By Selwyn Harris
A suspicious item found outside the security perimeter of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s NNSA Nevada National Security Site NNSS prompted the evacuation of the facility late Wednesday afternoon.
Officials say the item was discovered lying on the desert floor slightly under a bush during a routine patrol just outside the Device Assembly Facility DAF in Area Six on the site.
Upon visual inspection, investigators noted that the item had black electrical tape covering both ends.
As per established safety procedures, the individual who discovered the device backed away and reported the suspicious item.
According to a press release, the discovery triggered NNSS protocols, which led to the dispatch of the site’s fire and rescue units and off-site emergency responders.
The NNSS Emergency Operations Center and Joint Information Center personnel were also mobilized as part of the response.
A safety perimeter was eventually established and all occupants within the DAF were ordered to “shelter-in-place,” the release stated.
NNSS Public Affairs Officer Dante Pistone said site officials later determined that the device was a training prop used during exercises.
“At the time we were not sure what it was. We followed the proper procedures and it turned out to be a non-threatening item. Those are standard procedures that we have in place and we do drills and exercises regularly,” he said.
Pistone also noted that during his time at the site, there have been no similar instances reported like the one on Wednesday.
“I’ve been here going on five years and I have not experienced anything like this. It is very rare. For one thing, we have very strict security procedures just to get on the site. To get close to the Device Assembly Facility would be very difficult but we have procedures to follow and we followed them,” he said.
While it was not fully determined, officials suspect that the prop was dropped during a past training exercise at the site.
According to an acting manager, Steven J. Lawrence, the entire event lasted about four and a half hours.
“While this event turned out to be a false alarm, it clearly demonstrated that our established emergency management processes and procedures can and do work. As with any event there will be lessons learned, but overall I am very proud of how our workforce responded,” he said.
On any given day there are usually 1,500 to 2,000 employees working at the site.
After the development and use of the atomic bomb in 1945, The United States Government created the Atomic Energy Commission AEC in 1947, which was responsible for controlling nuclear materials and developing nuclear weapons.
In 2000, the National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA was created by Congress as a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Nevada Operations Office was renamed the NNSA Site Office as part of the change.