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November 2011

A select group of early-career safeguards professionals from across the NNSA enterprise came together in September for networking and a hands-on learning experience about safeguards inspection challenges and resources. The event at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and facilities in the surrounding area was designed to increase NNSA’s future capacity by building the diverse understanding young professionals need in nuclear safeguards. The activity, now in its third year, is an annual highlight of NNSA’s Next Generation Safeguards Professional Network.
Safeguards experts are responsible for ensuring that all quantities of nuclear materials are accounted for in nuclear processes, facilities, and equipment. Their success is crucial in ensuring that such materials are not lost, or diverted for nefarious use.

This highly specialized field requires nuclear engineers, statisticians, physicists, chemists, information technology professionals, analysts, and policymakers. “Because of the variety of backgrounds, many young professionals benefit from additional development opportunities to become well rounded in these disciplines,” said Melissa Scholz, Office of Nuclear Safeguards and Security.
For the four-day event, Scholz accompanied nonproliferation staff from six DOE national laboratories that support the NNSA mission. “We designed this experience to increase their familiarity with the facilities, capabilities, and resources available across the NNSA complex,” she said.

Participants saw the inner workings of nuclear production, reactors, reprocessing, and uranium enrichment in real and test facilities. A highlight was discussing real-life inspection challenges with PNNL staff members who formerly worked as inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Participants came away with a much stronger understanding of how safeguards play into the entire fuel cycle,” Scholz said. “This is exactly what we’re aiming for—ensuring a sustainable safeguards capability for the global security mission.”

As your Chief Information Officer, I lead a talented and dedicated team in delivering the NNSA Network Vision (2NV) as a key element of the OneNNSA transformation strategy.

We must change the way we use and view information, and when leveraged effectively, information becomes a strategic asset which enables us to do our jobs faster and more effectively. But almost more important than the information itself, is the security of that information.

Cyber security has become a buzz word these days, but the funny thing is that you can’t just go buy some cyber security.  Rather, increasing our Cyber Security posture is the result of an effective, well-managed architecture which combines our IT investments with cyber tools and talented professionals.  Because we protect some of our nation’s most sensitive information, our network has to be managed unlike any other!

So in order to transform our computing environment, we developed 2NV, which has three strategic pillars 2NV, JC3, and CSL, and once delivered, will set the stage for a transformation in how we actually do our work!


Pillar one: 2NV
2NV “modernizes our current computing environment” by providing a secure, mobile, agile, and adaptive IT infrastructure which will allow the NNSA workforce to perform their duties from any device, anywhere, any time.

Pillar two: JC3
The Joint Cybersecurity Coordination Center (JC3) allows us to “understand the health” of our sytems, data and networks within our computing environment

Pillar three: CSL
The Cyber Sciences Laboratory (CSL) provides a capability to “protect our future” by establishing a process through which theoretical research in IT and cyber security can be rapidly applied to operational computing environments.

We aim to leap from our current, desktop centric computing environment to a “best in class” mobile, capable and secure computing environment which will carry NNSA into the future.

Check back often to track our progress as we deliver this vision!

SRS groundbreaking

NNSA Defense Program and Savannah River Site Office officials recently broke ground on two new buildings at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, S.C.

The two buildings will receive personnel from prime tritium process real estate, enabling the next steps in the Tritium Responsive Infrastructure Modifications (TRIM) program, a plan to remove processes and equipment from Cold War-era buildings into more modern facilities that provide enhanced security and advanced technologies to support the facility mission.

In addition to the two new buildings, the ten year TRIM program includes consolidation of existing processes and facilities, deployment of new technology and process equipment, and decontamination and decommissioning of the old structures. Implementation of this effort will result in an overall lifecycle cost reduction and assurance of continued safe and secure national security tritium mission at SRS.

“Today we're here to break ground on facilities that show the national commitment, and the NNSA's commitment, to modernizing our nuclear enterprise.” said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application, Brigadier General Sandra Finan, who participated in the ceremony.

“Today is a historic day, but what you do every single day is just as historic. I am very proud and honored to be here to share this with you today,” said General Finan. “But more importantly, I'm very proud to be associated with what you do every single day, and thank you for your dedicated service.”

The Process Support Building is a 10,000 square-foot building that will house forty-seven tenants and replace offices, briefing rooms and control room simulators from other buildings. The Tritium Engineering Building will consolidate the engineering function into a single 16,000 square-foot structure, accommodating 94 personnel. Both buildings will be constructed through a contract with Akima Construction Services, LLC, and are scheduled to be completed by October 2012.

Future projects within the TRIM program will relocate and modernize operational process equipment, allowing deactivation and decommissioning of several 1950s era structures.

Tritium is a heavy isotope of hydrogen and a key component of nuclear weapons, but it decays radioactively at the rate of 5.5 percent each year and must be replenished periodically. This is accomplished by recycling tritium from existing warheads and by extracting tritium from target rods irradiated in a nuclear reactor that are operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Recycled and extracted gases are purified to produce tritium that is suitable for use. The SRS Tritium Facilities occupy approximately 29 acres in the northwest portion of H Area. Operations began in 1955.

NNSA’s most recent quarterly summary of experiments conducted as part of its science-based stockpile stewardship program is now available here.

The quarterly summary prepared by NNSA’s Office of Defense Programs provides descriptions of key NNSA facilities that conduct stockpile stewardship experiments. These include some of the most sophisticated scientific research facilities in the world. These include, for example, the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories. The summary also provides the number of experiments performed at each facility during each quarter of the fiscal year.

The U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program is a robust program of scientific inquiry used to sustain and assess the nuclear weapons stockpile without the use of underground nuclear tests. The experiments carried out within the program are used in combination with complex computational models and NNSA’s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program to assess the safety, security and effectiveness of the stockpile. An extraordinary set of science, technology and engineering (ST&E) facilities have been established in support of the stockpile stewardship program.

Two NNSA supercomputers are ranked in the top ten of the TOP500 List of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. The list was released today.

Both NNSA computers are located at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL): Cielo is ranked number six on the list and Roadrunner is ranked number 10. Five other supercomputers housed at NNSA sites are ranked in top 26 of the TOP500 list.

As part of NNSA’s mission to extend the lifetime of nuclear weapons in the stockpile, the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Campaign provides NNSA with leading edge, high-end simulation capabilities. The ASC program helps NNSA to meet nuclear weapons assessment and certification requirements, including: weapon codes, weapon science, computing platforms, and supporting infrastructure.

Cielo, a petascale resource for conducting NNSA weapons simulations in the 2011-2015 timeframe, can achieve more than one quadrillion floating point operations per second. Earlier this year, the Cielo system was upgraded from 1.03 petaFLOPS (72 cabinets) to 1.37 petaFLOPS (96 cabinets). Cielo is operated by the New Mexico Alliance for Computing at Extreme Scale (ACES), a collaboration between LANL and Sandia National Laboratories.

Roadrunner has a peak performance of 1.38 petaflops and was the first supercomputer in the world to perform at a sustained petaflops rate on a scientific calculation. Roadrunner has a unique architecture that was designed to explore new computing technology, and is an important stepping stone to even larger systems in the future.

The top 26 include Number 15: The Appro Xtreme-X, LLNL; Number 17: BlueGene/Q, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL); Number 22: BlueGene/L, LLNL; Number 24: Red Sky, Sandia/National Energy Laboratory; Number 26: Dawn - Blue Gene/P, LLNL.

The TOP500 list is compiled by Hans Meuer of the University of Mannheim, Germany; Erich Strohmaier and Horst Simon of NERSC/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. To see the entire list, see:

Annular Core Research Reactor

Photo by Randy Montoya, Sandia National Laboratories

The Annular Core Research Reactor at Sandia National Laboratories recently completed its 10,000th reactor pulse operation. The ACRR has been supporting weapons certification for more than 30 years. The first pulse was conducted in April 1979. The ACRR provides unique support to the NNSA and is the only reactor of its kind in the world with its special ceramic fuel rods. Since the shutdown of the Sandia Pulsed Reactor, ACRR has been a key component for qualification alternatives. The environmental testing performed at ACRR enables NNSA to be able to certify weapons systems with confidence each year without underground testing.


In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world celebrated.  After four years of bitter war, an armistice was signed.  The "war to end all wars" was finally over.  In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11, as the first commemoration of Armistice Day, which in 1954 became Veterans Day -- a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

As the Nation celebrates Veterans Day, we offer our sincere appreciation to members of the military -- past and present -- and their families.  The courage and commitment of these Americans are an inspiration to all.

With over 42 million men and women who have served in our armed forces, chances are you know someone who has served.  Our NNSA family has always included many dedicated men and women in uniform, and we appreciate their contributions to our mission.

As you take this day off work on Friday, please join me in saluting our military members.  Take a moment to remember the contributions they have made to our safety and way of life, and the sacrifices they continue to make for all of us on a daily basis.  Our veterans deserve our gratitude, and we look forward to the day when those serving abroad will return home safely.

A sharp eye and a lot of luck led to an interesting discovery at Pantex last month.

Workers excavating at the construction site for the new High Explosives Pressing Facility uncovered the jawbone of an ancient peccary, a prehistoric pig related to modern javelinas, but the discovery was nearly lost amongst the giant piles of earth.

“If we’d have taken another bucket of dirt out of the wall of that pit, we’d have never known they were there,” Don Lankford, contractor on the project, said of the bones. “We just happened to knock off for the day right there, and the next morning, the light was hitting the bones just right, and one of the workers spotted them.”

Lankford said the bones were imbedded about eight feet down in the walls of the excavation, with a color that nearly matched the surrounding dirt, so the proper light was crucial to the discovery. The bucket of the massive excavator would almost certainly have destroyed the bone fragments if it had taken another bite out of the wall of the pit, he said.

Plant Historian Monica Graham joined with plant wildlife biologist Jim Ray, geologist Mike Keck and other personnel to excavate the bones. Dr. Gerald Schultz from West Texas A&M University identified the bones as belonging to a Platygonus, an extinct genus of herbivorous peccary of the family Tayassuidae that roamed the area in ancient times. According to Ray, Platygonus were similar to modern species of peccaries (also known as javelinas) but were larger, likely reaching 290-360 pounds.

Platygonus became extinct at least 11,000 years ago, but the bones could be as old as 23 million years old.

BonesWork crews were able to move to other areas of the HEPF site and continue excavation for the foundation and flooring of the facility for several days while the find was dug out and catalogued. Work on the HEPF was not delayed.

“We were very fortunate to find the bones and to be able to get in there and remove them without impacting the schedule on the HEPF,” Graham said. “It’s a win-win for everyone when we can learn about the ancient history of this site at the same time we are ensuring the future with this new facility.”

The HEPF is a $65 million, 45,000-square-foot facility that is being built to modernize the high explosive capabilities at Pantex. Ground was broken on the HEPF in August, and construction is expected to take about two-and-a-half years.

Pantex has policies in place that govern the excavation of paleontology sites. Graham said plant personnel have quite a bit of experience with excavation, having previously recovered historical remains from a site located near Pantex Lake, a playa northeast of the site. The peccary bones will be preserved and stored along with other finds from the site.


I’m excited to welcome you to the new blog of the National Nuclear Security Administration.  I want this to be a unique place for you to hear from some of the dedicated men and women who help keep our country safe, protect our allies, and enhance global security every day.

We have a lot of interesting content to share.  As we work to lock down dangerous nuclear material across the globe and execute our nonproliferation mission, we will give you an inside look at some of the challenges we face and how we overcome them.  As we continue to develop cutting-edge science and technology in support of our stockpile stewardship mission, we will share those innovations and what they mean for our national security.    And as we modernize our enterprise and make critical investments in our future – whether the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina, CMRR in New Mexico , or UPF in Tennessee – we will share our progress along the way.  

This will also be a place for you to learn more about the important work NNSA is doing to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to prepare to respond to a nuclear emergency anywhere in the world, and to ensure that American sailors and submariners reach their destinations safely and reliably in ports across the globe.  

I’m committed to posting notes here as often as I can.  And I’m sure you’ll be hearing from Neile Miller, Principal Deputy Administrator, very soon.  

President Obama has laid out an ambitious nuclear security agenda, and thousands of people across the country are working hard to implement it as I type this.  This will be a place to tell their stories , and I hope you’ll read along.  



Y-12 National Security Complex employees recycled more than 6,100 pounds of their personal electronics recently during Pollution Prevention Week at an on-site event. The materials were collected by e-Cycle, a local company that recycles or finds new homes (reuses) for electronics. 

“It was great to see Y-12 employees and subcontractors recycle their home electronics,” said Sustainability and Stewardship’s Jan Jackson. “Employees brought in their old personal equipment – hard drives, monitors, printers and fax machines that will now be reused or recycled properly.”

e-Cycle takes the items and reuses as many as possible; the company works with a local nonprofit organization that donates computer systems – free of charge – to needy families.

Items that can’t be reused are recycled. “Before we ship the materials off-site for reuse or recycling, we erase computer hard drives. We work with electronics recycling companies located throughout the United States,” e-Cycle's Marvin Peek said.

e-Cycle does not charge a fee for recycling the items.

The event was held as part of the Federal Electronics Challenge initiative of which B&W Y-12 is a participant. The program encourages federal facilities to purchase greener electronic products, reduce impacts of electronic products during use and manage obsolete electronics in an environmentally safe way.