A man dressed in a NEST pullover cuts a plastic ribbon with a pair of scissors at the entrance to a building as others look on.
Marc Phipps, Region 4 Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) Federal Program Manager, cuts the ribbon on RAP’s new Regional Operation Center on Kirtland Air Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Last week, NNSA opened its Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) Regional Operation Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The facility will also be the home of RAP Region 4.

The Regional Operations Center serves as a central point for training and readiness both the RAP program and all Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) response assets across the region and the country. This cutting-edge facility, funded by NNSA’s Office of Infrastructure and NNSA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation (CTCP), marks a significant leap forward in NNSA’s commitment to nuclear incident preparedness. 

The opening of this new center for the Radiological Assistance Program is yet another milestone in the continued development and maturation of the Nuclear Emergency Support Team.

Rick Christensen
Acting Director of NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Incident Response

“RAP Region 4’s new facility is not just a response center; it’s a hub for continuous learning and preparedness,” said Marc Phipps, RAP 4 Regional Program Manager. “It elevates our ability to train and equip emergency response personnel, ensuring a robust and agile regional response to radiological incidents.” 

RAP personnel are often the first NNSA response team on the scene assessing radiological emergencies and recommending steps to minimize hazards. NEST maintains RAP teams at 12 Department of Energy national laboratories, plants, and sites across the United States, each of which is responsible for the surrounding geographic region.  

RAP Region 4 encompasses Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas and plays a pivotal role in the region’s emergency response efforts. The strategic location of the RAP Regional Operations Center enhances NEST’s ability with state-of-the-art training facilities and a cutting-edge equipment depot so NEST can prepare for and respond swiftly to a broad spectrum of radiological threats, incidents, and planned events. The center’s benefits extend beyond immediate response, emphasizing comprehensive training and preparation for radiological response personnel within the region and beyond. 

A man takes a piece of equipment off a large rack that has lots of other, similar-looking equipment on it.
Gary Baldonado holds a backpack-sized device used for detecting radiation while organizing the storage at the Radiological Assistance Program team’s new building on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“The opening of this new center for the Radiological Assistance Program is yet another milestone in the continued development and maturation of the Nuclear Emergency Support Team,” noted Rick Christensen, Acting Director of NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Incident Response. “As we look to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of NEST next year, I am gratified to see NEST’s scientists, technicians, engineers, and managers carry forward our legacy of innovation and continuous improvement.”

A feature of this new facility is a state-of-the-art 60-person classroom equipped to facilitate advanced training sessions for emergency response personnel, including both NEST and other Federal partners. This dedicated space ensures that teams are well-prepared with the latest protocols and technologies and fostering a culture of continuous improvement in radiological emergency response. 

The center’s depot allows NEST to consolidate scientific and technical equipment for all 12 of NEST’s RAP locations across the United States. It is stocked with specialized equipment and resources necessary for effective radiological response. The depot serves as a central hub for maintaining, organizing, and rapidly deploying essential tools, enhancing NEST readiness to address a diverse range of radiological challenges. 

NEST is NNSA’s emergency response capability that leverages DOE’s world-class scientists and technical experts to contend with the Nation’s most pressing radiological and nuclear challenges. It is the umbrella designation that encompasses the Department’s radiological and nuclear emergency response functions, some of which date back more than 60 years.

RAP is one of the many nuclear incident response assets that make up NEST and the nation’s premier first responder organization for assessing radiological incidents. RAP advises federal, state, local, and tribal public safety officials, first responders, and law enforcement personnel on steps to protect public health and safety or the environment during incidents involving radioactive materials. 

A map of the United States with various multistate regions colored in from 1 to 7. The title is the Radiological Assistance Program regions