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.
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.