Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Established in 1950, The Nevada Test Site (NTS) is a remote site that is buffered for public access by vast, federally-owned land masses that serve as a military gunnery range and a protected wildlife refuge . A unique national resource, the NTS is an outdoor laboratory and national experimental center occupying approximately 1,375 square miles (3,500 square kilometers or 864,000 acres), make this one of the largest secured areas in the United States. The Nevada Test Site (NTS) is located in Nye County in southern Nevada; the southernmost point of the NTS is about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas. The site varies from 28-35 miles (45-56 kilometers) in width (east-west) and from 40-55 miles (64-88 kilometers) in length (north - south). The Nevada Test Site is bordered on three sides by 4,120 square miles (10,700 square kilometers) of land comprising the Nellis Air Force Range, another federally owned, restricted area. This restricted area provides a buffer zone to the north and east between the test area and land that is open to the public, and varies in width from 15-65 miles (24-105 kilometers). A northwestern portion of the Nellis Air Force Range is occupied by the Tonopah Test Range, an area of 624 square miles (1,620 square kilometers), which is operated for DOE by the Sandia Laboratories primarily for airdrop tests of ballistic shapes. The combination of the Tonopah Test Range, the Nellis Air Force Range, and the Nevada Test Site is one of the largest unpopulated land areas in the United States, comprising some 5,470 square miles (14,200 square kilometers).

The site is adjacent to the Nellis Air Force range complex and has the benefit of the nearby McCarran International Airport and the on-site Desert Rock Airport. Located within the boundaries of the Nevada Test Site, the base camp of Mercury has housing, medical services, fire protection, law enforcement and security, and a cafeteria. There are more than 1,100 buildings valued at more than $700 million. There is housing for more than 1,200; offices, laboratories, warehouses, and training facilities; a hospital, post office, fire station, and sheriff's substation; and a large motor pool complete with repair facilities.

The Nevada Site Office (NSO), formerly the Nevada Operations Office, located in Las Vegas, Nevada, oversees operations for NNSA's Nevada Test Site. NSO had approximately 3,693 employees in 1996, including approximately 375 DOE employees. NTS-related employment has always been dependent upon programmatic requirements; consequently, the levels of contractor employment have fluctuated widely throughout the history of the NTS. Over the past 40-plus years, contractor employment levels have varied from over 10,000 to as few as 3,700. In 2006, about 3,000 people were employed by the contractor. In 2007, over 200 workers for the NTS contractor were laid off after a House funding bill set the NNSA budget for 2008 at $8.787 billion, down $599.9 million from the Bush administration's request and down $294 million spent that year. The company had 2,806 full- and part-time employees; 2,387 of whom were stationed in Nevada.

Currently, the NTS is operating under a weapons testing moratorium, which was implemented following passage of the Hatfield Amendment of 1992 by the United States Senate. In March 1994, the moratorium was extended through September 1995. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 1996. In 1997 President Clinton submitted the CTBT to the Senate for ratification, but on October 13, 1999 the Senate rejected it. Since 1997, the United States has held 21 "subcritical experiments," which do not create a self-sustaining chain reaction, at the Nevada Test Site. The most recent test was on May 25, 2004, to study how plutonium behaves under pressures generated by explosives. Due to the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, the primary mission at NTS is to support stockpile stewardship, environmental management, emergency response, and technology diversification. A number of programs are located at NV facilities: nuclear weapons testing readiness, approved experiments, national Nuclear Emergency Search Team (located at the Remote Sensing Laboratory), aerial measurement system/aerial surveys, Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center, Yucca Mountain site characterization, radioactive low-level/mixed waste management, technology development (plutonium cleanup), and environmental restoration. The NTS is also participating in the DOE decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) project in order to manage and dispose of contaminated buildings from past activities.

The DOE Office of Defense Programs (DP) is the lead cognizant secretarial office (CSO) for NV, with the Office of Environmental Management (EM) and the national laboratories having a longstanding and continuing interest in the site. EM manages Areas 3 and 5, the D&D facilities, and the restoration sites. The NV Assistant Manager for Technical Services (AMTS) provides environment, safety and health (ES&H) oversight functions. The AMTS develops and interprets ES&H and safeguards and security policy and procedures to ensure that regulations, DOE orders, mandated standards, and Head- quarters program direction are implemented. In addition, the AMTS provides technical ES&H and safeguards and security support to other line managers to help them fulfill their ES&H and safeguards and security responsibilities.

The two prime management and operating (M&O) contractors in 1996 were Bechtel Nevada (BN) and Wackenhut Services, Inc. (WSI). The WSI contract was limited to the provision of security services. The performance-based management contract with BN was the result of a contract reform-based competitive selection process that was completed in late 1995. BN assumed responsibility for performance-based M&O support to NV programs on January 1, 1996. Prior to 1996, NV had been supported by three M&O contractors---Reynolds Electric and Engineering Company, Inc; Raytheon Services Nevada; and EG&G Energy Measurements, Inc. Expenditures under the BN contract were estimated to be approximately $240 million in fiscal year 1996, and a similar amount was projected for fiscal year 1997. On March 28, 2006, National Security Technologies, LLC (NSTec) was awarded the contract to manage and operate NTS for the NNSA Nevada Site Office. The contract, which is valued at about $500 million annually, runs from July 1, 2006 through September 30, 2011. NSTec is made up of Northrop Grumman, AECOM, CH2M Hill, and Nuclear Fuel Services. PAI Corporation was awarded a $12,806,282 million Security System Services contract on December 7, 2006 to operate from January 1, 2007 through December 7, 2009. Wackenhut Services, Inc. was awarded a $218,987,876 contract, set to last from May 23, 2006 until May 31, 2011, to provide security protective force services. WSI has performed the security mission at the NTS since 1965. Expenditures under the WSI contract were expected to total approximately $16 million in fiscal year 1996 and remain the same level in fiscal year 1997.

A NTS Equipment Revitalization Program to replace and modernize NTS equipment that is obsolete was underway in 2005. The Atlas Relocation to the NTS project was nearing has been completed a replacement NTS Fire Station No. 2 was in design. NTS is part of Complex Transformation, a NNSA program for a smaller, safer, more secure, and less expansive nuclear weapons complex to replace the standing complex that is believed to be too old with too many facilities. As part of the NNSA's Complex Transformation program, it is planned that high-consequence testing will be consolidated at NTS. As a result of Complex Transformation, NTS would become the Center of Excellence for High-hazard Testing and experimentation. It would continue to rely on its existing facilities as there are no significant changes proposed to its infrastructure. NTS will continue to maintain the capability to resume underground nuclear testing while conducting hydrotests and high-hazard experiments involving both nuclear material and high explosives. NTS will also continue with its non-nuclear experiments; research and development activities; safeguarding Category I/II quantities of special nuclear materials; and providing training on nuclear safeguards, criticality safety, and emergency response.

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