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July 2013

NNSA Graduate Fellow Matt Kaspar (from left to right) and NNSA Interns Dominic Cisneros, Leah Cristobal, Aaron Avrakotos, Toni Carrasco, Omar Flores and Paulo Huelgas visited Sandia National Laboratories yesterday for tours of the Z Pulsed Power Facility and the Microsystems & Engineering Sciences Applications Complex. They were also provided the opportunity to view displays and demonstrations of Sandia technologies related to homeland security, homeland defense and nonproliferation and assessment during their visit.

NNSA interns visit Sandia National Laboratories

Acting NNSA Administrator and Acting Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Bruce Held visited the Y-12 National Security Complex last week. Held toured the site and conducted an all hands meeting at the site's New Hope Center addressing federal and contractor employees. In the picture on the left, Held (center) is accompanied to the all hands meeting by NNSA Production Office Manager Steve Erhart (left) and Captain Geoffrey deBeauclair, Held's military aide.

Bruce Held visits Y-12 National Security Complex

After nearly a seven-year effort, Savannah River Tritium Enterprise (SRTE) operations formally adopted a new replacement for the system that tracks tritium reservoirs throughout their lifecycle. NNSA, SRTE and Savannah River National Laboratory all rely on the system’s data to manage reservoir processing, account for controlled material and maintain a reliable reservoir inventory.

The previous Automated Reservoir Management System (ARMS) was based on hardware and software architecture that were approaching obsolescence, prompting a multi-year project to implement its modernized replacement: ARMS II. Over the course of the project, SRTE performed three separate phases of software testing and obtained cooperation from across the NNSA Nuclear Security Enterprise to enable a four-week facility outage to complete the implementation.

About the photo:
Mary Leslie Rhoden of SRTE reviews the ARMS II project schedule.

Mary Leslie Rhoden of SRTE reviews the ARMS II project schedule.


NNSA BlogDon Felske, Walter Dekin and Sean Ford, all from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, have traveled to the corners of the globe to train as on-site surrogate inspectors for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Training has been held in Austria, Jordan, South Korea and Hungary.

Of the five U.S. surrogate inspectors selected for the international program by the CTBTO in 2010, three were from Lawrence Livermore. Dekin and Felske, both of Engineering, were chosen because they are among the few weapons lab researchers with nuclear explosive test experience (the United States has not conducted nuclear explosive tests since 1992). A geophysicist by training, Ford was selected for his expertise in seismology -- a skill essential to detecting illicit underground nuclear explosions.

Once the treaty goes into effect, on-site inspectors approved by the Treaty’s Conference of States Parties would serve on multi-disciplinary, multinational teams that would, under the terms of the inspection mandate, seek to clarify if a nuclear explosion had taken place in violation of the terms of the treaty.

Read more.

About the photo:
Left to right: Don Felske, Sean Ford and Walter Dekin of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have trained as on-site surrogate inspectors for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.


NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook and Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Applications Brigadier General James Dawkins visited Sandia National Laboratories yesterday. During their visit, they met with employees to discuss the technical challenges facing the management of the nation’s stockpile stewardship program. The discussion focused on the ongoing need for exceptional science, technology and engineering at the national laboratories in order to be able to continue to conduct the annual assessment and certification of the safety, security, performance and effectiveness of each weapon system without underground nuclear testing.

Down a remote canyon near Los Alamos National Laboratory lies a facility known as the “Tunnel Vault,” once one of the most secret and secure locations in the United States, it’s the original post-WWII nuclear stockpile storage area.

Located in Los Alamos canyon at Technical Area 41, the Tunnel Vault was built between 1948 and 1949. The facility has a formidable security perimeter, a hardened guard tower — complete with gun ports and bulletproof glass — and a series of gates and doors that lead to a 230-foot long concrete tunnel that goes straight into the canyon wall.

At the end of the tunnel is a large alcove room with a single bank vault door. Through that door is a vault built inside a vault with five storage areas, all protected with identical bank vault doors.

Check out the video that tours the declassified facility available on the Los Alamos National Laboratory YouTube.


Workers put up signs reminding Pantex workers to do their part to help create a strong Nuclear Safety Culture (NSC). The signs are part of a multi-faceted ongoing campaign to strengthen the culture at the plant.

NSC has been a primary point of emphasis at Pantex for more than a year. Pantexans at all levels have been involved in the NSC initiative, which includes such things as fostering a questioning attitude that emphasizes stop work authority for any safety issue, strengthening employee concerns and engaging in quality-of-life initiatives. The campaign is designed to help create an environment where nuclear safety is the unquestioned top priority. 


NNSA Acting Administrator Bruce Held speaks to NNSA employees during an all hands meeting today. The meeting was broadcast throughout the NNSA enterprise where employees were given the opportunity to ask questions.


The Kansas City Plant recently hosted top STEM educators from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, such as Howard University and North Carolina A&T, to help them incorporate 3-D modeling and advanced manufacturing into their curriculum.

KCP partners with Universities and local high schools to help prepare students with the technological skill sets needed for tomorrow's jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

The program is funded by a $4 million grant by the NNSA to 22 HBCUs and six NNSA sites, including the Kansas City Plant, in key STEM areas. This funding supports NNSA’s new Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, a consortium program organized to build a sustainable STEM pipeline between NNSA sites and HBCUs.

CTBTO Preparatory Commission Executive signingMedical isotope mitigation efforts are one part of a comprehensive multi-laboratory NNSA approach to assisting the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) in completing the treaty’s verification system. Several Energy Department laboratories are helping the CTBTO complete and operate the verification system for testing and evaluation purposes, including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Idaho National Laboratory. Additional support for CTBTO activities is provided by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense.

Scientists from PNNL are among the experts featured in a new video, “Zeroing in on Xenon,” which demonstrates how the world’s “nuclear investigators” detect nuclear explosions. Produced by the preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), the video highlights the sophisticated analysis methods and instrumentation developed at PNNL that better differentiate between medical- and nuclear explosion-related emissions. The video appears on the CTBTO’s website and YouTube

Emissions from medical isotope production facilities – even when within health and safety standards – can increase the radioxenon background level in the atmosphere, which complicates efforts to determine whether an event was a nuclear explosion. Increasingly, producers of medical and industrial isotopes are looking at methods to reduce emissions, including by exploring alternatives to fission-based production techniques that do not emit xenon. To facilitate this goal, the CTBTO Prepatory Commission, along with experts from PNNL, engages producers in the United States and worldwide to encourage them to pledge emissions reductions.

For example, Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary-elect of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission and Jean-Michel Vanderhofstadt, Managing Director of the Institute for Radioelements (IRE) in Belgium, signed the first pledge to cooperate to mitigate the effects of noble gas emissions on nuclear explosion monitoring. IRE is a major worldwide producer of radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine and its emissions – while safe from a health perspective – contribute to regional radioxenon levels that can adversely affect highly sensitive nuclear explosion monitoring sensors. Efforts by European producers to reduce radioxenon emissions serve as a model for international cooperation toward further enhancing the international community’s ability to detect nuclear explosions.