Hundreds of Central Savannah River Area science-savvy students recently participated in the 2016 Savannah River Regional Science and Engineering Fair competition, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS).

More than 200 students representing 42 schools from a six-county region put their project on display at the University of South Carolina Aiken (USCA).

“We are always impressed with the diversity of projects and themes.  Many of the experiments can be extremely creative,” said Candice Dermody, SRNS Manager, Education Outreach and Talent Management.  “The dedication and ingenuity displayed by the students can be inspiring.”

With the support of co-sponsor USCA, SRNS is coordinating the competition for the ninth year, ensuring an educational and rewarding experience for each student competitor.

Read more about the event.

Mar 18, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Front row from right, Darryl Gardner, Nicol Tafoya, Denise Lujan, Tracy Vigil, Kevin McCabe, Kim Katko, Paul Stein, Charlie. Middle row from right: Terry Wallace, Jerry Delapp, Adam Warniment, JP Martinez, Tom Fairbanks, Cliff Fortgang, Mike Proicou, George Duran, Joseph Palmer, Rick Montoya. Back row from right: Steve Judd, Steve Storms, John Michel, Justin Tripp, Dan Seitz, Richard Dutch, Nick Dallmann, Bob Reid

When a college professor challenged his students to turn a Beanie Baby display box into a space satellite in 2009, he couldn’t have predicted that this assignment would help provide Special Operations Forces with award-winning space capabilities 6 years later.

Professor of space sciences at Morehead State University Robert Twiggs became the founding father of CubeSat technology when he asked his students to complete a satellite project quickly, before graduation by keeping them small. The bigger the satellites were, the more elaborate the students made them, stretching out completion time. By restricting the size, Twiggs and his students reduced the time from design to launch.

A team of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientists earned the Secretary of Energy Achievement Award last week for their innovative small-satellite concept that originated with the Beanie Baby assignment. LANL subsequently has developed and launched eight “Prometheus” CubeSats, or miniaturized satellites, in support of United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

“I thought, maybe if I make this small enough, they can’t keep putting stuff in it,” Twiggs told NASA Edge. “I knew I had to have a cube, because we were not stabilizing these, and I needed to put solar panels on all six sides. At a plastics shop I found a four-inch Beanie Baby box.”

It was the quick and effective work of the LANL team that won them the achievement award. The team combined technical expertise with collaboration with USSOCOM and surpassed challenging goals under an aggressive launch timeline with a very small budget.

“Many in the space community were skeptical of the approach and predicted publicly that the system would not work,” USSOCOM Cmdr. Adm. William McRaven said. “Now these same skeptics are adopting many of the concepts and the approach that was taken on Prometheus.”

The eight Prometheus satellites make up a constellation that can help perform communications for USSOCOM operations aimed at combating terrorism around the globe.

“The creativity, dedication, long hours, and incredible problem solving skills of your team are a credit to the DOE in service to our national security mission,” the award noted.

Learn more about CubeSats from the CubeSat Project website, and read about the LANL team’s award here.

A cubesat.

Dan Seitz of LANL’s Intelligence and Space Research division works on a cubesat.

J.P. Martinez and Dan Seitz of LANL’s Intelligence and Space Research division work on a cubesat.

Seitz checks out the innards of a cubesat.

Seitz closes up the cubesat.

A look at the cubesat's solar panels.

J.P. Martinez and Dan Seitz of LANL’s Intelligence and Space Research division work on a cubesat


Mar 18, 2016 at 10:00 am

Future engineers K. Potter, left, and T. Herrin at Y-12 National Security Complex's Introduce a Girl to Engineering event.

NNSA workers across the nuclear security enterprise took advantage of “Introduce a girl to engineering day” to instill hundreds of young women with excitement for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. This year’s theme, “#ilooklikeanengineer,” celebrated expanding diversity in engineering fields.

Employees from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Sandia National Laboratories volunteered at the Tri-Valley Expanding Your Horizons conference for the day, hosting more than 300 local girls, while Kansas City National Security Campus and Y-12 National Security Complex each sponsored events designed to give high school girls a snapshot into the day in the life of an engineer.

“It is an opportunity for girls and young women to learn about the possibilities of a career in engineering, engage in hands-on experiments and meet and learn from engineers,” said Megan Houchin, an engineer at Y-12.

Over the past 10 years, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than non-STEM jobs. With women representing only 25 percent of the engineering workforce, encouraging girls to consider STEM careers can help fill the engineering gap.

“The energy and the excitement from the girls is contagious and it makes all the effort worthwhile and rewarding, just knowing that you helped to create that enthusiasm and to open the eyes of these young ladies to the possibilities of STEM education and careers,” said Kim Hallock, an LLNL employee whose involvement in the annual STEM outreach spans six years.

As NNSA’s national security mission is directly supported through the strategic application for science and technology, STEM diversity and outreach activities are key to supporting the nation’s nuclear security enterprise. Learn more about NNSA women in STEM during Women’s History Month by following us on Twitter and Facebook.

The Kansas City National Security Campus helped students spark an interest in STEM jobs for Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.Women from the Kansas City National Security Campus volunteered to spark an interest in STEM during the event.E. Mihealsick, left, and A. Russell attended Introduce a Girl to Engineering at Y-12.NNSA Production Office Deputy Manager Teresa Robbins, right, responds to a question as part of Introduce a Girl to Engineering at Y-12. Other panelists were Susan Kozemko, Sarah Lim, Damita Mason, Julie Cramer, and Syreeta Vaughn. Jennifer Emch of Y-12, left, puts a fall-protection harness on A. Harris as Carey Norton of Y-12 looks on.

Mar 16, 2016 at 1:56 pm

An unarmed test weapon is launched from the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky during a test at the Pacific Test Range in Hawaii.

A successful test conducted by the U.S. Navy, in coordination with NNSA, marked the fourth of its kind in support of NNSA’s W88 alteration (Alt) 370 program. The unarmed W88 warhead was launched atop a Trident II missile from the USS Kentucky at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii as part of a test operation—referred to by the Navy as demonstration and shakedown operation 26 (DASO-26).

“As the fourth flight test of the W88 Alt 370 program, DASO-26 was instrumental in demonstrating important flight dynamics of the re-entry body,” said NNSA Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application Brig. Gen. S.L. Davis. “The program supports NNSA’s goal of continuous improvement in certification of a safe, secure, and effective stockpile, while fulfilling the U.S. commitment not to perform underground nuclear explosive testing.”

The test launch of the W88 warhead on Nov. 7, 2015, was the fourth successful qualification flight test for the W88 Alt 370 program. In 2014 the Critical Radar Arming and Fuzing Test successfully measured radar performance during atmospheric reentry, and last year the Follow-On Commander Evaluation Test-51 helped measure vibration and shock environments in flight. These full-scope tests demonstrate that the weapon system alteration is functional and in line with NNSA’s commitment to complete development on schedule.

U.S. Strategic Command commander Adm. Cecil D. Haney, Navy Strategic Systems Programs commander Vice Adm. Terry Benedict, and several congressional members were aboard the USS Kentucky to observe the launch, while remote monitoring equipment—generating next-generation telemetry—transmitted data about the flight to ground and sea-based receiving stations. The information provided by these tests enables design and development teams to verify in-flight functionality and support ongoing development efforts. After launch, flight, reentry, and data collection, the unarmed warhead returned to earth in an open ocean area in the southwest Pacific Ocean. 

The W88 Alt 370 program is in Phase 6.3 of the nuclear weapons life cycle process. The program’s scope includes design, development, qualification, and production of the W88 reentry body with a new arming, fuzing, and firing, lightning arrestor connector, trainers, flight test assemblies, and associated handling gear and spares. The program will also refresh the conventional high explosive material. The W88 Alt 370 first production unit is scheduled for December 2019.

The Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs Office directed and managed operations for the flight, and the test was conducted in partnership with NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Kansas City’s National Security Campus, and Pantex Plant.

See all the Navy’s photos of the occasion here, learn more about the NNSA’s Life Extension Programs here.

Adm. Cecil D. Haney (right) speaks with Vice Adm. Terry Benedict aboard a tugboat bound for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky.

Adm. Cecil D. Haney watches a video recording of the successful test flight.

Mar 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Deputy NNSA Administrator Madelyn Creedon slipped a lot when she first tried walking on the simulator.Slips, trips, and falls cause many injuries at Y-12 National Security Complex and the Pantex Plant, resulting in bumps and bruises, broken bones, and torn ligaments. Despite the efforts of aggressive awareness programs, accidents have increased in recent years, particularly with inclement weather conditions. Now, employees at both sites are being trained to safely walk across slippery or icy surfaces using a training tool called the “Slip Simulator.”

The simulators incorporate a 9‑foot tall frame with a safety line/harness centered over a pathway tiled with glass panels, which instructors spray with window cleaner for extra slickness. The simulators can also be arranged with obstacles and uneven surfaces. Participants strap on sandal‑like soles studded with Teflon washers that with the wet surface, help mimic the slickest situations imaginable in an effort to train employees to walk in these situations.

Deputy NNSA Administrator Madelyn Creedon participated in a training session with the use of the “Slip Simulator during her recent visit to Y-12.

After some coaching, she was able to change her posture and movement and avoid slipping.“This is a very innovative training tool designed to address one of the most vexing safety issues that we face at all of the sites in the Nuclear Security Enterprise,” Creedon said. “I was impressed by how effective it is in training people to safely walk on slippery surfaces.”

In the training, instructors coach people down the path of the slip simulator, teaching them to use a different gait than normal. On the first pass, each trainee slips and slides with arms flailing and feet going every which way, but in a controlled and safe manner that protects the trainee.  Then, the posture and movements learned from instructors lead to a “click” between mind and body as the lessons learned are applied to walking on the slippery surface.

The Slip Simulator was invented at Virginia Tech, developed with a United Parcel Service grant. After UPS drivers trained on it, falls dropped by 70 percent.

The national average cost of similar workers compensation claims ranges from $25,000 to $35,000. At Y-12 and Pantex, the average cost may be even higher because of the specialized work performed by employees and time away from the job. Each simulator costs $38,000, about the same as one fall injury claim.

All Y-12 and Pantex employees will have an opportunity to attend the Slip Simulator training class.

Mar 15, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Western burrowing owls. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service photo)

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Council for the Conservation of Migratory Birds named NNSA’s Pantex Plant one of five finalists for the 2016 Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award for its excellence in conservation of migratory birds through research collaboration.

The comprehensive research program at Pantex is based on partnerships extending around the globe, with projects including western burrowing owls, Swainson's hawks, purple martins, and wind energy development’s effect on migratory birds. Among Pantex’s many conservation partners are the Purple Martin Conservation Association, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas Tech University, West Texas A&M University, University of Manitoba, and York University. Pantex’s work in migratory birds began in 2002, and is coordinated by Pantex wildlife biologist James Ray with support from the NNSA Production Office.

Pantex furthers study of migratory birds through published research and an innovative outreach program that has placed tracking bands on approximately 10,000 purple martins. Pantex biologists installed protective devices on more than 500 utility poles to protect birds of prey against electrocution, capped fence posts across 18,000 acres to protect small birds, and helped DOE sponsor the Raptor Research Foundation conference.

Pantex conservation efforts benefit hundreds of species that inhabit and pass through federal land in Texas, and help DOE and NNSA meet the President’s conservation goals. Learn more about wildlife at Pantex on its website.

A Swainson’s hawk is fitted with a GPS tracking transmitter.

Mar 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Sandia's John Mulder puts the WeaselBoard through its paces on a test apparatus.

Weasels are adaptable, active predators known for being aggressive despite their small size, often threatening animals much larger than themselves. WeaselBoard, the latest technology from NNSA for protecting critical infrastructure, is thus aptly named.

Charged with oversight of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, NNSA controls billions of dollars’ worth of production, manufacturing, and equipment—information that is often classified and must be protected. NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories developed WeaselBoard to detect and respond against potential attacks.

WeaselBoard’s application in cybertechnology offers security not just for the nuclear security enterprise, but for critical infrastructure across a broad range of industries.

“WeaselBoard allows operators to detect compromises as they are in progress,” instead of relying on signatures of previously cataloged attacks, Sandia’s principal investigator John Mulder said. Monitoring system changes in real-time gives operators a jump on illicit activity in time for them to react, he said.

Learn more about WeaselBoard technology in a Sandia article and on the WeaselBoard site.

Mar 15, 2016 at 11:01 am

The administrator saw wind turbines at Sandia National Laboratories like this model.

NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz (Ret.) visited NNSA’s New Mexico laboratories last week. At Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Klotz addressed the workforces of both labs on how the FY17 budget request supports NNSA’s missions, and he got a first-hand look at some of the labs’ latest work.

On Monday, SNL’s manager for wind energy technologies David Minster and technical lead for the offshore wind energy program Todd Griffith showed Klotz Sandia’s most recent wind achievement, the design of a new low-cost offshore 50-MW wind turbine. SNL Director Jill Hruby hosted the visit and shared updates in the areas of cyber and nuclear weapons activities at Sandia. At an all-hands meeting Klotz spelled out NNSA’s top priorities and expectations for the future, just in time for Sandia, California’s 60th anniversary on March 8.

On Tuesday Klotz toured LANL’s Technical Area 55, the nation's only plutonium science, technology, and manufacturing facility. Los Alamos Director Charlie McMillan and Deputy Principal Associate Director for Weapons Programs Brett Kniss showed Klotz recent advancements in safety and security at LANL’s plutonium facility building 4 (PF-4). The updates will help LANL better support NNSA in stockpile stewardship, plutonium processing, nuclear materials stabilization, materials disposition, nuclear forensics, nuclear counter-terrorism, and nuclear energy missions.

For more information about NNSA activities, follow NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz on Twitter.

Mar 14, 2016 at 5:00 pm


The FIRST Robotics competition in Kansas City, March 10-12, resembled a medieval battlefield as nearly 50 high school teams battled robot against robot to scale the opponent’s defenses and capture their tower and flag.

For the past 10 years, Kansas City National Security Campus employees have volunteered their time to mentor area high schools throughout the process of building the robots and testing them at the FIRST (“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) national robotics competition.

In constructing the robot, the competition teaches students - and mentors - how to solve engineering design problems in an interesting and competitive way. It’s a fun, career-molding program with a big impact.



Mar 14, 2016 at 2:22 pm

After the March 11, 2011, Japan earthquake, tsunami, and ensuing nuclear reactor accident, the United States sent Department of Energy (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) emergency response teams.

The NNSA teams included nuclear experts in predictive modeling, monitoring, sample collection, laboratory analysis, and data analysis and interpretation. The deployment marked the first time NNSA’s full complement of radiological consequence management capabilities was fielded during a large-scale nuclear emergency.

For 10 weeks following the disaster, NNSA scientists logged more than 500 flight hours in U.S. Air Force aircraft and had primary responsibility to monitor radiological fallout and provide data to the U.S. and Japan. Scientists also collected thousands of field and soil samples.

This response also marked the first time that NNSA’s Nuclear Incident Team worked directly with the White House and the highest levels of departmental leadership during a radiological response. Guided by years of planning and training, the response teams successfully completed their mission and built important partnerships with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the Government of Japan, the Department of Defense, and other departments and agencies within the U.S. government.

Since the events five years ago, NNSA & DOE have worked to improve training, equipment, methods, and response organizations to implement lessons learned from our response to the Fukushima accident. The response collaboration engendered an enduring partnership between the Office of Nuclear Incident Response and its counterparts in Japan, and stimulated dialogue that continued recently with the Fourth Meeting of the U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation.

Mar 11, 2016 at 3:00 pm