NNSS News (October - December 2021)
2021 marks major milestones for EM Nevada Program
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) has published its 2021 Year in Review, summarizing the cleanup work completed across the DOE complex over the course of the year. The DOE EM Nevada Program was counted among the sites that made significant progress, after marking several major milestones in furtherance of its cleanup mission during 2021.
These accomplishments include:
- Initiated characterization and hazard reduction activities to prepare for demolition and closure of two legacy facilities at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)
- Obtained regulatory approval of data completeness for the Pahute Mesa groundwater region – the last active groundwater corrective action area at the NNSS
- Safely and securely disposed of approximately 550,000 cubic feet of classified and low-level (LLW)/mixed low-level (MLLW) radioactive waste in support of DOE cleanup and activities at federal sites across the U.S. involved in nuclear research, development and testing, and ongoing national security and science missions
- Completed the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Complex infrastructure expansion project to allow for future construction of LLW disposal cells
“The past year was foundational for EM’s work in Nevada. As we stand at the precipice of initiating our last major demolition and closure projects at the NNSS, we can also see the completion of our groundwater work and the close-out of our overall environmental restoration mission on the horizon. As always, I thank the dedicated federal and contractor professionals who continue to safely, securely, and successfully move our program forward,” said Rob Boehlecke, manager, EM Nevada Program.
Preparing for last major demolition work
In 2021, the EM Nevada Program and its environmental program services contractor began characterizing contamination and abating known hazards to prepare for the upcoming demolition and closure of two large legacy nuclear facilities on the NNSS. The facilities are the Engine Maintenance, Assembly, and Disassembly (EMAD) and Test Cell C (TCC) complexes, which supported historical nuclear propulsion rocket development and testing programs. The characterization and hazard reduction work being performed will help to ensure future demolition and closure activities at EMAD and TCC are conducted safely, securely, and successfully. Outlined in EM’s Strategic Vision for 2021-2031, the progress at EMAD and TCC represents the last major demolition and closure efforts currently identified in EM Nevada’s environmental remediation mission. The EM Nevada Program plans to mobilize for demolition at TCC and EMAD in 2022.
Key regulatory approval for last active groundwater area
In September, the EM Nevada Program earned approval of “data completeness” from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP), a key step necessary to advance environmental corrective action strategies at the Pahute Mesa groundwater area. Under the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order—a regulatory agreement governing EM cleanup strategies at the NNSS—an assessment of “data completeness” lies between the collection and analysis of field data and the start of advanced scientific modeling.
This field data serves as a gateway for understanding the nature and movement of groundwater at the NNSS. The data collected by EM Nevada, analyzed by experts and reviewed by NDEP includes information related to groundwater chemistry, pressure levels, subsurface temperature and geologic properties. With initial data collection and analysis complete, EM Nevada experts have begun developing sophisticated scientific models to forecast where and how contamination might move within the groundwater under Pahute Mesa.
Groundwater contamination at the NNSS is the result of historical underground nuclear testing conducted from 1951 to 1992. To date, EM Nevada has succeeded in transitioning three of four main groundwater regions at the NNSS to long-term monitoring—only Pahute Mesa remains in the corrective action investigation stage. Decades of testing, analysis and modeling have resulted in an extensive understanding of the nature and movement of groundwater under the NNSS. As a result, current research shows that contaminated groundwater will not reach public water supplies.
EM Nevada projects that the Pahute Mesa groundwater corrective action region will transition to long-term monitoring by 2028. It is currently anticipated that regulatory closure of the Pahute Mesa groundwater area will complete EM’s currently identified environmental restoration mission in Nevada.
For more information on EM Nevada Program activities, please visit https://www.nnss.gov/pages/programs/EM/Environmental.html.
2021 YEAR IN REVIEW: Looking back on some of this year’s highlights
Achieved operating capability to safely conduct UAS operations
The NNSS achieved operating capability to conduct Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAS) experiments in 2021, and safely and securely executed sustainable test range activities in support of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, federal, national laboratory and industry missions.
NNSS becomes one of the first employers to provide the COVID-19 vaccine
Thanks to the hard work of the NNSS Occupational Medicine team, many of whom are pictured (right) during a Jan. 12 drive-thru vaccine clinic, the NNSS was one of the first National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) locations—and one of the first employers in Nevada—to offer on-site COVID-19 vaccinations to employees.
Port Gaston solidifies its place as a world-class cUAS test bed
Established in 2020, the NNSS’ Port Gaston test bed arena flew to new heights in 2021. Featuring restricted airspace in a remote and secure environment, Port Gaston provides a realistic, agile, outdoor test location where users can train against unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in an austere environment. Additional capabilities include: verification of UAS/counter-UAS capabilities, providing of customized sensors and availability of modular UAS payloads for sensors and communications.
DOE awards NNSS employees with highest internal honors
More than 100 NNSS employees were selected to receive a Secretary’s Honor Award, one of the highest awards bestowed on an employee within the Department of Energy (DOE).
All NNSS recipients were recognized with a Secretary of Energy Achievement Award and fall within the following teams, 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
- COVID-19 Facilities and People Response Team.
The NNSS hosts first-ever virtual Nevada Science Bowl
The 30th annual Nevada Science Bowl went virtual this year.
Defending their 2020 Nevada Science Bowl title and securing a spot to represent the Silver State at the DOE National Science Bowl were Davidson Academy students from Reno, Nevada, who were named 2021 Nevada Science Bowl champions Feb. 6.
Nevada Science Bowl is a fast-paced question-and-answer format competition in which students are tested in a range of scientific and mathematical disciplines, including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics and energy.
Major milestone: dual-headed mining breakthrough
Eighteen months and 577 feet after it began, an expansion to the U1a Complex hit a major milestone in March as staff punched through the last remaining dirt wall between the two halves of the new tunnel.
The accomplishment brings the NNSS one step closer to the completion of the $1 billion-plus Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments (ECSE) line item project in collaboration with all three weapons laboratories. ECSE will allow the laboratories to execute experiments in support of stockpile stewardship, certification, and modernization for many decades to come.
The NNSS simultaneously deconflicted these ECSE preparation activities from subcritical experimental schedules and U1a operational maintenance requirements, all while observing strict COVID-19 mitigation requirements in close quarters.
Received High-Performance Sustainable Building certification for Mercury Building 1
The NNSS received High-Performance Sustainable Building certification for Mercury Building 1 (technically, building 23-460) and leveraged this Standardized Acquisition and Recapitalization (STAR) design and an innovative bundled acquisition approach to streamline procurement, increase competition, reduce costs and facilitate subcontractor execution on subsequent buildings.
Building 1 features extensive utility upgrades and is built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold standards as well as federal sustainability requirements. The building is credited as the NNSA’s second net-zero energy facility in the enterprise thanks to its alignment with the Mercury solar array, which debuted in 2018 and currently powers NNSS Fire Station 1, the first NNSA net-zero facility.
For more information on Mercury Building 1 and the STAR design, click here.
NNSS partners with Epirus on counter-UAS research and development
The NNSS 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 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 NNSS/Epirus partnership 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.
NNSS teams recognized with NNSA Defense Programs Awards of Excellence
The NNSA recognized six NNSS teams with Defense Programs Awards of Excellence on May 6. Kent T. Jones, NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Systems Engineering & Integration, was on hand to congratulate the teams for their excellent work in support of the nation’s Stockpile Stewardship Program.
NNSS kicks off its third annual Student Program
The NNSS kicked off its third annual Student Program May 24-25. Students from all across the U.S. attended their first day of the summer 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. The Talent Acquisition department worked with many directorates to transform the program from an in-person internship to being completely virtual in just five short weeks.
Read more information at NNSS.gov about the NNSS Student Program.
NNSS, Kansas City National Security Campus blast off for national security
On June 17, the NNSS and Kansas City National Security (KCNSC) campus—in partnership with Oklahoma State University—launched two 14-foot university hobby/competition rockets at Port Gaston to gather data to further mature KCNSC’s national security technologies.
A venue like no other, the NNSS is uniquely positioned to conduct a wide variety of national security experiments, including official use only and classified experiments that can’t be done in the civilian or private sector. As such, the NNSS regularly partners with other government agencies and private sector customers seeking a secure, remote and expansive location; skilled scientists and technical experts; controlled and restricted airspace that provides for FCC waivers for radio frequency; and a Military Operating Area that allows for work performance without the need for a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA.
With increased fire activity over the summer, NNSS rises to the occasion
In May, before wildland fire season officially began, the first of what would become four wildland fire experiences at and around the Site took place. On three of the four occasions, the NNSS joined forces with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to battle the blazes. As with numerous locations throughout the West, the number of fires over the summer (and before) was unusually high for the area.
While the fires were clearly not a highlight of the year, the NNSS is proud of the response provided by all each and every time. NNSS and BLM Fire & Rescue—and all members of the entities’ emergency response teams—rose to the occasion and worked diligently to keep the Site and surrounding areas safe and informed during every fire.
Edlund named NNSA’s Safety System Oversight Engineer of the Year
Jeff Edlund of the NNSA Nevada Field Office was honored by NNSA and the Department of Energy as its Safety System Oversight (SSO) Engineer of the Year for 2020.
The SSO award, which this year was given virtually, recognized Edlund’s work at the NNSA Production Office (NPO) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he previously served as a nuclear safety specialist, facility representative, and SSO. He joined the NNSS in late 2020. The award recognizes his outstanding achievements in leadership, teamwork, and innovation in establishing a hybrid standard for NPO with a facility representative/safety system oversight dual role.
To read more about Edlund’s recognition, please click here.
Integral NNSA power project reaches key milestone
The NNSA has authorized the design and construction start of the 138 kilovolt (kV) Power Transmission System Replacement (138kV PTSR) at the 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 $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 scientists contribute to National Ignition Facility breakthrough
On Aug. 8, 2021, an experiment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) made a significant step toward ignition, achieving a yield of more than 1.3 megajoules. The yield resulted by focusing a laser light the size of three football fields onto a target the size of a BB, which produced a hot-spot the diameter of a human hair and generating more than 10 quadrillion watts of fusion power in 100 trillionths of a second.
The central mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program of the NNSA. This advancement puts researchers at the threshold of fusion ignition, an important goal of the NIF, and opens access to a new experimental regime.
NNSS’ Livermore Operations has been supporting activities at NIF since the early 2000s through diagnostic characterizations, development and deployment.
NNSS upgrades systems, experiences record low utility power interruptions
To accommodate newer and larger electrical needs at the Site and North Las Vegas Facility, while also better maintaining service to existing customers, the NNSS has made several upgrades to its utility power infrastructure since 2017. The long overdue and critically needed efforts that drove unplanned power outages up to a recorded all-time high in 2017 have improved every year since. The last year has seen a significant amount of work accomplished to restore, maintain and improve power at the North Las Vegas Nevada Support Facility, Mercury and Area 17. In fact, 2021 has seen the lowest amount of electrical utility interruptions on file.
The NNSS has shown year-to-year commitment to use its infrastructure dollars in the areas where they are needed most. By combining recapitalization of the most aged and frail sections, constructing new redundancies to the most critical customers and implementing a renewed focus on reoccurring maintenance efforts, the NNSS is best able to ensure a safer work environment and mitigate impacts to its 24/7 operations.
NNSS in the community: Advancing concepts of COVID-19 detection with BYU
The 2020/2021 Brigham Young University (BYU) Capstone Team was tasked with advancing NNSS-derived concepts of COVID-19 detection by utilizing commercial, off-the-shelf hardware and open source machine learning tools for novel human performance analytics-assessment capability.
The team focused efforts on two activities: first, developing and refining machine learning analysis of respiratory and cardiology data sets to visualize abnormal mechanical breathing performance and synchronization of heart rate and respiration rate; and second, creating a visualization tool for a user to analyze collected data in an efficient and actionable manner. The NNSS Site-Directed Research and Development technical development team approached the students as technical peers, allowing them to exercise real-world engineering concepts.
For more information on this work, click here.
Accomplished numerous Stockpile Stewardship milestones
- The NNSS executed a record three subcritical experiments (SCEs) in a single year in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory while planning and preparing for three additional SCE series to be executed in the upcoming years to support stockpile certification needs.
- Executed Low Yield Nuclear Monitoring (LYNM) experiments including new capabilities to distinguish low- to no-yield weapons development activities from natural occurrences. These experiments included first-time collaborations with the Subcritical Experimentation program.
- Achieved five firsts in stockpile certification diagnostic development, vastly improving the quantity, quality and recovery of data for the Nuclear Security Enterprise national laboratories, including visual imaging, radiographic imaging, plutonium resonance measurements and ejecta properties.
- Executed three Short Stack experiments capped by a Legacy Fragmentation experiment for the B61 Life Extension Program to evaluate the fragmentation patterns of legacy components and provide safety and reliability data to stockpile modernization programs.
NNSS wins more than a dozen NNSA NA-50 Excellence Awards
More than a dozen NNSS teams were recognized Oct. 6 during an awards ceremony for the 2019 and 2020 NA-50 Excellence Awards, hosted virtually by NNSS. The NA-50 Excellence Awards are presented by the NNSA Office of Safety, Infrastructure & Operations (NA-50) for outstanding accomplishments involving innovation, effectiveness, teamwork, overcoming adversity and enabling future success.
NNSS releases 2020 environmental report
The NNSS released its annual environmental report for 2020.
The 2020 NNSS Environmental Report provides the results of environmental monitoring and compliance related to all programs and activities conducted in and around the NNSS to protect the environment and the public.
NNSS' Joshua Zamzow awarded Contractor Security Manager of the Year
The NNSA Office of Defense Nuclear Security recently honored Joshua Zamzow, manager of the NNSS’ Vulnerability Analysis and Risk Planning department, as its Contractor Security Manager of the Year.
After the DOE published the Design Basis Threat (DBT), a comprehensive threat policy that describes DOE assets and the vulnerability assessment and security risk assessment metrics that are used to assess the quality of physical protection programs, Zamzow led his team through the analysis for the NNSS and became the first site to complete the analysis for the DBT. He also supported other sites in their implementation.
The NNSS led the NNSA Complex in DBT implementation, pioneering new Security Risk Authorization Basis and Unanalyzed Security Condition processes resulting in more efficient and agile support to Site mission activities and presenting these concepts to the NA-70 Program Integration Board.
NNSS SDRD drone ‘valet’ significantly extends small drone range
The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster prompted an immediate need for measurements to be taken in the disaster area—a need which posed two problems. First, the area was far too dangerous for any humans to take the measurements on-site themselves; and second, the impacted area was larger than most drones’ range.
So how do you use a small drone to gather data from outside its limited flight range? Watch what an NNSS Site-Directed Research & Development-funded team came up with.
NNSS implements Phase I of new Science & Technology thrust areas
The NNSS has implemented Phase I of the establishment of its Science & Technology thrust areas. Each thrust area encompasses a specific segment of science and technology conducted at the NNSS. Of its seven total thrust areas, four were included in Phase I.
“The thrust areas provide a number of benefits,” said NNSS Chief Scientist Jose Sinibaldi, who serves as program director for the Science & Technology directorate in which the thrust areas are housed. “In addition to strengthening our existing technical capabilities, they better prepare the NNSS for agile response to future national security threats.”
More specifically, they’ll enable cross-training across mission organizations and strengthen the science and technology areas at the NNSS, helping to attract and retain topnotch talent. The thrust areas will also help growing collaborations with universities, which—in turn—injects innovation into program missions and develops STEM pipelines with critical knowledge, skills and abilities.
NNSS integral to United States’ holistic approach to supporting national security personnel
NNSS Program Managers Scott Sonnon and Ian O’Keefe established the Human Performance Analytics (HPA) system to analyze, customize and optimize the safety and security of the United States by unlocking ever-greater potential of personnel in national security organizations.
The NNSA adopted the HPA program to assess, customize and deliver training for emergency responders, military and intelligence officers to increase mission-specific physical, psychological and physiological performance. Partnering with the NNSS, a well-coordinated, fully-integrated training portfolio was created through selection of the highest caliber instruction cadre.
The NNSS is not just the creator of the HPA program; a subset of employees are also users. HPA has quickly become an integral part of the Nuclear Emergency Response Team, which includes the NNSS’ Nuclear Response Division.
To read more, visit nnss.gov.
NNSS honored with a site visit by Southwest Alliance for Excellence
NNSS management and operating contractor Mission Support and Test Services’ (MSTS) Business Operations senior directorate was selected by the Southwest Alliance for Excellence (SWAE), the Southwest affiliate of the Baldrige Foundation Institute for Performance Excellence, for a virtual site visit. The visit took place the week of Nov. 8-12.
Baldrige is a leadership and management framework with a systems-level, customer-driven organizational assessment and design approach that has proven to enhance the performance of organizations across every sector of the economy compared to non-Baldrige peers.
Only a small percentage of businesses are selected for a site visit based on Baldrige’s stringent national criteria. Following a site visit, the SWAE examiners compile a report containing business strengths and opportunities for improvement against the Baldrige criteria questions and scoring system. Businesses visited are also considered for prestigious SWAE Awards that will be announced at a later date.
MSTS forms CRADA to fight global warming
MSTS has formed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), an agreement between MSTS and a private company to work alongside one another on research and development.
Two MSTS employees formed Plumarea, LLC, to attempt to commercialize NNSS/MSTS technology to detect methane in order to help reduce the effects of global warming. Plumarea has initial indications that the technology is readily adaptable to methane detection and is working to advance the technology for the benefit of Plumarea, MSTS and the NNSS.
Many technologies result from the NNSS’ national security work. As part of its technology transfer mission, MSTS—as management and operating contractor—facilitates third parties adopting MSTS technology through CRADAs, partnership agreements and licenses.
NNSA Administrator presents Weber with Linton F. Brooks Medal
NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby presented Jerry A. Weber (pictured second from right), Assistant Manager for Safeguards and Security at the Nevada Field Office, with the Linton F. Brooks Medal for Dedication to Public Service. This award is an annual recognition of an outstanding NNSA employee whose actions and deeds exemplify the spirit of commitment and achievement embodied in Ambassador Brooks’ decades of selfless service.
“Linton is the epitome of public service and anyone who receives this award should be highly honored and inspired to have a career as dedicated and as impactful as his,” said NNSA Administrator Jill Hruby in her remarks. “And Jerry truly epitomizes the characteristics this award was intended to recognize. He is a skilled professional tackling our nation’s toughest challenges while demonstrating a strong commitment to public service.”
For more information on this recognition, please click here.
NNSS gives back to the community throughout the year
Giving back to the communities in which we live and work is an important part of the fabric of the NNSS. Some highlights from the year include:
NNSS provided close to $500,000 for outreach efforts in FY21.
- Almost $250,000 was provided to universities for graduate/undergraduate scholarships, research, internships, awards or Capstone projects, and university outreach that supports K-12 STEM efforts.
- More than $120,000 was spent on STEM efforts for grades K-12, including: sponsorships at children’s museums, science camps, STEM competitions, career fairs, field trips and STEM grants.
- About $130,000 was spent on community efforts and advocacy. This included chamber memberships, organizational memberships, museum sponsorships, food bank donations and sponsorships for non-profit agency efforts/events.
- In 2020, Nevada Field Office employees gave a total of $21,366.86 to benefit various nonprofit organizations in 2021. Each employee can choose a beneficiary from a pre-selected list of charities ranging from homeless services, to nature conservation, education, animal welfare and more.
During this year’s annual Military Affairs Committee (MAC) Night Out—established by the Vegas Chamber to recognize members of Nellis and Creech Air Force bases—a new award was introduced. The JD Daniels Award, named in honor of NNSS Security and Emergency Services Deputy Director JD Daniels, will recognize charitable organizations in providing incredible support to veterans, their spouses and their families. The award is a nod to Daniels’ dedicated support of veterans and for his leadership in the community.
Members of the media: To pursue a story on any of the above accomplishments, please don’t hesitate to reach out or check out our media kit, found here.
NNSS cements success through extensive mix design testing
Construction of the testbed that will host the Advanced Sources and Detectors (ASD) Scorpius machine and its associated tunnels continues 963 feet below ground surface at the NNSS U1a Complex.
Scorpius will enable experiments that image special nuclear material during multiple stages of detonation in order to provide essential data on stockpile safety and certification, while still being subcritical and designed to never reach criticality. Upon completion in 2025, Scorpius will be the most capable weapons radiographic system in the world.
The tunnel infrastructure buildout project, titled the Underground Complex Enhancement Project, or UCEP, will provide space, infrastructure and support facilities to expand the NNSS’ Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments (ECSE) efforts. Upon completion, NNSS will be able to provide important performance information not available today.
Mining tunnels nearly 1,000 feet underground in the Southern Nevada bedrock presents unique opportunities for innovation not typically encountered in other large-scale projects.
In March of 2021, the U1a Complex hit a major milestone as staff punched through the last remaining dirt wall between the two halves of the new tunnel. While tunnels are typically dug beginning at one end and going clean through to the other, the NNSS team determined the process could be done equally as well, but in a timelier manner, by beginning drilling at two ends of the tunnel simultaneously. Crews headed toward each other and eventually met in the middle.
Another unique, upcoming challenge the team has already begun solving: pumping a large amount of concrete more than 1,200 feet to complete a total placement exceeding 2,000 cubic yards.
When most people think of mixing up some concrete, a trip to the nearest hardware store for a bag of dry ingredients to be combined with water from the backyard hose likely comes to mind. And while that may, indeed, be just what’s needed for most household DIY projects, the possible ingredient ratios for mixing cement are surprisingly limitless.
“Concrete is as varied as different cake mixes,” said NNSS Supervisor David Glass, a member of Mission Assurance’s Quality Services & Support/Contractor Assurance System team.
Essentially, it’s a science.
The main components of concrete are 3/4-inch aggregate rock, 3/8-inch aggregate, sand, 1/4-inch aggregate rock, cement material and fly ash. However, ratios of these ingredients can vary based on use, transport and other factors. Fly ash, for example, creates added strength in concrete, while added retardants delay the concrete’s ability to set for a certain amount of time. When looking at pumpability over a great distance, a higher slump—more moisture in the cement to water ratio—is important, as the concrete begins to lose moisture as it’s pumped. However, the moisture must not be so high that the materials segregate—with the heavier materials sinking to the bottom—which would mean a quicker deterioration of the concrete over time.
To select just the right mixture, the team partnered with Jacobs, one of the three joint venture partner companies that make up NNSS management and operating contractor Mission Support and Test Services LLC.
Over the course of 11 weeks, the NNSS Material Testing Laboratory (MTL)—utilizing technology and equipment introduced in partnership with the Enterprise Infrastructure Programs team—supported and delivered analyses of 33 trial mix designs provided by Jacobs for testing and produced eight complete mix designs.
For each design, the MTL team fed a 2.7-yard mix into a small lab concrete mixer. They analyzed each mixture for air, slump, unit weight, compressive strength, air entrainment (critical for certain conditions and helps with pumpability) and more. They then created a series of 12 test cylinders per mix to be broken for compression strength testing at various stages of the drying process to see whether the mix design would function as desired.
Concrete gains strength as it ages. It’s technically supposed to be cured at 28 days, which is the American Society for Testing and Materials standard, but that’s not always the case. The MTL team broke three cylinders at seven days, three at 14 days, three at 28 days and three at 56 days, with all results reported back to Jacobs for ongoing discussion and collaboration.
“It was an undertaking,” Glass said.
After analysis was completed on each of the eight that moved forward to full truck trial batches, the NNSS used the materials for other projects they had going, so no materials were wasted.
In the coming months, the mixes identified as workable will be blended into full-size trial batches and pumped underground at U1a for testing. Again, the material won’t go to waste, as concrete is regularly used underground anyway for dust control as the tunnels are dug out.
While extensive, the test process lays the groundwork for a proven, stable design consistent among batch-to-batch results.
“The partnership with Construction is the special ingredient,” said Quality Services and Support/CAS Director David Martin. “Great partnerships produce great results and are the foundation for the work going forward.”
A recently upgraded full concrete and soils laboratory, the NNSS Material Testing Laboratory is integral to projects throughout the Site, including the buildout for Scorpius. The lab professionals regularly perform proctor compaction testing to determine what it takes to make soil fully compacted before concrete is placed, thus ensuring concrete doesn’t crack or sag later due to ground settling. They also test and inspect trenching and storm drains and conduct building and welding inspections across the Site, protecting the people, property and buildings and ensuring the NNSS can carry out its critical national security mission.
New video highlights Environmental Management work at Nevada National Security Site
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) recently developed a series of new “Site 101” videos to highlight the Office’s ongoing clean up missions at DOE sites across the nation. The videos are highlighted on new site-specific webpages that provide a “one-stop shop” for high-level information about each site. The EM Nevada Program, which is responsible for executing environmental corrective actions at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), is among the first slate of sites to have its Site 101 videos made available to the public. The new EM Nevada Site 101 video can be viewed here.
Narrated by Nicole Nelson-Jean, EM’s Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations, the NNSS 101 video highlights EM Nevada’s safe, secure, and successful execution of cleanup missions in Nevada, including surface soil and infrastructure remediation, groundwater characterization, long-term monitoring, and radioactive waste disposal. The video also highlights EM Nevada’s commitment to maintaining a robust stakeholder engagement program to involve the public in determining environmental corrective action strategies at the Site.
The NNSS was used from 1951 to 1992 to conduct a total of 100 atmospheric and 828 underground nuclear weapons tests. As a result, some groundwater, surface soils, and industrial facilities were contaminated on the Site and the surrounding Nevada Test and Training Range. The DOE’s EM Nevada Program is responsible for completing cleanup actions at these historic nuclear testing locations. You can learn more about EM Nevada’s work online at nnss.gov.
Updated NNSS Media Kit, fact sheets now available online
The Nevada National Security Site has fully updated its media kit, now available in the Public Affairs/Outreach menu on the NNSS.gov homepage, or on our Contact Us page in both low resolution and high resolution formats.
The revised media kit contains up-to-date information on NNSS locations, programs, assets and facilities, as well as leader bios, honors and awards, interesting facts (did you know NNSS is the largest high-tech employer in Southern Nevada?), community outreach programs and an overview of our nearly $1 billion annual economic impact in Nevada.
The media kit and our recently updated Fact Sheets offer interested individuals and media organizations a wealth of options to choose from when researching the NNSS. We encourage visitors with specific or unaddressed questions to reach out to us directly through any of the methods listed on our Contact Us page.
NNSS integral to United States’ holistic approach to supporting national security personnel
Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) Program Managers Scott Sonnon and Ian O’Keefe established the Human Performance Analytics (HPA) system to analyze, customize and optimize the safety and security of the United States by unlocking ever-greater potential of personnel in national security organizations.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) adopted the HPA program to assess, customize and deliver training for emergency responders, military and intelligence officers to increase mission-specific physical, psychological and physiological performance. Partnering with the NNSS, a well-coordinated, fully-integrated training portfolio was created through selection of the highest caliber instruction cadre.
The NNSS is not just the creator of the HPA program; a subset of employees are also users. HPA has quickly become an integral part of the Nuclear Emergency Response Team (NEST), which includes the NNSS’ Nuclear Response Division (NRD).
(Learn more about NEST and the NRD on YouTube.)
An additional user of the program is the Department of Defense (DoD) through the Strategic Partnership Program to military Special Operations Forces and Strategic Intelligence Partnership Program to the Intelligence Community.
HPA utilizes a “next-level,” holistic approach through training, wearables and assessment of biomathematical data analytics for customized solutions to common stressors. The NNSS is involved with all three pillars of this system, including training, wearables and analytics, depending on the sponsor.
Training levels are determined by the sponsor and rigors of individuals’ jobs. The three levels of training are resilience training, which includes learning quantified degrees of fatigue, stress, pain, energy, and alertness affected by occupational demands; optimization training, which tracks individualized trends in physiological data over time for mission-specific preparation; and lastly, enhancement training, which is achieved by synchronizing internal and external resources with the mind and body.
The NNSS has partnered with the DoD to further advance its human performance optimization research. By tracking and studying individualized trend changes in physiological data over time, the NNSS will better be able to help individuals sustainably perform at peak capacity through the establishment of customized mitigation toolboxes that can be refined and developed for mission-specific preparation, execution and compensation.
The wearables are biosensors used during sleep and/or physical training to provide monitoring and feedback to the operator. The wearable will deliver the data, similar to a FitBit, but the uniqueness of the product is in the analytics. Depending on the sponsor and the impact of the training, Sonnon and O’Keefe can create unique solutions to respond to the data.
In 2020, the HPA team presented ideas and concepts to students and professors of academic partners at Brigham Young University and Cornell University to work on the artificial intelligence (AI) for the wearables. In a time where COVID-19 shut down most of the world, it compressed HPA to tightening solutions to the data.
“There are no missions without people,” Sonnon said. “Through HPA’s delivery, we hope to be able to keep our people longer by better understanding their stress and taking action to mitigate it.”
The system aims to identify what is happening and what can be done; it will then provide solutions for personnel to be their best selves for a longer period of time.
HPA is not a cut and paste way of thinking and is a “multifaceted application to wellness,” through looking at the whole person and creating a unique way to respond to his or her specific stressors, said O’Keefe.
“Water conforms to the container it’s poured into,” said Sonnon. If identifying what can wear down an emergency responder versus another personnel member on a physiological level, he said, it will strengthen the overall performance of the individual. For the program to be effective, it must be perfectly customized to the mission and the individual challenges faced.
EM Nevada receives key regulatory approval for last active groundwater area
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program has earned a key regulatory approval necessary to advance its groundwater environmental corrective mission at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The milestone — approval of “data completeness” — was granted by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP). The approval paves the way for EM Nevada to continue scientific study at Pahute Mesa, the fourth and final active groundwater corrective action area at the NNSS.
Under the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (FFACO) — a regulatory agreement governing EM cleanup approaches at the NNSS — an assessment of “data completeness” comes after the collection and analysis of field data and before the start of advanced scientific modeling to support groundwater corrective actions. The data collected by EM Nevada, analyzed by technical experts, and reviewed by NDEP includes information related to groundwater chemistry, pressure levels, subsurface temperature, and geologic properties.
With initial data collection and analysis complete, experts have begun developing sophisticated scientific models to forecast where and how contamination might move within the groundwater under Pahute Mesa. Much of the technical work associated with this process, known broadly as characterization, is conducted by Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., the environmental services contractor to EM Nevada.
“Approval of data completeness is a key accomplishment that will allow our program to continue advancing our groundwater strategy at Pahute Mesa,” said Rob Boehlecke, EM Nevada Program manager. “As always, I thank the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection for their partnership and collaboration. I also want to recognize our collaborating partners with the United States Geological Survey, contractors Navarro and Mission Support and Test Services, and the Desert Research Institute, who are all helping to facilitate the safe, secure, and successful completion of our overall groundwater mission by 2028.”
Groundwater contamination at the NNSS is the result of historical underground nuclear testing conducted from 1951 to 1992. To date, EM Nevada has succeeded in transitioning three of four main groundwater regions at the NNSS to long-term monitoring, with only Pahute Mesa remaining in the corrective action investigation stage. Decades of testing, analysis, and modeling have resulted in an extensive understanding of the nature and movement of groundwater under the NNSS. As a result, current research shows that contaminated groundwater will not reach public water supplies.
EM Nevada projects that the Pahute Mesa groundwater corrective action region will transition to long-term monitoring by 2028. Regulatory closure of the Pahute Mesa groundwater area will complete EM’s environmental restoration mission in Nevada.
NNSS in the community: Advancing concepts of COVID-19 detection with BYU
The 2020/2021 Brigham Young University (BYU) Capstone Team was tasked with advancing Nevada National Security Site (NNSS)-derived concepts of COVID-19 detection by utilizing Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware and open source machine learning tools for novel human performance analytics-assessment capability. Working with Erik Stassinos, NNSS Applied Technologies Technical Projects manager, and Scott Sonnon, NNSS Human Performance Analytics Program manager, the team focused efforts on two activities: first, developing and refining machine learning analysis of respiratory and cardiology data sets to visualize abnormal mechanical breathing performance, and synchronization of heart rate and respiration rate; and second, creating a visualization tool for a user to analyze their collected data in an efficient and actionable manner. The NNSS Site-Directed Research and Development (SDRD) technical development team approached the students as technical peers, allowing them to exercise real-world engineering concepts.
BYU Capstone Team #34, sponsored by NNSS, communicated with NNSS technical advisors through weekly email reports on progress, and successfully developed both an analytics tool for synchronicity and a user front-end for visualizing data parameters. Technical details on synchronizing were provided to the team based on scientific biomedical research publications. The concept that respiration and electrocardiogram (ECG) signals are two oscillators allows the mathematical phase linking between them. Pulling respiration and ECG data from the COTS wearable sensor cloud, the team implemented PyTorch and TensorFlow machine learning tools, filtering and treating imported data sets as data “clusters” and utilizing a 20 percent deviation margin to flag data of potential interest. The team implemented MATLAB tools to validate this approach, and displayed the generated synchronized data along with other data signals in their developed graphical user interface.
Stassinos notes that the BYU Capstone project benefits both NNSS and the students. “The collaboration with BYU students highlighted the impressive abilities students had in developing engineering methodology, and their understanding of the patience and persistence required for engineering research that does not always follow a linear path,” he observed. “SDRD leverages technology based on current state of the art for wearable sensors, and the design and release cadence of some of these technologies is on the order of months. Having access to young talent not only provides students the opportunity to engage in technical activities within NNSS, but also provides NNSS research programs the opportunity to access new creative thinking. New technology exposure that young individuals in STEM programs often have access to provides opportunity for novel solution paths for the hard problems that NNSS pursues in its site-directed research.”
Several NNSS partners have expressed interest in harnessing the capabilities developed through the Capstone project for their own groups and teams, and the technology has been presented to other businesses and agencies within the national healthcare system as another tool to use in our national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding what sort of impacts there are to cardiorespiratory performance from COVID symptoms and pre-symptoms continues to be an important element of the search for more effective and accurate diagnoses and treatments, and the technology developed by BYU Capstone Team #34 and NNSS can help collect and visualize useful data for that research in a unique and easily-visualized way.
For more information about BYU’s Capstone program, visit https://capstone.byu.edu/.
NNSS implements Phase I of new Science & Technology thrust areas
The NNSS has implemented Phase I of the establishment of its Science & Technology thrust areas. Each thrust area encompasses a specific segment of science and technology conducted at the NNSS. Of its seven total thrust areas, four (listed below) were included in Phase I.
“The thrust areas provide a number of benefits,” said NNSS Chief Scientist Jose Sinibaldi, who serves as program director for the Science & Technology directorate in which the thrust areas are housed. “In addition to strengthening our existing technical capabilities, they better prepare the NNSS for agile response to future national security threats.”
More specifically, they’ll enable cross-training across mission organizations and strengthen the science and technology areas at the NNSS, which will help the NNSS attract and retain topnotch talent. The thrust areas will also help growing collaborations with universities, which—in turn—injects innovation into program missions and develops STEM pipelines with critical knowledge, skills and abilities.
Phase II is slated to begin in 2022.
The Phase I thrust areas include:
Accelerator Beam Science and Target Interactions
The Accelerator Beam Science center supports critical operational needs, advanced concepts, and innovative solutions for our large linear induction accelerator Scorpius and charged particle beam science in general. Specific initiatives include methods and techniques of various forms of pulsed power and their implementation on linear induction electron accelerators and potentially other advanced machines; advanced accelerator controls and data acquisition including analysis for enhanced machine performance; diagnostics systems and methods to measure key accelerator characteristics, machine tuning, and machine reliability and maintenance needs; cross‐cutting solutions for beam science and X‐ray generation for radiographic systems supporting national security requirements; and accelerator science and technology maturation and development using integrated test stands and other complementary platforms and/or national user facilities.
Enabling Technologies for Autonomous Systems and Sensing
The center for Enabling Technologies for Autonomous Systems and Sensing supports concepts and capabilities related to intelligent machine‐based systems for critical global security and associated applications. Covering a wide range of target signatures and technologies for characterizing them, autonomous systems are required for challenging environments that need advanced engineering, low power, miniaturized forms, and specialized hardware and firmware. Uniquely coupled sensor fusion and advanced edge computing with artificial intelligence and machine deep learning support detection, identification, and sense making, to enable all facets of mission requirements. Autonomous deployment platforms, unmanned systems, and countermeasure technologies provide capabilities to mitigate hazardous environments, denied access, and difficult threats. Future integration of advanced and next generation sensing and imaging enables detection beyond state of the art and further enhances our emergency response, nonproliferation, and counter‐terrorism capabilities.
Radiographic Systems Imaging and Analysis
The Radiographic Systems Imaging and Analysis center fundamentally encompasses all aspects of X‐ray imaging supporting advanced hydrodynamic testing and other requirements needed to accomplish our mission. Core initiatives include imaging systems for gamma, X‐rays, and neutrons with associated advanced detection capabilities including data analysis, system testing, and qualification. Advanced scintillator materials and diagnostics are required to support high‐fidelity imaging. Imaging analysis techniques are foundational, and next‐generation machine learning with high‐performance computing for automated data analysis supports quantitative data analysis and reduces uncertainty. Methods, techniques, and concepts that push state‐of‐the‐art capability in radiographic imaging are required to further enhance performance of existing and future systems.
User‐Centered Remote Testing and Operations
The User‐Centered Remote Testing and Operations center encompasses a broad range of technologies and supporting functions that enable mission‐critical test and experimentation at the NNSS. Initiatives include technical infrastructure needs, such as widely accessible user‐focused information technology systems, national and international databases, and inter‐connectivity; real‐time remote data interfaces and test and experimentation control systems that enhance operational capability; underground and remote location technical operations and data distribution and analysis; geoscience foundational basis including sensor technology, high‐performance computer modeling and automated analysis for large datasets; and advanced fiber‐optic and next‐generation quantum sensing technologies.
SDRD drone “valet” significantly extends small drone range
The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster prompted an immediate need for measurements to be taken in the disaster area— a need which posed two problems. First, the area was far too dangerous for any humans to take the measurements on-site themselves, and second, the impacted area was larger than most drones’ range.
These two problems quickly raised a new question: How do you use a small drone to gather data from outside its limited flight range?
An NNSS Site-Directed Research and Development (SDRD)-funded team, currently led by Andrew Davies and composed of team members from the Special Technologies Laboratory and the Remote Sensing Laboratories, has been working on that question, and has come up with a solution: Use a second, larger drone to deliver the smaller drone to the operational area. The complexities involved in this simple-sounding solution may surprise you.
Watch the video to learn about some of the obstacles SDRD had to overcome while working toward that solution, and also get a first look at the drone delivery process.
EM Nevada Program clean up, public involvement efforts highlighted at 2021 RadWaste Summit
Federal and contractor representatives involved with the activities of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Environmental Management (EM), as well as its local Program Office in Nevada, were recently recognized at the 2021 RadWaste Summit hosted by ExchangeMonitor Publications & Forums in Summerlin, Nevada.
EM’s Associate Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Field Operations, Nicole Nelson-Jean, served as the summit’s keynote speaker and discussed several notable accomplishments from across the EM complex nationwide.
In her remarks, Nelson-Jean specifically recognized the EM Nevada Program’s ongoing work to characterize contamination and abate known hazards in preparation for the upcoming demolition and closure of two large legacy nuclear facilities on the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS). The facilities are the Engine Maintenance, Assembly, and Disassembly (EMAD) and Test Cell C (TCC) complexes, which supported historical nuclear propulsion rocket development and testing programs in Nevada. The characterization and hazard reduction work being performed now will help to ensure future demolition and closure activities at EMAD and TCC are conducted safely, securely, and successfully. Outlined in EM’s Strategic Vision for 2021-2031, the progress at EMAD and TCC represents the last major demolition and closure efforts currently identified in EM Nevada’s environmental remediation mission.
Jesse Sleezer, Strategic Communications Manager for Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc., who provides public affairs support for the EM Nevada Program, participated in a panel on EM community relations at the summit. Sleezer joined panelists Kara Colton, Director, Nuclear Policy for the Energy Communities Alliance, Mike Nartker, Chief of Staff for the Office of Environmental Management, and Keith Wood, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Amentum’s Nuclear & Environment Strategic Business Unit, for a wide-ranging discussion on the history of, perspectives on, and approach to community relations across the EM complex. The panel also discussed challenges and opportunities that have emerged over decades of partnership from the federal, contractor and stakeholder points of view.
The three-day RadWaste Summit was held in a hybrid format this year after being entirely virtual last year. You can learn more about the summit here. To learn more about EM Nevada Program activities, please visit the Program’s website.
Desert Rock Airport improvements pave the way for safety
The Desert Rock Airport’s runway pavement was recently crack sealed to eliminate concerns about damage coming from water intrusion. The runway was also painted to adhere to current Federal Aviation Administration guidelines and standards.
Former NNSS Project Manager Kirby Ward led the team who accomplished the work and enabled it to be completed on time. His team wishes he was still here, rather than retired, to congratulate him for successful completion of this important project.
In addition, NNSS Senior Principal Scientist Rick Maurer and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)/NA-81 Nuclear Incident Policy and Cooperation Program (NIPC) were instrumental in the funding and opportunity to upgrade Desert Rock Airport to current standards. The mitigation strategies they authorized and funded have extended the life of Desert Rock for another 10 years and allow for the continued use of this national asset.
The NIPC project at the NNSS is run by the Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) and provides radiological emergency response training for international partners. Desert Rock Airport is used as part of this program to provide international Aerial Measuring System workshops utilizing the NNSA Bell-412 helicopter based at RSL to conduct radiological survey mission training on radiation sources at the Site. It is also used for other national security missions supported by NNSA/NA-80 for radiological emergency response teams.
These upgrades will improve the safety of day and night operations and significantly reduce the possibility of pilot landing and takeoff error.
NNSS Women’s Affinity Group participates in Women United Suit Drive
The Nevada National Security Site Women’s Affinity Group recently gathered clothing donations for Women United with United Way of Southern Nevada. Women United empowers women to achieve economic independence by enabling them to build a career and become self-sufficient. The organization assists local women in the Las Vegas Valley looking to get back on their feet by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help them thrive in work and life.
The donated clothing provides a woman with one suit for her job interview. In addition, this particular annual suit drive unites female leaders across Southern Nevada to empower women returning to the workplace. Donations help women who are participating in return-to-work programs gain confidence to succeed during job interviews.
This year, employees were able to drop-off donations at three different locations varying between the North Las Vegas facility and the Site. Donations gathered filled three vehicles, which added to the total of over 5,000 articles of clothing donated from people from the Las Vegas area. These donations provided hundreds of women with new or gently used attire to feel confident and find success in the workplace.
For more information on Women United of Southern Nevada, please visit https://www.uwsn.org/women-united.
One month. Two deployments.
Michael Porter is no stranger to pitching in to help in the wake of emergencies, accidents, and natural and manmade disasters. A firefighter at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and member of the Nevada Task Force 1 Urban Search & Rescue team (NV-TF1), Porter has participated in nine deployments over the last 13 years to assist those most in need in the wake of hurricanes, floods and fires. He has seen destruction and responded to calls for help.
September took Porter to two very different rescue operations. First, he served as a rescue manager in response to Hurricane Ida on Grand Isle, an eight-mile long barrier island off the coast of Louisiana. When his search and rescue team arrived, Grand Isle was completely deserted and still. They moved methodically, following their training, systematically conducting 1,500 structural assessments. They conducted a second rescue search, working meticulously alongside local crews and the Colorado Urban Search and Rescue team.
Shortly after his return from Louisiana, Porter was deployed again, but this time closer to home: the Mt. Charleston Lodge fire. Porters’ dog, Dexter, is trained to detect human remains and can sniff out what could have been missed during recovery operations. The two searched the structure to be sure there were no lives lost in the fire.
“I have the skillset, and I have the trainings,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I go out and help? I have a desire to help when I can and to use my skills to assist others in need.”
Porter joined the NV-TF1 in 2008, which is one of FEMA’s 28 Urban Search & Rescue task forces that can be deployed to a disaster area. The teams consist of 70 members with expertise in search, rescue, medicine, hazardous materials, logistics and planning, and specialists such as structural engineers, physicians and canine search teams. Each team is equipped and ready to deploy within six hours in various response models based on the needs of the situation. When federal support is anticipated prior to an event such as a hurricane, resources are often pre-positioned along with other federal responders to expedite support following the disaster.
Porter said responding to the Houston area for Hurricane Harvey in 2017 had a lasting impact on him. People who had lost everything were coming up to the rescues teams to see what they needed, offering the search teams water and food.
“We were the ones there to make sure they had those things,” he said. “The resilient and giving spirt of the people of Texas was amazing and something I will always remember.”
The most challenging aspect, he said, is knowing you cannot help everyone because, when you’re deployed, it’s vital to stay focused on your assigned mission and not get distracted. “You are part of a bigger picture, and if you don’t do what you are assigned, you affect others and the overall plan.”
Nevada National Security Site scientists contribute to National Ignition Facility breakthrough
On Aug. 8, 2021, an experiment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL’s) National Ignition Facility (NIF) made a significant step toward ignition, achieving a yield of more than 1.3 megajoules (MJ). This advancement puts researchers at the threshold of fusion ignition, an important goal of the NIF, and opens access to a new experimental regime.
The central mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program of the National Nuclear Security Administration. The experiment was enabled by focusing laser light from NIF — the size of three football fields — onto a target the size of a BB that produces a hot-spot the diameter of a human hair, generating more than 10 quadrillion watts of fusion power in 100 trillionths of a second.
Nevada National Security Site’s Livermore Operations (LO) has been supporting activities at NIF since the early 2000s through diagnostic characterizations, development, and deployment. LO currently has eight active laboratories supporting diagnostic characterizations for instruments that are deployed making measurements in NIF experiments. Characterizations are performed on very complex instrumentation, including a Hardened X-Ray Gated Imager, as well as relatively simple components like optical filters, which are incorporated into larger diagnostic systems. These characterizations ensure the data returned from NIF is accurate and reliable. During its time supporting NIF, LO has deployed as many as 18 field diagnostics technicians to NIF’s Target Area.
“This significant advance was only made possible by the sustained support, dedication and hard work of a very large team over many decades,” said Mark Herrmann, LLNL’s deputy program director for Fundamental Weapons Physics. “This result builds on the work and successes of the entire team, including the people who pursued inertial confinement fusion from the earliest days of our Laboratory. They should also share in the excitement of this success.”
Looking ahead, access to this new experimental regime will inspire new avenues for research and provide the opportunity to benchmark modeling used to understand the proximity to ignition. Plans for repeat experiments are well underway, although it will take several months for them to be executed.
NNSS’ Lucas Basham Murphy graduates from FEMA’s National Emergency Management Executive Academy
Lucas Basham Murphy, a Principal Emergency Response Specialist for the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), recently graduated from FEMA’s National Emergency Management Executive Academy (NEMEA) at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The NEMEA program is designed to challenge and enhance the talents of emergency management leaders’ critical thinking, visionary strategic planning, negotiation and conflict resolution applied to complex real-world problems.
Individuals who apply for the academy must have more than 10 years in emergency management. The NEMEA committee selects up to 40 applicants each year based on experience, recommendations and role in emergency management in the private or public sector.
“I’m thankful NEMEA provided me with this opportunity to network and collaborate with other leaders,” Murphy said. “With those leaders being from different states and different sectors of emergency management, it allowed us to share best practices and lessons learned for similar challenges that we face.”
This year’s academy was a hybrid learning model with two courses held virtually and two in-person. Murphy’s 128-hour coursework included advancement of the emergency management field at the strategic policy and executive leadership levels. He examined emergency management policies, leading complex systems, interpreting the contemporary emergency management environment and creating a community among the emergency management stakeholders.
Murphy’s capstone consisted of how to effectively use disaster mitigation dollars for a crumbling infrastructure. The capstone project gave him translatable skills in finances, deployment of resources and collaboration. He also said he gained a deeper understanding of contemporary and emerging emergency management issues, debates and public policy.
Murphy brought back best practices to help with response to current challenges and prepare for emerging issues. He also learned messaging techniques to be used during disasters and gained insight to what others in the emergency management field are doing. He is utilizing newly gained skills to review the current policies the NNSS has in place to ensure they are up to date with the latest standards and help to implement new policies as needed.
For more information on the NNSS Emergency Management department, visit https://www.nnss.gov/pages/programs/EmergencyServices.html.
NNSS wins more than a dozen NNSA NA-50 Excellence Awards
On Oct. 6, more than 120 people attended an awards ceremony for the 2019 and 2020 NA-50 Excellence Awards, hosted virtually by NNSS to best adhere to COVID protocols. The NA-50 Excellence Awards are presented by the NNSA Office of Safety, Infrastructure & Operations (NA-50) for outstanding accomplishments involving innovation, effectiveness, teamwork, overcoming adversity and enabling future success.
Joel Leeman, Mission Support and Test Services (MSTS) Director for Enterprise Infrastructure Programs, facilitated the ceremony. Opening remarks were provided by Ken Sheely, NA-50 Acting Principal Deputy Associate Administrator. Nevada Field Office (NFO) Manager Dr. David Bowman and MSTS President Mark Martinez distributed the awards themselves, which were accepted by a team lead or a team representative. The lead or representative also provided a summary of the activity and thanked team members, NFO and NA-50 for all of their support.
“[To earn these awards] takes something special and unique, overcoming challenges and doing something that's never been done before,” said Ken Sheely during the award presentation. “What you guys are doing each and every day is important to this country.”
Congratulations to all our winning teams!
EM Nevada contractor launches grants program to support classroom STEM initiatives
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Environmental Management (EM) Nevada Program’s environmental program services contractor has developed a new small-grants program to support science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming at schools near the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).
A committee led by a Navarro Research and Engineering employee is concentrating on four main areas for Navarro’s Community Commitment Program: field trips to the NNSS, STEM-focused events and competitions, student-directed interactive experiences, and small-grant funding to support STEM classroom needs, such as supplies, equipment, and emerging technologies. The committee is currently focusing on the launch of the new small-grants program for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
“Navarro is pleased to offer this new small-grants initiative through our Community Commitment Program to support STEM programming at local schools here in Nevada,” said Susana Navarro, Navarro's president. “Our goal is to provide teachers with the resources to introduce new concepts to the classroom and inspire students to pursue a career in the STEM fields, helping to lay the foundation for a highly skilled future workforce for Department of Energy and employers in Nevada and across the nation.”
Eligibility for the grants program is open to public, private, and charter schools in the counties of Clark, Elko, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Nye, and White Pine in Nevada. All K-12 schools and classrooms are eligible to apply; however, preference will be given to applications supporting clearly defined STEM-based activities. Applications are due by close of business on Dec. 10. The committee will review all grant applications and ultimately forward recommendations for funding to Navarro. Details and applications are available on the Navarro website at https://navarro-inc.com/navarro-community-commitment-grants-program/.
Navarro is supporting the grants program and broader Community Commitment Program through a portion of the annual performance-based fee award for its contract.
The new initiative was established under Navarro's Community Commitment Plan, an element of EM’s end state contracting model. That model calls for cleanup work to be carried out through a series of negotiated task orders that aim to get projects to completion faster and more efficiently without sacrificing safety.
The Community Commitment Planning Committee is currently comprised of two Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board members and three local community education stakeholders. Committee members have assisted with identifying potential projects, community needs, recommendations for the allocation of monetary support, and the facilitation of employee involvement.
NNSS F&R Benevolent Association participates in Fire Prevention Month at local elementary school
Stop, drop and roll, 9-1-1 do's and don’ts, and smoke detector safety were on the agenda at the recent Fire Prevention Month community outreach event at Judy & John L. Goolsby Elementary School in Las Vegas.
Second grade students were able to meet with five firefighters and ask questions, try on the crews' personal protective equipment, and gently climb on the vintage 1950s Seagrave firetruck that garnered lots of interest and even more questions.
"We came out [to the elementary school] to support Fire Prevention Month and teach the kids all about fire safety," said John Dwyer, NNSS Fire & Rescue (F&R) Station 2 Captain. "We want to teach them not to be scared of the firefighters if they ever have to come into their home."
Dwyer said that children can often be fearful of someone dressed in their full firefighting uniform—called turnouts. Interaction with firefighters wearing turnouts in non-emergency situations helps alleviate some of those fears.
The outbreak of COVID-19 caused a two-year hiatus from being able to present at local schools about the importance of fire safety, but the NNSS F&R crews were excited to be back in front of the children. The crews have visited Goolsby at least seven times for previous fire prevention events.
Dwyer stressed the need for “having a meeting spot” in case of a fire to the students and recalled a personal story of how he instructed his own children to meet at the mailbox in case of an emergency.
“Fire prevention education should start as young as possible,” Dwyer said.
“If you start teaching them at a young age in a fun way, the information will be more instilled in their minds as they get older,” said Bill Nixon, NNSS F&R Station 1 Captain.
The visits to the school are one of the most successful ways that fire prevention education works because it will be discussed at home, Dwyer said.
Additional crew who shared fire safety education with students were NNSS F&R Engineer Alexis Santiseban, Firefighter Alexas Cota and Paramedic Eddie Vargas. Many thanks for spending the morning with eager second-graders!
U.S. Army and Navy interns reflect on experiences at NNSS this summer
The U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) hosted eight interns from the U.S. military this summer. Two interns were cadets from the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) and six were midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy, all seeking experience in diverse career fields. The short-term program allowed them to attend various trainings throughout the summer months.
Six interns reflected on their experiences and shared the highlights.
Matthias Williams, a cadet from West Point, is a senior systems major with a focus in artificial intelligence. Following graduation, he plans on commissioning as a Chemical Corps Officer. During his summer internship at the NNSS, he was able to grasp a better understanding of radiological disaster response.
Luke Lhota, a nuclear engineering major at the U.S. Naval Academy, was amazed with the scale of operations taking place at the NNSS. During his internship, he rotated between the Remote Sensing Laboratory-Nellis, the North Las Vegas location and the Site. Specific examples of his hands-on experience included going to Ice Cap at the Site to see how detectors were used during underground testing, working with a modern post-maintenance technology to calibrate it and get it operational for use, and exploring a machine shop to see how in-house detectors are made.
“I was able to ask endless questions about a side of nuclear engineering I have never before been exposed to in my time at the U.S. Naval Academy,” Lhota said. “I gained ample amounts of experience with radiation detection, as I was able to look at how people in the past and present use the detectors I learned about in school to solve real-world problems. Additionally, the amount of history and knowledge all throughout each facility baffled me, and it was truly an honor to work with so many professional, competent and intelligent individuals each and every day.”
Nik Kennedy, a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, will soon be heading to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, to complete his master's degree in mechanical engineering. While at the NNSS, he was able to learn how the NNSS conducts material checks with various government agencies and public and private laboratories, and also learn the history of the Site by touring various locations.
Nathan Matalavage is entering his fourth and final year at the U.S. Naval Academy. This spring, he will graduate with a bachelor’s in nuclear and mechanical engineering. Following graduation, he will also attend the Naval Postgraduate School and then enter the U.S. Navy Submarine Force.
“During my time at the NNSS, I learned a lot about problem solving and teamwork,” Matalavage said. “Watching the NNSS team encounter problems and meticulously seek out the best solution was a great learning experience for me.”
Alex Carter, a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman, spent one of his summer training rotations at the NNSS. Carter is entering his senior year majoring in mechanical and nuclear engineering. Upon graduation, Carter will become an officer in the U.S. Navy. He has already been selected to do surface warfare and attend a master’s program at the Naval Postgraduate School, furthering his mechanical engineering education.
A few key projects Carter had the opportunity to work on were testing photomultiplier tubes, calibrating the photomultiplier, 3D printing, assisting with aerial operations and performing guard duties during a rocket launch at the Site. Another project involved going through hundreds of phone kits, downloading software and performing a final check for the radiological teams at the Remote Sensing Laboratory-Nellis.
Carter said he was thankful to learn from the experienced scientists and engineers who were more than welcoming. He left this summer with an abundance of hands-on experience and new professional connections.
“At the NNSS, we learned real-world applications within the nuclear industry and the various avenues of work currently being done surrounding nuclear material,” Carter said. “It was an amazing opportunity that we were very thankful for.”
The eight interns representing the U.S. military were among the more than 40 students selected to participate in the summer NNSS Student Program. For information about internships at the NNSS, visit the Student Programs webpage.
New Kraken camera enhances NNSS high-speed imaging capability
High-speed imaging is a core diagnostic capability for NNSS. Experiments that provide essential data for our stockpile mission generally involve measurements on the behavior of materials under extreme conditions. Materials that are shocked and compressed under high-explosive drive as in subcritical experiments, for example, exhibit behavior that changes over very rapid timescales measured in millionths or even billionths of a second that require radiographic or optical imaging to track their motion. Devices called framing cameras provide discrete images over a short period of time, much in the manner of a high-speed movie camera, but with individual shutter times that must be extremely short in order to capture images of rapidly-evolving phenomena such as shock-driven ejecta, dynamic compression of metals, high-velocity fluid flow and others. Such timescales can be as short as nanoseconds (billionths of a second).
The Kraken framing camera, developed as a result of a 5-year investment by the Stockpile Stewardship Program, can capture up to eight high-resolution images ("frames") over a time sequence that can be set by the user and with individual shutter times as short as 50 nanoseconds. This flexibility, combined with the high resolution of Kraken, make it ideal for applications in stockpile stewardship at U1a and at other venues in the Nuclear Security Enterprise where tracking material motion on short timescales is critical.
Kraken was first fielded in October 2020 in an exploding wire experiment, where it captured the motion of ejecta produced by a laser-driven shock. The resulting ejecta particles were projected into the camera’s field of view and recorded sequentially in eight frames, each with a one microsecond frame exposure and 45-microsecond frame spacing.
The development effort toward a new imager at NNSS that resulted in the Kraken camera enabled increased production rates and reduced costs relative to other fast-imaging technology initiatives around the nation and the world. Kraken’s 8-frame, low-noise, 800 by 800-pixel imaging system represents the first large-area, time-gated imager design by the NNSS. In collaboration with staff at Sandia National Laboratories’ Mesa facility, we leveraged existing designs to enable the fabrication of the imaging sensors with much higher yield and lower per-unit cost. In addition, we deployed a new Universal Camera Architecture for communications which drove shorter lifecycle times in realizing complete, field-ready cameras. So far, three Kraken cameras are complete, and more are in fabrication. Fiscal year 2022 will see several experiments fielded with Kraken cameras.