Office of Environmental Management

EM Set to Complete Cleanup at One Nevada Site, Begin Work at Another

June 12, 2018

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Soil excavation activities at the Clean Slate II site on the Tonopah Test Range.
Soil excavation activities at the Clean Slate II site on the Tonopah Test Range.

LAS VEGAS EM is on pace to complete cleanup at one Tonopah Test Range (TTR) site and begin work at another this summer.

   Remediation of the Clean Slate sites just north of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) involves excavating, packaging, and disposing of contaminated soil and debris at the NNSS.

   Experiments to test the safety of nuclear devices were conducted at the Clean Slate sites in 1963. Though these experiments did not result in a nuclear yield, they caused the dispersal of various surface contaminants, including plutonium and americium. Two previous cleanup campaigns occurred in the late 1990s and 2014 but excavation and removal of contaminated soil was delayed until future use of the sites and associated cleanup levels were determined.

Excavated soil is sealed within Department of Transportation-certified Industrial Packaging and loaded onto trucks at the Clean Slate II site.
Excavated soil is sealed within Department of Transportation-certified Industrial Packaging and loaded onto trucks at the Clean Slate II site.

   EM is scheduled to complete cleanup at the Clean Slate II site this summer before starting work at Clean Slate III. Planning for this final phase of cleanup began in 2016 in collaboration with the EM Nevada Program and its cleanup contractor, Navarro; Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board; State of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection; and U.S. Air Force and Sandia National Laboratory, both of which conduct activities on the TTR. 

   Upon agreement of a path forward, the EM Nevada Program informed local communities about upcoming fieldwork at meetings in Goldfield, Tonopah, Pahrump, Beatty, and Las Vegas last year.

   “Our commitment to sharing information and listening to feedback supports the building of trust within our neighboring communities,” EM Nevada Program Manager Rob Boehlecke said.

A radiological control technician prepares to survey concrete debris uncovered during excavation of soil.
A radiological control technician prepares to survey concrete debris uncovered during excavation of soil; oversized debris is one of several unexpected conditions successfully addressed to continue remediation efforts in a safe and timely manner.

   The EM Nevada Program published a fact sheet on the NNSS website and distributed hundreds of copies of it to intergovernmental groups; the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe; and libraries, senior centers, community organizations, and post offices in Tonopah, Goldfield and Beatty – rural communities that waste shipments travel through to the NNSS.

   Crews began excavating and packaging contaminated soil in November 2017. The first waste shipment went to NNSS in mid-December after the EM Nevada Program coordinated with Nye County Emergency Management and the Nevada Department of Transportation to obtain and share information on routing.

   Coordination with Sandia and the U.S. Air Force continued throughout the remediation, along with updates to the public, including two “Community Conversations” events in Tonopah.

   The safety of field activities were evaluated and enhanced. The EM Nevada Program implemented several safety initiatives, such as relocating equipment and activities to reduce heavy equipment operation and lessen worker fatigue. Management also collaborated with field workers to address unexpected oversized concrete debris found during excavation. 

   As remediation wraps up at Clean Slate II with the completion of an anticipated 170 shipments by the end of June, the focus on safety, communication, and experience will be carried forward to Clean Slate III. This summer, workers will begin excavating, removing, and packaging approximately 7,500 cubic yards of soil and debris. The effort is expected to continue into 2019 and involve an estimated 450 shipments planned in multi-week campaigns.

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