NNSS News (April - June 2021)

NNSS EMS captain volunteers own time to help workforce vaccination efforts

Marc Pinkas
NNSS EMS Captain Marc Pinkas

“Though it isn’t often discussed, members of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) community are asked to uphold an oath. According the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, one of the primary tenets of its Code of Ethics for EMS Practitioners is: ‘To conserve life, alleviate suffering, promote health, do no harm, and encourage the quality and equal availability of emergency medical care.’ If anyone within the Southern Nevada EMS community embodies those qualities, it’s Captain Pinkas.” –NNSS Site Occupational Medical Director Dr. Alex Malone

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) EMS Captain Marc Pinkas has been looking for ways to use his skills to help.

“I wanted to do something,” he said.

But he quickly discovered that—amid a global pandemic—offering his medical skills to an organization with which he wasn’t previously affiliated isn’t as easy as he thought it would be.

Still, he kept an eye out, and when the NNSS’ Occupational Medicine (OccMed) team began offering vaccines to employees, he saw his chance.

On Jan. 7, 2021, the NNSS began offering the COVID-19 vaccine to employees in a tiered format, similar to the state’s. With the first few tiers covering first responders and several other employees whose work brings them out to the Site each day, the NNSS EMS team—based out of the Site’s two fire stations—were called upon to help administer vaccines to Site-based employees. Captain Pinkas was one of them.

During the process, Captain Pinkas quickly learned how much work is done behind the scenes to support COVID-19 vaccinations. Each inoculation requires extensive paperwork and data input, and the OccMed team would often work long hours to get everything completed in a timely manner.

“You take a look at all the people working at OccMed—they’re the unsung heroes,” said Captain Pinkas, who—as paramedic training captain on one of the NNSS Fire & Rescue team’s three platoons—works closely with OccMed on a regular basis.

As the NNSS’ supply of COVID-19 vaccinations became available to additional tiers of NNSS employees, OccMed began conducting regularly scheduled vaccine clinics—every Wednesday at the Site and every Thursday at the North Las Vegas Facility. Captain Pinkas saw a need he could fill.

There are many activities people plan for their days off. Coming back into work typically isn’t one of them.

Because Fire & Rescue personnel hours aren’t structured into a typical 40-hour workweek, Pinkas would often find himself off work during the Thursday North Las Vegas Facility clinics.

And so Captain Pinkas began volunteering at his own workplace.

“I’m not qualified to do the paperwork, but I’m qualified to administer vaccines,” he said. “It was something I could easily do to help them get a jump start on all the behind-the-scenes work they do when the clinics are over. On my days off, I’d call and say, ‘Could you use another hand?’”

His efforts for the sake of his fellow co-workers didn’t go unnoticed.

“Captain Marc Pinkas has been instrumental to the ongoing success of our vaccination efforts at the NNSS,” said NNSS Site Occupational Medical Director Dr. Alex Malone. “On numerous occasions, and out of the goodness of his heart, he volunteered his time and skill to help ensure the safety and well-being of our workforce. He did this on his days off and without any expectation or request for kudos or compensation.”

Contributing to the country’s national security mission as an NNSS employee since 2007, Captain Pinkas serves as a paramedic responding to emergency medical calls as needed and also oversees EMS continuing education for his platoon. Additionally, he conducts all of OccMed’s CPR and Advanced Cardiac Life Support courses.

In addition to providing emergency response services to the 1,355-square-mile NNSS, the F&R team also provides ongoing life safety response 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout Nye County.

For more about the NNSS F&R team, click here.

John Contardi selected as senior director of Mission Assurance

John Contardi
John Contardi

John Contardi has been selected as the Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS) senior director of Mission Assurance, comprised of Counterintelligence; Environmental, Safety & Health; Quality Services & Support; Security & Emergency Services; Nuclear Assurance; Operations Assurance; and Field Intelligence Element. MSTS is the management and operating contractor for the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

Since 2017, John has served in the role of director of Nuclear Assurance for MSTS, reporting directly to the Mission Assurance senior director. In this role, he has been integrated into all the functional areas within Mission Assurance and interfaces daily at a leadership level with the Nevada Field Office, the national laboratories, and MSTS executives and managers.

John brings 23 years of experience at U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration facilities, national laboratories and federal agencies, serving in progressively responsible roles across multiple functional areas involving nuclear facility safety and security, design and operations. He has a broad knowledge of nuclear operations, management, oversight and technical areas of expertise, such as contractor assurance, quality and safety, conduct of engineering and operations, radiological operations and nuclear facility startup/restart activities. His military experience brings familiarity with applications related to safeguards and security as well as counterintelligence. As a result, he has built strong relationships and lines of communications and has a firm understanding of the responsibilities, challenges and long-term goals that are fundamental to successful leadership of all Mission Assurance functional areas at the NNSS.

John’s educational background includes a B.S. in chemical engineering (with high honors) from Georgia Institute of Technology, an M.S. in health physics from Georgia Institute of Technology, and an M.S. in environmental systems engineering from Clemson University.

Integral NNSA power project reaches key milestone

National Nuclear Security Administration approves design and construction start for 138kV Power Transmission System Replacement at the Nevada National Security Site

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has authorized the design and construction start of the 138kV Power Transmission System Replacement (PTSR) at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) through its Critical Decision 2/3.

This milestone has approved the performance baseline and start of construction for the 138kV PTSR project to replace and upgrade approximately 26 miles of the degraded existing power transmission system, and to upgrade the co-located fiber optic lines in the NNSS Mission Corridor. These upgrades are integral to NNSA providing reliable power and communications to mission critical facilities at NNSS.

Reliable and resilient infrastructure is a key tenet of NNSA’s Strategic Vision. In January 2017, NNSA completed the replacement of the most vulnerable 1.7-mile section of this transmission system just weeks before a storm destroyed portions of the old section. This new project will replace a high-risk segment of this powerline, a line that supports critical national security mission activities conducted by not only DOE and NNSA, but also the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and other Federal partners.

“The 138kV project is vital to NNSA’s ongoing mission critical work at NNSS,” said Dr. Charles Verdon, Acting Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator. “Revitalizing our aging infrastructure, including indispensable power projects like this, is essential for meeting NNSA’s priority to provide for current and future U.S. national security needs.”

NNSA negotiated a Firm Fixed Price agreement for the project with NNSS’ M&O contractor, Mission Support and Test Services, LLC. This is the first fully fixed price project agreement between NNSA and one of its M&O contractors.

The $50.3 million 138 kV project is scheduled to be completed in 2023.

Read more about NNSA’s Office of Acquisition and Project Management and Office of Safety, Infrastructure, and Operations.

NNSS kicks off its third annual Student Program

NNSS logo

The U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) kicked off its third annual Student Program May 24-25. Students from all across the U.S. attended their first day of this summer’s program by logging onto the virtual format.

In 2019, the Student Program was developed to allow hands-on work experience, mentorship in various disciplines and professional development opportunities for college students.

Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an in-person internship was no longer feasible. On April 17, 2020, the decision to switch the platform to a virtual format was made by the senior leadership team. The NNSS acknowledged the challenges associated with a virtual internship; however, the Talent Acquisition department worked with many other directorates to transform the program from an in-person internship to being completely virtual in just five short weeks.

The 2021 program will continue to build upon the success of the 2020 virtual format. Most students will work virtually throughout the summer, but in some cases, local students have the potential to come on site with manager discretion.

Christian Bombara, a mathematics student at the University of Nevada, Reno, shared how the NNSS has provided a new perspective. “This is my second summer interning with the NNSS. My team members and the various projects I have worked on have helped me realize I want to continue my education by obtaining a graduate degree in math and pursue a career in research.”

James Blackwell III, an engineering intern returning for the third summer in a row, added, “The NNSS has helped me understand the engineering process and how to be a contributing member of a professional team. This last year, I acted as the leader of my team's senior capstone design project, and the lessons I learned from previous summers helped our project succeed. I originally went back to school because I wanted to be part of something bigger and more important; I've returned this summer because that is exactly what I found here at the NNSS.”

These students, along with more than 20 other returning students, began teleworking May 24. More than 20 additional new students began teleworking May 25.

For more information about the NNSS Student Program, visit: https://www.nnss.gov/pages/NFO/MSTSStudentPrograms.html or reach out to Student Program Coordinator Terri Shafer at shafertl@nv.doe.gov.

EM Nevada Program hosts inaugural virtual field trip

virtual field trip with Tiffany Gamero and EM Nevada
Environmental scientist Tiffany Gamero hosts the EM Nevada Program’s first virtual field trip for students from Lied STEM Academy, part of the Clark County School District.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program recently hosted its first-ever virtual field trip, highlighting its safe, secure, and successful groundwater mission at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) for nearly 200 students.

The students attend Lied STEM Academy, a Las Vegas-based, state-certified magnet school for grades six to eight with a focus on project and inquiry-based learning. The school’s curriculum coordinators advised that the best format for the virtual event would be live interaction with a subject-matter expert, combined with a variety of video content. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.

Tiffany Gamero, EM Nevada’s environmental scientist, led the event. She shared a brief history of the NNSS, an introduction to EM, and information on EM Nevada’s groundwater mission at the NNSS. Gamero concluded the presentation with a video demonstrating a typical day in the life of a groundwater technician at the site. After the presentation, she answered questions from students and teachers.

View a recording of the virtual field trip here.

Lied’s response to the event has been overwhelmingly positive.

“My favorite part from the field trip was how entertaining the videos were and the information they had in them, and how nice the speaker was to everyone,” a student noted.

“I liked the background information in the videos and the explanations of the [NNSS]...very relevant for where we live,” a teacher said.

Another teacher thanked EM Nevada.

“I really appreciate their time and their effort here,” the teacher said. “It isn't easy to speak to such a large group of kids. I also really appreciate their adaptability and willingness to share.”

Lied Principal Derek Fialkiewicz commended EM Nevada for its virtual field trip and said the school looks forward to more of them in the future.

“We are pleased to strengthen our ties with the EM Program when it comes to expanding our students' knowledge base of the community while stressing and supporting their pursuit of a STEM education,” Fialkiewicz said. “This was a voluntary sign-up. As you can see from the participation, even towards the end of a school year, our students are engaged and interested in learning what our community has to offer.”

EM Nevada Program Manager Rob Boehlecke was pleased that the field trip was such a success.

“We are grateful to Tiffany for representing our program so well during the virtual field trip. Tiffany has presented at schools in the past and has young children of her own, which gave her a unique perspective on the virtual learning model over the past year,” Boehlecke said. “We look forward to continuing to engage stakeholders in unique ways to share information on our program’s safe, secure, and successful cleanup missions in Nevada.”

Development of the virtual field trip was supported in part by Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., the environmental program services contractor to EM Nevada, through Navarro’s Community Commitment Program.

Click here for more information on the EM Nevada Program and visit the academy here.

NNSS teams recognized with NNSA Defense Programs Awards of Excellence

Six awards include three Exceptional Achievement honors

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) recognized six Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) teams with Defense Programs Awards of Excellence on Thursday, May 6. NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Systems Engineering & Integration Kent T. Jones was on hand to congratulate the teams for their excellent work in support of the Nation’s Stockpile Stewardship Program.

“I am simply amazed,” said Jones. “Our government leadership, American citizens, the warfighters we support, and our allies can rest confident because of your valuable contributions.”

Made up of more than 150 federal, contractor and national laboratory personnel, the teams were recognized for their contributions to various Defense Programs projects, including broadband laser ranging, subcritical experiments and analysis, and laboratory network and data expansion.

Adding further prestige to the honors, NNSA additionally awarded an Exceptional Achievement (EA) merit to three NNSS teams. The EA acknowledges extraordinary accomplishments in the nuclear weapons life cycle process that are “home run” examples of using stockpile stewardship capabilities to promote and further advance important national security objectives. The EA is issued exclusively to recognize only those efforts and accomplishments that result in an extensive, unique, unusual, remarkable, exceptional and/or unexpected contribution to the Defense Programs mission.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Dr. David Bowman, manager of NNSA’s Nevada Field Office, the federal oversight for the NNSS, noted: “The awards presented today are just a small example of the great work done here at the Nevada National Security Site. I want to personally offer my thanks for a job well done and ask you to keep up the great work!”

Mark Martinez, president of Mission Support and Test Services, which manages and operates the NNSS, added, “I’d like to offer my congratulations to each and every one of you. Not just one, but three Exceptional Achievements is an amazing accomplishment.”

Established in 1982, the Defense Programs Awards of Excellence are given annually to recognize significant individual and team achievements in quality, productivity, cost savings, safety or creativity in support of NNSA’s nuclear weapons modernization program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards ceremony for these 2019 awards, usually held in person, was delayed until it could be held virtually this year.

DOE sites team up to conduct virtual waste inspection

waste inspection
A past visual verification of low-level waste conducted at the NNSS.

Two Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) programs recently collaborated to enhance an established radioactive waste inspection process, allowing for the continuation of safe, secure, and compliant waste shipments from one DOE site to another, while minimizing travel and person-to-person contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Personnel from the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site and EM Nevada Program integrated remote communications tools to enhance required visual inspections of waste containers to be shipped from Idaho to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) for ultimate disposal.

To make it happen, Stuart Gerard, Waste Certification Official for EM contractor Fluor Idaho, provided Radioactive Waste Acceptance Program (RWAP) specialist Ann Koplow with a DVD containing real-time radiography (RTR) imaging of filled waste containers in Idaho to be verified. Ann is an employee with Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., the Environmental Program Services contractor responsible for administering the RWAP on behalf of EM Nevada. RTR works much like an X-ray, allowing a RWAP professional to view the contents inside of a waste container.

From a laptop at her telework location in Nevada, Ann reviewed the video to ensure the contents of each container met both the waste profile descriptions and permit requirements for disposal at the NNSS. Then, using a secure cellular phone application and with Stuart’s help to give her a real-time look at the final placement and closure of the containers, Ann completed her remote visual verification.

This application of technology saved days of RWAP travel to and from Idaho, avoiding ancillary expenses. Most importantly, the virtual visual verification process eliminated the need for direct contact between the Nevada and Idaho program workforces, reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the sites.

“Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has remained fully committed to the safe, secure, and successful execution of EM Nevada’s waste management mission,” said Koplow. “We thank our partners at the Idaho National Laboratory Site for helping to enhance our vital waste verification processes during the current period of adjusted operations.”

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to think outside the box to fulfill our cleanup missions,” said Gerard. “I appreciate EM Nevada’s assistance in developing an innovative solution to enhance their waste inspection process to allow us to continue to meet our regulatory agreements.”

The NNSS plays a pivotal role in the cleanup of DOE sites involved in historic nuclear research, development and testing, and ongoing national security and science missions by providing a safe, secure and effective asset for the permanent disposal of low-level, mixed low-level and classified radioactive waste. Waste disposed at the NNSS is only accepted from approved federal sources and must comply with the rigorous NNSS Waste Acceptance Criteria. The INL is required to ship specific wastes out of Idaho in compliance with the 1995 Idaho Settlement Agreement.

National Nuclear Security Administration names Laura M. Tomlinson Nevada Field Office Deputy Field Office Manager

Laura M. Tomlinson
Laura M. Tomlinson

NFO serves as the federal oversight for the Nevada National Security Site

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has named Laura M. Tomlinson as Deputy Field Office Manager for the Nevada Field Office (NFO). The NFO serves as the federal oversight for the Nevada National Security Site.

Tomlinson, who has served as NFO’s Acting Deputy Field Office Manager since February 2020, brings 13 years of experience as the Assistant Manager/Deputy Assistant Manager for Mission and Infrastructure at NNSA/NFO, and another 13 years of experience in various technical positions throughout the Department of Energy (DOE) in support of the Stockpile Stewardship program at the NNSS.

“Through times of change and unusual challenges, it is the people of NNSA who make this job and this agency extraordinary,” said Acting NNSA Administrator Charles P. Verdon. “Laura brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this crucial leadership role in NNSA.”

“I am very excited to take the role of Deputy Manager,” Tomlinson said. “The NNSS has been my home for more than 30 years; I love the ever-evolving, exciting missions and the dedicated people that make it all happen. I look forward to making a difference in its future and to continue making history for our national security.”

Some highlights from Tomlinson’s career include overseeing the NNSS Infrastructure program designed to operate and improve the facilities and infrastructure of the 1,355-square-mile NNSS; managing the department’s Nuclear Stockpile Stewardship, National Emergency Response, and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism programs; and managing national security interagency work at the NNSS.

Tomlinson earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), and her MBA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and militarily effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.

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.