlighted for preparation work for the upcoming demolition and closure of two large legacy nuclear facilities on the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)—the Engine Maintenance, Assembly, and Disassembly (EMAD) and Test Cell C (TCC) complexes. Both facilities were part of the Nuclear Rocket Development Station, which supported the development and testing of nuclear propulsion rocket engines from 1957 until 1973.

The work at EMAD and TCC represents the last major demolition and closure efforts currently identified in EM Nevada’s environmental remediation mission.

For more than three decades, the DOE Office of Environmental Management has remained focused on addressing the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons development and nuclear energy research. Collectively, EM delivered a set of results in 2022 that are protecting the environment, supporting communities, and enabling a concerted focus on safely completing the mission sooner and more efficiently.

For more information on the DOE EM Nevada Program, please visit https://www.energy.gov/em/nevada-national-security-site-nnss.

Nevada National Security Site welcomes first new fire engine in over 20 years

The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) Fire & Rescue logo – emblazoned atop the shiny, bright red paint of the new fire engine – sparkled in the morning sun as the new truck claimed its spot in Fire Station No. 1.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, NNSS officials, led by Fire Chief Brian Dees, symbolically pushed the 2022 Pierce Enforcer – the first new engine at the Site in more than 20 years – into its rightful place in the apparatus bay.

“It’s a well-deserved addition to the heavy fleet, and it’s going to do a lot for not only the Site community itself, but also the surrounding area,” said Dees. “It’s going to be a reliable piece of equipment that we can respond with.”

NNSS Fire & Rescue welcomed the new engine with a push-in ceremony, a tradition among fire stations dating back to the 1800s. At the time, when crews returned home from a call on horseback or hand-drawn carriages, they needed to back the equipment into the station to be prepared for a rapid response. Firefighters usually found themselves needing to detach horses from the equipment, and “push in” the equipment themselves.

As a way to pay homage to that tradition, NNSS officials gathered around the front of the engine – now called Fire Engine 1 – to “push” the truck into the station as an NNSS firefighter drove the life-saving apparatus in reverse.

“The fire truck push-in ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the fire service,” Dees told the assembled crowd. “Celebrating the arrival of a new unit has been a source of pride for fire departments across North America for almost two centuries.”

NNSS officials symbolically push the new fire engine into the station
NNSS officials symbolically push the new fire engine into Fire Station No. 1 at the Site.

And what a source of pride it was.

The 2022 Pierce Enforcer is a type-1, structural engine featuring a 1,500 gallons-per-minute (gpm) pump, a 1,000-gallon water tank, and a 30-gallon foam tank. The new engine will help the department maintain structural firefighting capability and the required fire flow for interior firefighting. The engine enables firefighters to keep water flowing – at 1,500 gpm – on a building for two hours continuously, and brings the total engine count for the Site to four.

Obtaining new heavy fleet vehicles and updated equipment has been part of Dees’ mission since he was named Chief almost four years ago. In recent months, the department added two new utility terrain vehicles to help firefighters knock out wildland fires more quickly, battery-operated auto extraction equipment, and new chemical detection equipment.

But what they really needed was a new engine.

“We have a mission to protect,” Dees said. Fire & Rescue provides emergency response services to the 1,355-square mile Site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring the safety of the Site’s workers performing the nuclear and high-hazard mission work, as well as numerous other projects which support national security.

side profile of new fire engine in the apparatus bay
The new fire engine sits in the apparatus bay following the push-in ceremony.

Due to supply chain issues, Dees wasn’t sure if the engine would arrive in 2022. But thanks to quick work from the NNSS procurement team, and support from NNSS leadership, he was able to secure the shiny new engine – complete with all the bells and whistles – for his team of firefighters this year.

Many of them joined Chief Dees to warmly greet the truck as it arrived at the NNSS front gate bright and early on Oct. 31.

“There she is, boys!” Dees recalled telling his crew. They replied back with a sense of awe.

“These guys, they’ve only seen the pictures. So, when they started looking at it in person they said, ‘Chief, I’m impressed,’” Dees recalled. “They’re head over heels – they didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off.”

They recently got to celebrate the moment with the entire NNSS community.

“It’s a really cool piece of machine out there, but the greatest asset we have is you, our people,” MSTS President Garrett Harencak said during the push-in ceremony. “We’re committed to making sure you have everything you need. Great people need great equipment.”

Bolstering networks: Nevada National Security Site supports UNLV cyber students with scholarships, internships

Johnil Kim standing with arms folded with trees, students and a UNLV banner in the background
Johnil Kim

Soon-to-be UNLV graduate Johnil Kim’s advice sounds like something out of a how-to book on landing your next gig. And maybe it’s because he’s already secured his first job, just a few weeks shy of commencement.

“Make sure whatever you do you have passion for it,” Kim said. “Passion brings someone from a novice level to an experienced professional. If you really enjoy what you do, you take time to internalize the information, and comprehend it on a deeper level.”

Kim took his own advice this past summer and immersed himself in a 12-week internship experience with the Emergency Communications Network (ECN) Program, part of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

The ECN Program supports global emergencies through a secure telecommunications network. During emergency events, the ECN serves as the primary communications platform for Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration emergency response assets, providing data, video and voice communications to enable data telemetry, collaboration, decision making and response.

Now, Kim, who never before considered a career in national security, is looking at a job offer from the ECN Program – the latest sign of success from a recent and growing partnership between the ECN Program and UNLV.

“I’m definitely looking forward to being part of such an important mission,” said Kim. “It’s work that leaves a lasting impact.”

In the past three years, the ECN Program has bolstered its partnership with UNLV by supporting eight UNLV students with internships and scholarships, as well as providing guidance to university faculty on computer science and cybersecurity curriculum.

“It’s a great way to invest in the ECN Program’s future while supporting the local universities,” said Dr. Antonio Montgomery, Director of the ECN Program and a member of the UNLV Cybersecurity Board.

According to Yoohwan Kim, Associate Professor of Computer Science at UNLV, the partnership between the ECN Program, and the NNSS more broadly, has been “long and strong.” The ECN Program’s support helped the university launch a master’s degree in cybersecurity two years ago, and the Cybersecurity Board has helped ensure UNLV’s academic programs are linked in with what industry desires and that courses are updated to respond to ever-changing cyber threats.

“The NNSS has been instrumental in developing UNLV's cybersecurity program,” Professor Kim said. “We are about to have the first graduates, and I am sure some of them will join NNSS.”

Tayler Kaneko, who graduated from UNLV in 2019 with a computer science degree and a specialization in cybersecurity, was one of the first UNLV graduates to take the path that Johnil Kim is now on.

Three years ago, she had no idea her work analyzing network traffic for malicious activity had the potential to protect national security interests. One email in her school inbox, and a subsequent summer internship with the ECN Program, completely changed her perspective.

“I was always thinking that when I graduate, I’m going to go private sector,” said Kaneko, a cybersecurity analyst for the ECN Program. “It’s good to come into work and be doing something that’s good for the country, and not just for a company selling a product.”

Now, as a Cyber Analyst II – after receiving a promotion just three months ago – Kaneko has been supporting the mission for nearly three years. In her upgraded role, Kaneko performs continuous monitoring of the network, and creates security plans to ensure laptops and other hardware are secure before being connected to the ECN.

“I’m very pleased that I applied and accepted the internship back in 2019,” Kaneko said. “I really enjoy this line of work – there’s never a dull day. And I very much enjoy the mission that we support.”

She passed her enthusiasm – as well as her growing expertise – onto Johnil Kim and two other interns that the ECN Program supported this summer.

“I took the same path, and now I’m the one who’s mentoring them,” Kaneko said. “It’s very full circle.”

Applications for the NNSS 2023 Summer Student Program are now open.

Retired USAF Major General Garrett Harencak named next Nevada National Security Site President

headshot of Garrett Harencak wearing a gray suit with blue shirt and yellow and blue tie
Garrett Harencak

On Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS)—the management and operating contractor for the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)—named Garrett Harencak as the next President of MSTS, effective Nov. 1, 2022.

Harencak joins MSTS after nearly four years as Vice President of Strategic Defense Programs for Jacobs Engineering. While at Jacobs, he also served as Deputy Program Manager of the Missile Defense Agency Integrated Research and Development for Enterprise Solutions contract, providing overall strategic vision, leadership, direction, and management for all employees, missions, projects and activities related to the contract. Harencak’s organization, through his leadership, developed and communicated the vision for safe, secure, environmentally and fiscally sound contract execution with full authority and accountability to manage and integrate all contractual, financial and technical performance designed to ensure quality, cost control, timeliness of performance, effective business relations and customer satisfaction.

“Garrett’s vast experience in nuclear safety, high-hazard projects, explosives test and evaluation, conduct of operations, and nuclear emergency response, contributed to his outstanding performance within the Nuclear Security Enterprise, from policy through deployment and sustainment, making him an excellent fit for his new role with MSTS and the NNSS,” said David C. Johnson, MSTS Board of Managers Chairman. “He is a trusted and tested leader with decades of accomplishment overseeing and directing critical national security science, research, and development.”

Before joining Jacobs, Harencak served in the United States Air Force for more than 39 years and rose to the rank of Major General. Positions he has held include Commander of USAF Recruiting Command; Assistant Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration; Commander at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base; Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application (NA-10), National Nuclear Security Administration; and Commander of the 509th Bomber Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base.

Harencak holds a bachelor’s degree in humanities from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a master’s degree in management from Abilene Christian University, and a master’s degree in national security studies from the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base. He is Adjunct Professor of Nuclear Deterrence and Assurance for the Air Force Nuclear College at the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a member of the Board of Regents, Strategic Deterrent Coalition, Washington, D.C.

Harencak replaces retiring MSTS President Mark W. Martinez. Martinez led the NNSS for the last five years, providing innovative leadership and maintaining continuity of operations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Martinez led MSTS to the fulfillment of its five-year base-period commitments, and the awarding of a five-year contract extension, by focusing on building trust with the national laboratories; reducing the cost of direct work at the Site; increasing experimental work; improving safety performance; reducing operational upsets; and building support among community, state, and congressional leaders for the Site’s ongoing missions.

Flying missions in extreme conditions: NNSA and NNSS host 10th annual technical exchange with partner nations

AMS technical exchange attendees got an up-close look at the NNSA’s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter as part of one of the week’s discussions. Representatives from Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Taiwan attended the sessions either in-person or virtually.
AMS technical exchange attendees got an up-close look at the NNSA’s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter as part of one of the week’s discussions. Representatives from Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Taiwan attended the sessions either in-person or virtually.

Dry heat and extreme temperatures are synonymous with Las Vegas. But to Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) pilot Mike Toland, the desert climate is more than just commentary for the local weather report or for visitors flocking to the Las Vegas Strip.

It’s critical information for NNSS Remote Sensing Laboratory pilots to consider when mapping out a mission and ensuring its success.

“Aircraft don’t like heat,” Toland said. “When it’s very hot, the air is thinner, so the engines don’t produce as much power and the rotor blades don’t have as much air to work with, which can negatively impact aircraft performance.”

Toland shared his experience flying in extreme conditions and urban environments during the 10th annual Aerial Measuring System (AMS) International Technical Exchange, recently hosted by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Nuclear Incident Policy and Cooperation and the NNSS. This year’s exchange focused on missions in complex or extreme environments.

AMS is a rapidly deployable capability that can respond to all manner of nuclear incidents and accidents in the United States and overseas. It consists of a fleet of aircraft equipped with specialized radiation detection systems to provide real-time measurements of air and ground radiation contamination. AMS scientists, technical personnel, and pilots are on-call 365 days per year / 24 hours per day to deploy in response to nuclear incidents and accidents.

Dr. Piotr Wasiolek, former longtime NNSS manager and now Aerial Measuring System International Support Lead, said the NNSS team received an overwhelming, positive response from partner countries wanting to attend the exchange in person after two years of virtual meetings. Representatives from Brazil, Canada, Germany, France, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Taiwan attended the sessions either in-person or virtually.

AMS Technical Exchanges aim to establish strategic relationships, and encourage collaboration with international partners to strengthen U.S. and global preparedness and response. The exchanges allow an opportunity for countries to discuss radiological and nuclear terrorism threats as well as the technical tools, policies, and practical approaches to enhance capabilities when responding to those threats.

“We can find better answers to problems when we have an open, honest exchange of information with partners who are doing similar work,” said Wasiolek, an expert in aerial measuring systems. “The technical exchange provides a venue for these important discussions to take place.”

John Buckle, a representative from Natural Resources Canada, who kicked off the week with the first presentation, agreed.

“Mostly what I like is meeting all the different operators and the pilots,” said Buckle. “We get to share ideas and hopefully find solutions to common issues that we have.”

Dynamic discussions

NNSS pilot Mike Toland (center) shares his experience flying the NNSA’s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter in extreme conditions and urban environments during the 10th annual AMS technical exchange.
NNSS pilot Mike Toland (center) shares his experience flying the NNSA’s twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter in extreme conditions and urban environments during the 10th annual AMS technical exchange.

The presentations given by all of the participants were varied and illustrated the unique situations each country encounters with extreme weather, data collection systems, and assessing the data quickly and effectively. Compared to the severe Las Vegas heat, Buckle shared that he and his team have the opposite extreme condition to prepare for – extreme cold and snow.

“There’s challenges in the winter, but there’s also advantages,” Buckle told the group. “In Ottawa, when we have big snow cover, natural background is potentially reduced, so this is a benefit for mapping abnormal radiation sources.”

This is what he and his team found flying a mission in winter 2017 to test operations in adverse climatic conditions.

“The anomalies stood out a lot more in the winter,” he said.

On the tarmac at the North Las Vegas Airport, with the twin-engine Bell 412 helicopter as a prop, Toland led another of the week’s discussions. Attendees got an up-close look at the helicopter that Toland and other NNSS pilots fly when responding to emergencies or supporting emergency preparedness activities for major public events, such as New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Las Vegas Strip.

The helicopter carries 24 liters of sodium iodide crystals that are capable of detecting radiation levels from as low as 50 feet off the ground.

“The science team would always like for us to fly lower, because the lower you get, the better the detection,” Toland said. “So, there’s a discussion before a mission occurs: how low can we safely go?”

Power lines and tall buildings are among the many obstacles the aviation team must chart before they take flight, particularly in an urban environment. They never fly missions at night, and never use the autopilot function as the unique nature of the mission demands both precision and vigilance.

“One of the pilots is flying while the other pilot is monitoring and searching for any potential hazards that didn’t show up on our aeronautical charts,” Toland said. “They’re looking for drones, radio communications, wires that we didn’t know about.”

One major consideration before Toland and his team accept a mission is the one-engine inoperative chart.

“If we lost an engine, can we climb away and fly home based on temperature and pressure altitude? That’s a very important thing to know,” he said.

Sometimes, a mission can’t be flown at all, or needs to be adjusted based on safety precautions, which supersedes all else. These considerations will be critical as the aviation team plans for the upcoming survey of the Las Vegas Strip in December – in preparation for New Year’s Eve activities – as well as other events in 2022 and beyond.

“That’s our job – to see if the mission we have been given to fly can be done safely,” Toland said. “It’s our goal to fly the mission to the precision that the science team needs, but safety is our No. 1 consideration.”