Nevada Test Site getting new life

Managers of the Nevada Test Site are ready to write a new chapter in the history of the nation’s nuclear weapons proving grounds.

They hope the Rhode Island-size test site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, will become home this fall to a new National Center for Nuclear Security, where experts on treaty verification, counterterrorism and nonproliferation will huddle to chart the nation’s course for achieving national goals.

The center "will probably be the biggest thing at the site in many decades," said Stephen M. Younger, president of National Security Technologies, NSTec, the managing and operating contractor at the Nevada Test Site.

Nevada Site Office Manager Stephen Mellington said the center will play a pivotal role in supporting arms reduction treaties and "other nonproliferation activities we’re going to be doing with the intelligence communities."

The test site has had a lengthy relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies, but the center will expand that role and extend it to the international community.

"We’re pretty excited about it," Mellington said. "The country is going to have to develop capabilities to ensure compliance with treaties."

As currently proposed, and with funding expected by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Younger said the center’s headquarters will be housed in existing facilities at the government town of Mercury.

It will augment the test site’s long-standing mission to check and certify that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile is safe and reliable.

"We’re broadening our portfolio," Younger said. "We’re looking to the future and saying ‘How can the advantages of the test site contribute to national priorities?’"

Among the chores scientists will tackle is developing countermeasures for nuclear terrorism.

They’ll also be engaged in helping the Pentagon’s effort to detect roadside bombs, and some other classified projects.

"How will you find these things? And if you find them, how can you attribute them to somebody?" Younger said about questions posed by the Department of Defense.

He was referring to being able to trace the devices to countries of origin once they’ve been detonated.

The test site has held a place in the nation’s nonproliferation efforts.

"We have a long history of being able to develop detectors and sensors. Other organizations develop them and bring them here to verify they work," said Darwin Morgan, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

These include detectors designed to expose nuclear materials coming into the country from seaports, airports and border crossings. The detectors and sensors are used by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy and security agencies from other countries.

A secure building at the site, the Device Assembly Facility, will be used to train International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors on detecting nuclear material production.

Four "criticality machines" are in place to teach technicians how to go in and package materials, Morgan said. "And, they’ll make sure detectors are working the way they’re supposed to."

They need to know how to retrieve materials, pack them up and arrange them so the materials are not susceptible to erupting into a nuclear chain reaction.

Said Mellington: "As we go further into nonproliferation, the test site will start to have an international flavor."

From 1951 through 1992, the test site’s role focused on full-scale tests of nuclear weapons. During that time, 100 were conducted in the atmosphere until the Limited Test Ban Treaty took effect in 1963. That was followed by 828 that rumbled through the desert after they were set off below ground in shafts and tunnels. The last one, Divider, was conducted on Sept. 23, 1992. What followed was a moratorium that has been extended indefinitely.

Sixty-two of those full-scale tests involved simultaneous detonations, bringing the total number of devices set off to 1,021.

The stockpile stewardship mission now relies in part on studying how plutonium ages in the decades after weapons were produced.

A key tool in that task is the underground subcritical experiments complex, known as U1a. The array of chambers that extend off a deep shaft is where tiny amounts of plutonium are detonated but don’t erupt into nuclear chain reactions. In some experiments, data are captured in holographic images.

Three "subcrits," as scientists call such experiments, are planned for the fall. That will make 26 conducted since 1997 and the first since scientists from New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory conducted an experiment in August 2006.

Another physics tool is the JASPER gas gun facility, which opened in 2003 to fire projectiles at tiny discs of plutonium to understand how they blow apart. JASPER stands for Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research.

In the north central part of the test site, scientists use the Big Explosive Experimental Facility to study the role of high explosives used in nuclear weapons.

Troy Wade, a former Energy Department defense chief and chairman of the Atomic Testing Museum, said the idea behind the added responsibilities "is to change the mission of the test site such that it is up to date with the world’s and this country’s requirements."

"In many ways, what happens around the world is going to depend on arms control and disarmament. Because of its history, the Nevada Test Site is in a unique position to play a very strong leadership role in developing nonproliferation plans and testing them out."

With its central mission, a company, Johnson Controls, has proposed a 125-megawatt solar energy facility that will concentrate the sun’s rays on a receiver to generate power.

Younger said the test site will be explored for tapping geothermal energy.

"We have the hot, dry rocks 12,000 feet down," he said.

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at krogers or 702-383-0308.

Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like