LAS VEGAS – EM recently completed cleanup of a 1963 plutonium dispersion test site just north of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), capping more than 20 years of hard work and cross-agency collaboration.
It was the first time EM completed environmental characterization and remediation of a plutonium dispersion site on the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) as outlined in the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (FFACO). The cleanup at the site known as Double Tracks also meets U.S. Air Force (USAF) land-use requirements (not releasable to or accessible by the public) and allows for less restrictive management of the sites.
“The completion of Double Tracks is a reflection of the success and value of collaboration that occurred at all stages to work through the process,” DOE Nevada Field Office (NFO) Environmental Management Operations Manager Rob Boehlecke said. “This decades-long effort was achieved through the collaborative efforts of NFO federal and contractor staff, State of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Air Force. And the benefits of this collaboration will continue as we work toward completion at other sites in the future.”
Completing the cleanup highlights the successful collaboration between DOE and its key stakeholders.
“This closure is an important step in continuing the cleanup efforts of the DOE EM program, but it couldn't happen without great working relationships with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Air Force,” said DOE NFO Soils Activity Lead Tiffany Lantow. “Those relationships make it possible to discuss options and information and work together towards a single goal.”
DOE is responsible for remediating sites with legacy contamination resulting from historic nuclear research and testing at the NNSS and NTTR, including the Tonopah Test Range. The completion of this environmental restoration mission is governed by the FFACO, a legally binding agreement between the DOE, State of Nevada, and Department of Defense (DoD) establishing a framework for identifying, prioritizing, investigating, remediating and monitoring the contaminated sites.
Operation Roller Coaster was a joint exercise between the DoD, Atomic Energy Commission and United Kingdom on USAF land at the NTTR in 1963. The project consisted of four conventional explosive detonations of nuclear devices designed to determine if nuclear weapons could be accidentally set off and produce a nuclear yield.
The devices were detonated at four sites: Double Tracks and Clean Slate I, II, and III, and proved that accidental yield-producing nuclear detonations would not occur. However, soil in the area was contaminated as a result of the experiments. For more information on Double Tracks and other historical plutonium dispersal tests, click here. For more information on the different NFO EM programs, click here.