Transparency means making data available

For years I served on the Citizen’s Advisory Board on Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal for what was formerly called the Nevada Test Site. There are active nuclear waste dumps there- receiving primarily military nuclear waste from the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. It was an interesting thing to do- we met once a month. A group of mostly retired people who lived near the site. People who had worked there- as mechanics, engineers, truck drivers. People who worked nearby. People who were affected by the site, and the transport of radioactive materials through their cities and towns. I remember asking, month after month after month for more information- and now there is some.

What sites were being investigated? Where had they found even trace contaminants? What was the movement of groundwater, and could I please have a copy of that map….

The United States hasn’t yet ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but no one really expects them to resume full scale nuclear testing in Nevada. (Yes it is close to Las Vegas, about 100km away). Even with the ongoing “subcritical nuclear experiments” that take place, there is a clear understanding of the need for some remedial action. And transparency can help make sure that people are aware of the risks, aware of the activities, aware of what’s going on. Transparency leads to accountability.

Although it is no longer called the Nevada Test Site, the newly named, often shamed, facility is making data more accessible to the public. An interactive map, called the NNSS Remediation Sites map, is now public and allows interested individuals to take a look at what has been done to isolate the nuclear legacy at this facility from the public, and the water supply.

Take a look around- it may surprise you how much information has been made public, and what isn’t yet available. The map is fairly slow to load (at least in our office), but it is pretty awesome looking- you can even spot the Sudan crater. This is a pilot programme, so the NNSS will be taking comments and suggestions.

The full announcement from NNSA is below.

NNSS Cleanup Information Is Just a Click Away

New Interactive Map Makes NNSS Data More Accessible to the Public

For decades, the Nevada Site Office (NSO) has been investigating, characterizing, identifying, and performing corrective actions in areas contaminated by historical nuclear research, development and testing. More recently, the NSO has consolidated this body of work into a single, accessible information repository for stakeholders.

Now with the help of a the new computer map/database known as the NNSS Remediation Sites map, interested members of the public can literally open the book on thousands of sites located on the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and surrounding Nevada Test and Training Range. These sites have undergone or will undergo corrective actions in accordance with the Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order, a formal agreement between the NSO and the State of Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. By simply clicking on a specific historical test location on the map, users can activate an information box that identifies the type and quantity of contaminated media present at that location. Additional hyperlinks allow the user to access more in-depth reports that include information on the various cleanup approaches and closure methods used at each site as well as a thoroughly-researched site history.

These site reports are housed on the U.S. Department of Energy Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) library. The library, known as the OSTI Information Bridge, includes approximately 2,000 NSO documents, published as early as 1982, that address historical NNSS contamination challenges.

The interactive map was designed to give users flexibility. Clicking the More button will activate options for altering the map’s detail, to include/exclude roads, boundaries, etc. Users can also group sites according to Surface/Near Surface Contamination, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) Locations, Defense Programs (DP) Locations, Environmental Restoration (ER) Locations,Deep Sub-Surface Contamination, All Locations, and/or a combination of all the options.

The idea for the map originated from discussions with stakeholders during public meetings in September 2011. “As we shared the progress of our cleanup efforts, we realized that locating relevant documents and reports wasn’t as easy as it could be,” NSO Environmental Management Operations Manager, Rob Boehlecke explained. “Our hope is that the interactive map not only makes information more readily available, but that it also gives users a visual context for the quantity and variety of work being accomplished at the NNSS.”

Though fully operational, the interactive map is a pilot program. Over the next few months the NSO will evaluate its use and seek feedback from the public. “We want to make sure stakeholders are satisfied with the map’s overall utility and ease of use,” said Boehlecke.

Additional information on the NSO Environmental Management mission can be found at To submit comments or suggestions relating to the map, please e-mail, or call 702-295-3521.