EM Nevada announces 2021-31 Strategic Vision focused on end-state completion of cleanup mission
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program and its Environmental Program Services contractor, Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., recently unveiled a new 10-year Strategic Vision for EM mission activities at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and on the adjacent Nevada Test and Training Range for the period of 2021 to 2031. This effort is a component of the DOE Office of Environmental Management’s Strategic Vision initiative, which is intended to provide a clear and concise summary of the progress EM anticipates realizing at key sites over the coming decade.
In the next 10 years, it is anticipated that the EM Nevada Program will complete its current environmental remediation scope at the NNSS. EM Nevada will continue to closely collaborate with local stakeholders, including state and local officials, the Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board, Intergovernmental Liaisons group, Low-Level Waste (LLW) Stakeholders Forum, and others, to bring its cleanup work to mission end state in a manner that prioritizes the protection of people, communities, and the environment.
“The EM Nevada Program reached several major milestones this past year, including bringing 75 percent of all of our groundwater regions to end state completion. Our strategic vision for the next decade includes the completion of our currently identified cleanup scope, which will cap off more than 30 years of dedicated environmental remediation work in Nevada. I look forward to continuing to work closely with our employees, contractors, site partners, and stakeholders to effectively and efficiently make this vision a reality,” said Rob Boehlecke, EM Nevada Program Manager.
2020 Key Accomplishments
Highlights of the year include transitioning two sites to long-term stewardship, closure of a groundwater area three years early, and safely disposing of nearly a half million cubic feet of radioactive waste. In 2020, the DOE and EM Nevada Program accomplished several high-profile projects:
- Fulfilled a key part of the mission in Nevada by completing remediation activities on and around the historic Tonopah Test Range and conveying 70 sites into long-term stewardship with the transfer of more than 7,200 documents and records to Legacy Management.
- Closed Rainier Mesa/Shoshone Mountain (RM/SM) groundwater area three years ahead of schedule, with approximately $5 million in savings. The accomplishment caps more than 15 years of work to study the groundwater in the RM/SM region of the NNSS and transition the area to long-term monitoring.
- Safely and securely disposed ~500,000 ft³ of classified and LLW/mixed low-level radioactive waste in support of DOE complex sites involved with nuclear research, development, and testing, and ongoing national security and science missions.
- Closed Yucca Flat/Climax Mine groundwater region, bringing 75 percent of all NNSS groundwater areas to end-state completion.
Key Regulatory Milestones 2021-2031
EM Nevada Program activities are primarily regulated by the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (FFACO), a legally binding agreement with the State of Nevada. A supplemental Agreement in Principle between the Department and the State exists to provide a role for the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection in oversight of NNSS LLW disposal operations.
- Submit the Test Cell C closure report to the regulator --- April 28, 2023
- Submit the Engine Maintenance, Assembly, and Disassembly facility closure report to the regulator --- September 30, 2024
- Transition post-closure monitoring for most sites to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) --- September 30, 2027
- Transition post-closure monitoring of Pahute Mesa to NNSA --- September 30, 2028
Post-2031 Cleanup Scope
EM Nevada Program is scheduled to reach end state for its cleanup mission no later than 2030, which will ultimately involve the completion of all active remediation activities and the conveyance of remediated sites for long-term stewardship. It is currently anticipated that there will be a need within the DOE complex for NNSS waste disposal beyond 2030.
EM Nevada Program Mission
The DOE EM Nevada Program was established in 1989 to address the environmental legacy from historic nuclear weapons-related activities at the NNSS. The EM Nevada Program is responsible for completing environmental corrective actions and, as appropriate, performing long-term monitoring of historically contaminated sites in accordance with the FFACO. In addition, the EM Nevada Program oversees the safe and compliant disposal of waste at NNSS radioactive waste disposal facilities. Independent monitoring and oversight of disposal activities are conducted by State of Nevada regulators.
For more information on the EM Nevada Program, visit: www.nnss.gov/pages/programs/em/Environmental.html.
U1a tunnel milestone: dual-headed mining breakthrough
Eighteen months and 577 feet later, the latest expansion to the U1a Complex hit a major milestone earlier in March as staff punched through the last remaining dirt wall between the two halves of the new tunnel. Check out the video on YouTube, and subscribe to our channel, youtube.com/NNSANevada, while you’re there!
“Breakthrough is an iconic word [at U1a], on this enhancement project and throughout the Site,” Senior Director J.C. Wallace observed. “Breakthroughs in technologies and capabilities developed here will bring [projects from] National Labs and others to NNSS.”
When work on the tunnel began back in November 2019, the COVID pandemic was just around the corner. Work initially slowed at the onset of the virus as NNSS management worked with Occupational Medicine to develop safety guidelines that would ensure the safety of all Site employees, downhole and elsewhere.
What makes this achievement even more noteworthy is the unusual method in which it was accomplished. Drilling began at what would eventually become the two ends of the tunnel simultaneously, with crews headed toward each other and eventually meeting in the middle. “Usually you start at one end and go clean through to the other,” said Manager Steve Cherry. “I’d like to thank the construction division for all their hard work. They’ve overcome obstacles every day to do a great job here at the Site, working together as a team to make this happen.”
“I’d like to thank all of the U1a, MSTS, and National Labs teams involved,” added Wallace. “With a special thanks to all the craftsmen and facilities personnel who contributed to the project. There’s a lot more to do, but make no mistake, this is a breakthrough in every sense of the word.”
Nevada National Security Site partners with Epirus on counter-UAS research and development
The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) has entered into a new research and development partnership with Epirus, an expanding growth technology company developing counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (cUAS) for the private sector, the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NA-20) tasked the NNSS to create cUAS testbeds and encouraged NNSS to utilize the facility through the Strategic Partnerships Program (SPP), which led to the formation of the partnership with Epirus.
Within the NNSS’ portfolio is the Site itself, a unique 1,355-square-mile outdoor, indoor and underground experimentation and training user facility located in a remote, highly secure area of Southern Nevada. As an integral component of the U.S. Nuclear Security Enterprise, the NNSS provides applied engineering innovation, high-hazard test and evaluation, and operating services for the U.S. Government and its allies—as well as other strategic partners, such as Epirus.
Recently Epirus Chief Executive Officer Leigh Madden and Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Dr. Bo Marr, came to the NNSS to conduct onsite industry engagement with the Epirus Systems. Three weeks of intense testing culminated in capability demonstrations for senior Defense and NNSA officials. During this period, the team flew more than 800 flights and accomplished all of their experimentation goals. Of note, a rare blizzard hit the NNSS during the second week of testing; while this could have derailed the work, the infrastructure and facilities managers at NNSS managed to get the snow cleared and operations underway with minimal lost time.
The Epirus Leonidas System is a cUAS with the power and precision to disable multiple threats across a wide area or neutralize a single system in tight, crowded spaces.
The partnership between the NNSS and Epirus is one of the first of many upcoming partnerships with private companies that are actively engaged in national security work, allowing new ideas to emerge from a broader range of expertise.
This particular partnership will continue as a multi-year project. Over time, the complexity of the testing will be enhanced by increasing distances, trying different types of Unmanned Aerial Systems and having a variety of complex scenarios.
EM Nevada highlights mission progress, supports STEM education at virtual Waste Management Symposia
During the week of March 8-12, Waste Management Symposia (WMS) was held for the first time ever in a fully virtual format. The world’s largest annual conference for the management of radioactive waste and related topics, Waste Management Symposia provides an excellent opportunity to showcase and exchange best practices in the radioactive waste industry. The theme of this year’s Symposia was “Reducing Risk Through Sound Technical Solutions.”
The Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program maximized participation in the virtual event, replacing its normal physical booth and in-person activities with participation in virtual presentations and a virtual poster session. Dave Taylor, program manager for Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc. (Navarro), contractor to the EM Nevada Program, highlighted the importance of communication, collaboration, teamwork and trust in his presentation “How Unique Challenges led to New Approaches in Nevada.” Pamela Bailey, management analyst for the EM Nevada Program, co-authored a presentation with the DOE Office of Legacy Management “Overcoming Challenges During Site Transitions Through Planning: Transition of Environmental Restoration Sites at the Tonopah Test Range.” Dr. Irene Farnham, environmental scientist supporting the Navarro contract to the EM Nevada Program, led a poster presentation called, “Nevada Corrective Action Site Closure Process - DOE and Regulatory Perspectives.”
WMS 2021 also highlighted Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education as an integral part of the Symposia’s overall mission to promote technical excellence, lifelong learning, and the fulfillment of future workforce needs. As part of this effort, WMS offered a STEM Zone activities booth available to attendees all week. The EM Nevada Program was proud to participate, submitting a virtual demonstration of STEM principles at work under the Nevada National Security Site (specifically through the use of a hydrogeology model), to give students a first-hand look at how the Department monitors groundwater movement to protect people and the environment in Nevada. As a result of its showcase in the STEM Zone, the EM Nevada virtual groundwater demonstration is now available as a curriculum enhancement to teachers and students across the country, and can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/ZmHCFoRXd7M.
For more information on Waste Management Symposia, visit www.wmsym.org.
A symbol of service
Outside of his service with the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), Program Director of Transformation Rodney Rego serves our nation as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve. Toward the end of his last assignment as the brigade commander of the 650th Regional Support Group, based out of Sloan, Nevada, he deployed with his unit to Afghanistan. When Rego returned from the April to October 2020 mobilization and deployment, he presented a special American flag to NNSS management and operating contractor Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS) to commemorate the organization’s support to the U.S. military.
Flown at the base headquarters at Bagram Airfield, the flag symbolizes the NNSS’ continued partnerships with members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The accompanying certificate reads: “This American Flag was flown over Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in honor of Mission Support and Test Services on 1 September 2020 in appreciation for unwavering support to the U.S. Armed Forces and its service members. Your selfless and faithful dedication to the United States of America has made a positive difference during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Resolute Support Missions.”
“MSTS has been such a great supporter of the military and service members,” said Rego. “I thought the flag an excellent way to thank MSTS on behalf those of us who have served. I want the organization and leadership to know I’m appreciative.”
The NNSS is a proud partner of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative, a nationwide effort to connect veterans, service members and military spouses with meaningful employment opportunities through fellowships. In addition, the NNSS also supports DoD SkillBridge, a program for service members to gain valuable civilian work experience through specific industry training, apprenticeships or internships during their last 180 days of service. Rego, a veteran of 33 years, said it was important to fly the flag in honor of the NNSS’ unwavering commitment to members of the military.
“As I’ve fulfilled my military obligations over the years, MSTS has always been really supportive of my commitment as a reservist,” said Rego. “I know through conversations with other veterans that MSTS is dedicated to provide a positive work environment for veterans. They actively seek out veterans for open positions, can help with the transition off active duty, and go above and beyond in other areas such as promoting veterans’ groups and events.”
EM Nevada Program experts recognized for excellence in waste management assessment
In recognition of their service to a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) complex-wide assessment team, two experts associated with the DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program were recently honored as recipients of the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award, a subset of the annual Secretary's Honor Awards. The prestigious honor was awarded to Marilew Bartling, Radioactive Waste Acceptance Program (RWAP) manager for Navarro Research and Engineering, the Environmental Program Services contractor to EM Nevada, as well as Andrew Worker, a general engineer specializing in waste disposition, who recently joined the EM Nevada Program.
The Secretary's Honor Awards recognize DOE employees and contractors for their service and contributions to the Department’s mission and the benefit of the nation. These awards represent some of the highest internal, non-monetary recognitions that DOE employees and contractors can receive.
Bartling and Worker were specifically recognized for their contributions to a 36-person assessment team, formed at the direction of the Deputy Secretary of Energy, which extensively investigated and analyzed radioactive waste packaging and shipping practices across the DOE complex. Combined, Bartling and Worker possess nearly 50 years of experience in radioactive waste management.
In an explanation of the basis for the award, the Secretary of Energy emphasized that Bartling and Worker had “applied their extensive technical expertise and knowledge of DOE policies, procedures, and practices toward independently assessing a critical system within the Department, thereby enhancing the confidence of senior DOE leadership in the safe conduct of radioactive waste packaging and shipping operations.”
With Bartling and Worker’s support, the work of the assessment team ultimately led to the issuance of a DOE report titled the Enterprise-wide Assessment of the Department of Energy’s Packaging and Shipping of Radioactive Waste. The Secretary further recognized that this report had succeeded in “extensively documenting recommendations and best practices found across the Department” and provided “a road map to further strengthen the management of radioactive waste packaging and shipping operations.”
Notably, the final Enterprise Assessment report found that, overall, DOE site contractors have developed and implemented effective procedures and practices for the proper characterization, waste stream control, packaging, and shipping of radioactive waste for disposal.
For more information on EM Nevada’s safe, secure, and successful radioactive waste management program, please visit: https://www.nnss.gov/pages/programs/RWM/WasteManagement.html.
NNSS provides a premier test bed for Unmanned Aerial System technologies
The rapid, global development of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) can pose a serious security threat to U.S. interests both at home and abroad. Technologies and operations to counter this threat are immature and have significant gaps. As this threat is enduring and dynamic, the nation must pursue flexible solutions to handle current and future UAS threat situations. This evolving threat drives the need for an extensive and agile outdoor testbed that allows for rapid validation of prototype sensors, information aggregation and analysis, and identification of requirements and flexible concepts of operations. With support from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN), the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) identified Port Gaston to provide an expansive platform to develop, characterize and demonstrate counter Unmanned Aerial System (cUAS) response in a safe, secure environment.
In early 2020, NNSS Global Security Senior Project Manager Mike Madlener began the coordination for Port Gaston, which included servicing two base camp trailers, upgrading the power systems to eliminate surface-laid cables from previous NNSS work and fiber installation for secure data transmission. The outdoor venue enables outside organizations to utilize the NNSS for UAS and cUAS testing and system verification. Now he is working to extend the airspace into a corridor that will span 16 square miles, allowing multiple groups to conduct simultaneous exercises and leveraging existing infrastructure from former operations facilities.
“This is such a unique, restricted airspace,” said Madlener, who has served with the NNSS for 21 years. “For payloads that potentially have biological-chemical harm, we’re working to counter that and develop a system that can make sure harm is eliminated. That’s why I’m here—to develop a community of shelf equipment and bring in people who have systems to test.”
The NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories recently deployed a team to Port Gaston for multiple days of UAS and cUAS testing operations. These operations included signature collection of various UAS platforms with instrumentation that spans the optical regime from visible to infrared light.
“We’re looking at what all of these UAS look like across the spectrum,” said Jeremy Wright with Sandia Labs. “We have 13 different types of UAS with different types of flights.”
Since the Port Gaston airspace is regulated by the NNSS, verification processes and procedures required for UAS flights can occur more quickly than at other testing venues. For example, conducting UAS operations in other regulated airspaces can mean that organizations are subject to restrictions due to the proximity to commercial runways, limiting testing timeframes and capabilities.
Pilots who hold an FAA Part 107 certification and work within the NNSA enterprise, other government agencies, universities and commercial entities are among the groups identified as future users of the test bed. To date, more than 200 such test flights have taken place.
For more information about the DNN program, see https://www.energy.gov/nnsa/missions/nonproliferation.
Counterterrorism Operations Support partners with Transportation Security Administration for training opportunities
The National Nuclear Security Administration Counterterrorism Operations Support (CTOS) team is credited with training more than 260,000 first responders in response and prevention of radiological terrorism threats. CTOS has worked with hundreds of agencies at state, local, territorial and tribal levels; however, perhaps less known is its work to support other federal departments. In recent years, CTOS has expanded to help develop training and course curriculum for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office. CWMD works to prevent weapons of mass destruction use against the U.S. through timely, responsive support to operational partners.
In early 2020, CTOS partnered with CWMD to provide support to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) training academy. CTOS shared curriculum and national guidance documentation to federal partners, provided content for training modules and supplied radiological source support for FAMS and VIPR personnel receiving Preventive Radiological/Nuclear Detection (PRND) mission training at the Transportation Security Administration Training Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I think one of the most important aspects of our mission, is to train the nation’s first responders at the state and local level,” said NNSS CTOS Manager Dave Pasquale. “Now, expanding that work to federal agencies, we’re able to develop continuity of operations across all levels of government.”
CTOS also provides training support to CWMD for its Securing the Cities (STC) Program. STC seeks to reduce the risk of a successful deployment of a radiological/nuclear terrorist weapon against a major metropolitan area in the U.S. This is executed by establishing sustainable capability within Global Nuclear Detection Architecture partner agencies to detect, analyze and report nuclear and other radioactive materials out of regulatory control within their jurisdictions.
The CTOS team provides FEMA-certified training to state and local agencies that perform the PRND mission; more than 65,000 first responders in all levels of the operation – including advanced team operations, maritime and team leader roles – have been trained.
Scheduled to resume training support with FAMS and VIPR teams this year, CTOS continues its national security support to all levels of government.
“We’re showing the federal community that we’re a resource, not only for radiological/nuclear response,” said Pasquale. “The training support we provide can easily be expanded to other federal agencies that have similar needs to the TSA.”
For more information about CTOS, visit http://www.ctosnnsa.org/.
Davidson Academy locks in gold and silver at annual Nevada Science Bowl
Defending their 2020 Nevada Science Bowl title and securing a spot to represent the Silver State at the Department of Energy National Science Bowl are Davidson Academy students from Reno, Nevada, who were named 2021 Nevada Science Bowl champions Feb. 6. Nevada Science Bowl is fast-paced question-and-answer format competition in which students are tested in a range of science disciplines, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, energy and math.
The first-ever virtual version of Nevada Science Bowl saw 15 teams from 12 high schools across Nevada and Utah vying for the coveted prize. In first place was Davidson Academy Team 1, who won $5,000 for Davidson Academy’s math and science departments and will advance to the National Science Bowl. Preliminary rounds begin in April with the elimination tournament held virtually Saturday, May 22.
The Davidson Academy also took second place, with its Team 2 earning $2,500. Third place went to the Coral Academy of Science from Las Vegas with a prize of $1,500, and Clark High School from Las Vegas took fourth with $1,000.
“The impressive display of talent at the 2021 Nevada Science Bowl shows the bright future ahead for STEM career fields,” said National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Field Office Manager Dr. David Bowman. “Thank you to the students and coaches for your exemplary sportsmanship, hard work and commitment to the competition this year under challenging conditions. We are very proud to support Nevada math and science education—a vital component in sustaining U.S. economic leadership and maintaining our national security.”
The event was presented by the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Field Office (signature sponsor), Mission Support and Test Services LLC, Environmental Management Nevada Program, Bureau of Reclamation, SOC, Navarro, and JGMS, Inc. Nearly two dozen volunteers from the Nevada National Security Site community ensured the trivia questions, scoring and communications ran smoothly.
Follow the road to the National Science Bowl on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about the Nevada Science Bowl, visit our webpage.
Department of Energy awards Nevada National Security Site employees with highest internal honors
More than 100 Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) employees have been selected to receive a Secretary’s Honor Award, one of the highest honors an employee can receive within the Department of Energy (DOE).
DOE-wide, a total of 32 Honor Awards—which include the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award (24 teams), the Secretary of Energy Excellence Award (6 individuals) and the James R. Schlesinger Award (two individuals)—are being given based on accomplishments from 2019.
Additionally this year, DOE added a category of Honor Awards focused on the accomplishments of DOE employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are 10 Honor Awards related to the COVID-19 response during the first half of 2020, which include the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award (nine teams) and the Secretary of Energy Excellence Award (one individual).
All NNSS recipients are being recognized as part of teams receiving a Secretary of Energy Achievement Award and fall within the following categories, respectively: NNSA Nuclear Security Enterprise Recruitment Team; Packaging and Shipping of Radiological Waste Assessment Team; Source Physics Experiment, Phase II, Dry Alluvium Geology Team; Seattle Response and Recovery and Cs-137 Joint Investigation Teams; and COVID-19 Facilities and People Response Team.
These teams led the success of exceeding recruiting goals and hiring over 9,300 new employees; strengthening the management of radioactive waste packaging and shipping operations; advancing the science of nuclear explosion monitoring, concluding 10 years of testing experiments and producing historical data sets; responding to and remedying a radiological emergency; and transitioning the enterprise to maximum telework to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
To honor these individuals for their exceptional work, there is normally an award ceremony where the DOE Secretary of Energy would present the awards. In order to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, there is currently not an award ceremony scheduled at this time.
Scientists team for Large Surface Explosion Coupling Experiment
In partnership with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and National Laboratories executed the Large Surface Explosion Coupling Experiment.
In the early morning hours of Oct. 27, a metric ton of C-4 conventional explosive was detonated at the NNSS’ U2EZ site; called the Large Surface Explosion Coupling Experiment, it was repeated the afternoon of Oct. 29. The data harvested will be used to compare explosive signatures during nighttime versus daytime atmospheric conditions and thereby enhance the Department of Energy (DOE) and DoD’s abilities to continue global nuclear explosion monitoring and verification.
“The DOE and DoD have a longstanding tradition of working together to conduct joint experiments to answer key national security questions,” said NNSS Senior Principal Scientist Cleat Zeiler. “This experiment compared the attributes of waveforms generated from above-ground explosions at different times of day.”
The Large Surface Explosion Coupling Experiment, which utilized an existing test bed infrastructure maintained at the NNSS, represents a year and a half of coordination between DTRA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the Site to create a unified model in understanding the physics of explosions. Initial analysis of waveform performance will be conducted by scientists before formal reporting.
“It's always neat to know these propagation effects through the air and the ground,” said DTRA Program Manager Dr. Richard Lewis. “If you're listening and monitoring to see what's going on in the world, you need to be able to see how these sound waves and seismic waves propagate through the atmosphere and ground to better identify the source.”
DOE Office of Environmental Management, state officials underscore importance of partnerships built on trust
The following article was published in the Jan. 19, 2021 issue of EM Update, a weekly newsletter issued by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM). The DOE EM Nevada Program was mentioned for its commitment to consistent and transparent communications with regulators:
EM Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Todd Shrader emphasized the importance of collaboration and effective partnerships with state officials based on a strong foundation of trust during the winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) Federal Facilities Task Force (FFTF) on Jan. 14.
Such relationships are established by setting realistic commitments and following through on them, Shrader said.
“The best way to build trust is to deliver,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, Mark Gilbertson, EM Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regulatory and Policy Affairs, noted the value of having strong relationships between EM site managers and state environmental regulators from the outset before issues occur.
Shrader said EM sites have various processes to interact with regulators.
“What is important to understand is when these groups get together, we all want the same thing,” he said. “We all want to finish the cleanup and we want to finish it as efficiently as we can.”
Shrader and Gilbertson joined EM site managers and members of the NGA FFTF, which consists of governor-appointed policy and technical representatives from 13 states that host DOE facilities with a purpose of assisting DOE in improving coordination of its major program decisions with state regulators. EM maintains a cooperative agreement with NGA.
EM Nevada Program Manager Rob Boehlecke described practices he put in place for the EM Nevada Program that have worked well. Boehlecke has relied on consistent and open communication at multiple levels to ensure he and regulators remain in alignment and are aware of one another’s mission prerogatives.
Regular and early communication has helped build relationships, too, Boehlecke said. He noted the significance of communication between technical experts and project management staff at federal and contractor organizations, and how regulators roll up their sleeves and learn the technical issues with them. It is a collaborative process and their input is valued, he said.
Boehlecke also stressed the importance of having regular meetings to avoid surprises and deal with issues in a timely manner as they arise.
“It’s really just based on open and transparent and continual communications,” he said.
Reinhard Knerr, manager of the Carlsbad Field Office, provided an update on the numerous infrastructure advances being made at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), including the impending restart of the major 700-C fan, progress on the new Safety Significant Confinement Ventilation System, and the excavation of an additional 30-foot diameter utility shaft. All will improve air circulation in the WIPP underground to strengthen worker safety and health, and productivity.
“We’re not just investing in our infrastructure one time,” Knerr said. “It continues to be an ongoing activity as we move forward and that we are routinely ensuring that we have systems, components, and infrastructure in place to safely and compliantly operate the facility and emplace waste.”
NNSS archivist retires after more than 40 years of service
“Have you ever seen that episode on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ where Barclay becomes one with the computer? And you don’t know where one ends and the other begins?”
This is how Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) Archivist Martha DeMarre, who’s retiring Jan. 21 after more than 41 years of service, begins the story of her life with the NNSS.
“This job has been like that,” she said. “This place has been my mission in life.”
While the archives have been Martha’s mission for the past four decades, they aren’t what brought her here.
“I wanted to work with plutonium,” she said. Why? “Because it was difficult. Interesting.”
Martha spent the summer of 1978 using her undergraduate degree in biology—with a concentration in cell physiology—and as a health physics graduate student as a summer hire at the NNSS, then the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Specifically, she worked in the CP-50 building in Area 6, where she worked out a procedure for a source transfer. She researched the current capabilities at the time to monitor large waste containers, containing non-retrievable plutonium in soil.
“There was so much science happening,” she said. “The sky was the limit. ‘We do hard; impossible just takes a little longer,’ was the expression at the time. There was a very can-do attitude out there that was contagious. I called it the Disneyland for science, and I’d gotten the E ticket.”
Martha lived in a two-person trailer in Mercury (the section of the Site closest to the entry) that first year and took advantage of everything life on the Site had to offer.
“I swam, bowled, played softball,” she said. “I was the announcer for several games. They didn’t want me to play because I was terrible. But they wouldn’t even give me a chance!” She laughs.
In the fall of 1978, Martha returned to San Diego State University, where she was taking graduate courses in health physics. In 1979, she was asked if she’d like to come back to the NTS—this time, for something a little different: the establishment of the NNSS archives, first known as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Coordination and Information Center.
“They told me it was going to be a three-year project,” she said.
Pre-dating the establishment of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in 2000, this initial DOE investment and effort was to consolidate information (in all forms) throughout the Nuclear Security Enterprise complex, serving both the public and the government with data and facts from source documents.
“The concept of the original Coordination and Information Center, now the Nuclear Testing Archives, was to collect and house agency records related to fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in Nevada,” said NNSA Nevada Field Office Public Affairs Program Manager Darwin Morgan. “Martha’s career hallmark, in my mind, is the simple fact this effort has allowed the scientific community to unequivocally demonstrate where fallout occurred, and, from that, extrapolate and paint a realistic and accurate picture on the potential health affects to populations. This never could have been done if not for Martha DeMarre.”
The work was a perfect fit.
“My other love growing up was history,” she said. When selecting a major in college, she chose biology over history because she “didn’t want to type that much”—an amusing justification to look back on these days, as her work is primarily computer-based. But Martha’s always been a good researcher, and her background was perfectly suited for the numerous scientific requests she’s received.
Martha’s work on the NNSS archives has taken her all over the country, seeking records of relevance to the NNSS and nuclear testing in general and getting them declassified.
“We went out to different places to collect records, usually for a week,” she said. To be able to look through the classified files at the various locations, her clearance would be transferred temporarily.
While the work was incredibly interesting, it wasn’t exactly glamorous. Many of the records at the Kennedy Presidential Library had not been touched after President Kennedy’s assassination. By the 1990s, many of the documents’ staples had begun rusting in the humid, salty Bay Area air.
“One of our conditions for working there was to remove all the staples that were rusting and replace them with archival staples,” she said.
“We found the Truman letter at the Eisenhower Presidential Library,” she said, referring to the now-famous document President Harry S. Truman signed on Dec. 18, 1950, authorizing the development of a portion of the Las Vegas Bombing and Gunnery Range as an atomic weapons test site.
While hunting for records of President Eisenhower’s nuclear testing approvals—at the time, each test had to be approved by the president himself—in Abilene, Kansas, she read President Eisenhower’s reflections on his speeches at the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
“He kept a diary—which his secretary would type up—with notes on how each of his speeches went,” she said. “It’s a different view of history.”
What began as a three-year project has developed into an impressive database that’s been an important resource for agencies, organizations and individual researchers alike for the past 40 years.
“It’s a very exciting mission to work for,” Martha said. “It’s amazing—if you pay attention—the kinds of things you can see. The work here is never done.”
These days, the NTA has more than 400,000 documents available to the public through use of the Nuclear Testing Archive Public Reading Facility. The facility maintains more than 40,000 documents relating to Human Radiation Experiments by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as well as more than 360,000 documents dealing with the U.S. nuclear testing program.
“I have loved the job,” Martha said. “I have loved the archives. It’s hard to leave.”
Martha officially retires from the NNSS Jan. 21.
“As a manager who was key to the establishment, development and implementation of the Nuclear Testing Archive, we appreciate her mission dedication for 40-plus years,” said NNSS Quality/Contractor Assurance System Director David Martin, who oversees the NTA. “In highest regard, we humbly follow Martha’s leadership in this mission. Thank you, Martha.”
Martha’s favorite photos from the archives: