National Nuclear Security Administration

A firsthand perspective from NNSA’s radiation protection professionals

November 9, 2017

You are here

NNSA employs a cadre of radiation protection professionals to lend their technical expertise to U.S. and international efforts regarding the prevention of, responses to, and recovery from radiation incidents.

To recognize these valued team members during National Radiation Protection Professionals Week, two experts supporting the U.S. nuclear counterterrorism and counterproliferation mission at NNSA share their experiences working in this critical national security field.

Jason Moore of the Remote Sensing Laboratory

Jason Moore, Radiation Control Technician, Remote Sensing Laboratory at Joint Base Andrews near Washington, D.C.

What is your academic background?

I have degrees in radiation protection, accounting, and occupational safety and health. I’ve used all these disciplines throughout my career, whether it was during commercial nuclear power work, plutonium processing, liquid waste tank closure activities, Materials Balance Area custodian duties, or nuclear material storage and stabilization.

What drew you to this field?

Following my mother and my favorite uncles, I was enticed into the field of radiation protection. My mom was a health physics chemist for a utility corporation. Her younger brothers also worked in a similar field in the U.S. Navy and in the private sector.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Having the knowledge and experience to work with substances that can pose direct and potentially catastrophic impacts to the general public and our way of life. I get the opportunity to work with local, state, and federal law enforcement, training these experts to keep the public safe from harmful forms of radiation.

Rajah Mena of the Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas

Rajah Mena, Principal Scientist, Remote Sensing Laboratory at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas

What is your academic background?

I have a bachelors and a master’s degree in health physics from the University of Nevada. The program has a strong emphasis on medical physics. However, I gravitated toward the environmental and emergency response coursework.  Therefore, my thesis and career are more related to these areas.

Can you outline what a typical day looks like for a radiation protection professional at NNSA?

There is no such thing as a typical day in this program. Some days involve performing aerial survey missions over contaminated ground. Some days involve working with state and local decision makers as they exercise their plans to respond to nuclear power plant emergencies. Still other days are spent working with colleagues across the DOE-NNSA response complex to test and evaluate our own plans. Every day is different and it’s one my favorite things about this career.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?

Training and exercising with state, local, tribal and private industry partners is by far the best part of my career. I have the opportunity to learn from them and in turn share our experiences across the country and across the world. Through these activities, we have had a part in strengthening the overall US response to large-scale nuclear and radiological disasters.