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NNSA’s prioritization of at-risk infrastructure prevents power disruption at Nevada site

New steel pole for transmission lines at the Nevada National Security Site.

There are no easy choices for strategic planners in NNSA’s Office of Safety, Infrastructure & Operations.

Workers prepare the rebar case before installing the new steel posts.More than 50 percent of NNSA’s facilities are over 40 years old, nearly 30 percent date back to the Manhattan Project era, and 13 percent are currently excess and no longer needed. 

Using new infrastructure management tools to facilitate risk-informed investment decisions, NNSA recently avoided a power disruption at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS).

For decades, electricity at NNSS relied on a 23-mile transmission line that included Hill 200, a 1.7-mile segment of power line on 60-year-old wooden posts that runs over challenging terrain. Due to potentially damaging effects to site operations, planners prioritized this section of the line for recapitalization ahead of upcoming projects. 

“When we did an analysis of risks to the vital national security work we do at NNSS, it became clear that Hill 200 was one of the biggest risks. It had to be upgraded,” said James McConnell, NNSA associate administrator for Safety, Infrastructure & Operations.

The 60-year-old wooden transmission line poles on Hill 200 that failed during a wind storm earlier this year.The project rerouted and replaced the transmission line and poles from an inaccessible hilltop to a reachable and safer road. New steel poles bring the system up-to-date with a more stable and enduring structure.

The Hill 200 upgrade was completed under budget and ahead of schedule. Soon after completion, a severe wind storm swept through southern Nevada, knocking down a set of wooden poles that were replaced during this project.

“Avoidance of a power disruption during the storm demonstrates the value of NNSA’s new approach to infrastructure modernization investments,” McConnell said.

NNSS supports a variety of stockpile stewardship, training, and nonproliferation missions that require a secure and steady power source. By prioritizing at-risk infrastructure, planners were able to keep power flowing at NNSS. 

New sturdy posts along NNSS’s Mercury Highway.