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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • DOE unveils WIPP plan

    Shipments of plutonium-contaminated waste to the federal government’s troubled nuclear dump site in southeastern New Mexico may resume as early as 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy said in announcing that the agency is committed to cleaning up the facility after a shutdown in February.
    A recovery plan developed by the department over several months with help from nuclear industry experts details what needs to be done to decontaminate the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a truck fire and an unrelated release of radiation contaminated 22 workers and forced the site’s closure.
    Mark Whitney, acting assistant secretary for the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, said Tuesday that officials estimate that 90 percent or more of the nuclear waste dump is free of radiological contamination. But the ventilation system will need to be improved and a new exhaust shaft constructed before full operations can resume, Whitney said. That could take as long as three years and as much as an additional $309 million.

  • Climate, earth system project draws on science powerhouses

    With President Obama announcing climate-support initiatives this week at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories are teaming with academia and the private sector to develop the most advanced climate and Earth system computer model yet created. For Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers, it is a welcome advance for an already vibrant high-performance computing community.
    Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy, or ACME, is designed to accelerate the development and application of fully coupled, state-of-the-science Earth system models for scientific and energy applications.
    “The ACME partnership will provide new capabilities that improve our ability to project future impacts of energy choices on the Earth’s climate,” said Alan Bishop, principal associate director of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Science, Technology and Engineering directorate.
    “The national laboratories’ high-performance computing capabilities will enable better regional detail, and the addition of ice sheet processes and improved ocean and sea ice components will help to better quantify future sea-level rise.”

  • New study examines cancer risk from 1st A-bomb test

    Researchers from the National Cancer Institute want to know how many past and present cancer cases in New Mexico may be related to the U.S. government’s test of the world’s first atomic bomb over a remote stretch of desert nearly 70 years ago.
    They are visiting the state this week and conducting in-depth interviews with several residents to learn more about the lifestyles and diets of people who were living in New Mexico around the time of the atomic detonation at the Trinity Site.
    The team is particularly interested in filling in gaps when it comes to Native American and Hispanic populations and any links to fallout radiation exposure and food and water contamination.
    Dr. Steven Simon, the project’s lead investigator, said Monday that the information about diet and lifestyle will help his team more accurately project radiation doses from the fallout. “Using those dose estimates, we will then project an estimate of the excess cancers related to Trinity above the number that would have occurred in the absence of the test,” Simon said.
    The study also takes into account already published data on the radioactive fallout from the blast.
    The research team has done similar work in Nevada, the Marshall Islands and Kazakhstan.

  • McMillan reacts to EM taking over cleanup

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan sent an email to employees Friday, announcing four Los Alamos National Laboratory workers have been reassigned and the Department of Energy has pulled nuclear waste cleanup operations from the contractor that runs the lab after a barrel of waste packed at Los Alamos leaked.
    The email obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor read: “the laboratory today is implementing a number of measures aimed at supporting the Department of Energy’s objectives to reopen the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) repository near Carlsbad.
    “Among the actions are changes in our leadership responsible for managing our environmental cleanup and transuranic waste operations. I have asked Deputy Associate Director Enrique (Kiki) Torres to serve as acting lead for our Environmental Programs while the Lab works with DOE to develop a path forward.
    “These actions come after a number of internal investigations and reviews since the February discovery of a leak underground at WIPP from a waste drum that originated here at Los Alamos. Although the exact causes of the leak are still under investigation, I have determined that today’s changes are necessary now as part of our continued recovery actions.

  • DOE EM to take over cleanup work at LANL

    Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz directed the Office of Environmental Management and the National Nuclear Security Administration to develop a plan for the transition of legacy environmental cleanup work at the Department’s Los Alamos site from NNSA to EM.
    A statement released Friday by a DOE spokesperson said, “the safe and efficient cleanup of the Los Alamos Site in New Mexico is a high priority for the Department of Energy. The Secretary of Energy has directed the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) to develop a plan for the transition of the Los Alamos Site legacy environmental cleanup work from NNSA to EM.
    “This will align the focus and accountability of cleanup work with the Department’s environmental management program and enable the Los Alamos site prime contractor, Los Alamos National Security, to continue its focus on the core national security missions at the site. NNSA and EM will work together to evaluate all elements necessary for an effective transition including federal oversight, acquisition strategies, and quality, safety and security.”

  • Johnson named new NNSA security chief

    The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that Jeffrey Johnson has been named the Chief of Defense Nuclear Security and Associate Administrator for NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Security effective Tuesday.
    In this role, he will be responsible for the development and implementation of security programs for the NNSA.
    “Jeffrey brings a wealth of experience to NNSA and is eminently qualified to take on the challenges of his new position,” said DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Frank G. Klotz. “I am pleased he will serve our nation in this new role, and I am confident that he will use his expertise to ensure that the security is maintained at all NNSA facilities.”
    Johnson has an extensive security background from his time on active duty and as a civilian Marine, including the protection of nuclear weapons, Navy nuclear propulsion, and other high value assets. Previously he was head of U.S. Marine Corps Civilian Law Enforcement where he was responsible for all aspects of installation policing and security.
    Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology/criminology from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in security and safety leadership from George Washington University.  

  • Study Group to host forum tonight at Fuller Lodge

    From 6-8 p.m. today at Fuller Lodge, the Los Alamos Study Group will host a public discussion about the future of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s three big labs: Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).
    Everyone is welcome. There is no charge but donations will be gratefully accepted.
    The discussion is timed to coincide with the new, congressionally-mandated Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories (CRENEL), which is in the first phase of its review.
    CRENEL will evaluate whether the 17 Department of Energy (DOE) labs, including the three NNSA labs, properly address DOE’s priorities and have clear, non-duplicative missions and unique capabilities “for current and future energy and national security challenges.”
    CRENEL will evaluate the size of the labs, whether consolidation or realignment are appropriate, whether universities or other technology centers would be better for some of their work, as well as how to improve lab-directed research and development (LDRD).

  • Researchers uncover new properties in nanocomposite oxide ceramics for reactor fuel

    Nanocomposite oxide ceramics have potential uses as ferroelectrics, fast ion conductors, and nuclear fuels and for storing nuclear waste, generating a great deal of scientific interest on the structure, properties, and applications of these blended materials.
    “The interfaces separating the different crystalline regions determine the transport, electrical and radiation properties of the material as a whole,” said Pratik Dholabhai, principal Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher on the project.
     “It is in the chemical makeup of these interfaces where we can improve features such as tolerance against radiation damage and fast ion conduction.”

  • LANS OKs $3 million in funding

     The Los Alamos National Security, LLC Board of Governors has approved $3 million in funding for the company’s plan to support education, economic development and charitable giving in Northern New Mexico.
    “This plan demonstrates our bond with the community and its people and businesses that support our national security mission,” laboratory director Charlie McMillan said. “It sustains the mutually beneficial programs that make Los Alamos one of the best places to live and work.”
    Los Alamos National Security, LLC since 2006 has been the managing and operating contractor for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Funds approved by the LANS Board of Governors are administered through a Community Commitment Plan managed by Los Alamos’ Community Programs Office.
    The LANS Community Commitment Plan has provided more than $28 million to the region since 2007.
    For 2015 the plan will provide:
    • $1 million for education, including science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs
    • $1 million for economic development, such as financial and technical assistance to start and grow regional businesses 

  • Collaboration drives achievement in protein research

    When this week’s print issue of the journal Science comes out, a collective cheer will go up from New Mexico, Montana and even the Netherlands, thanks to the type of collaborative effort that is more and more the norm in these connected times.
    The research will produce innovations in biology, medicine, biotechnology and agriculture. It could save lives, and it happened because this scientist talked with that one, that one knew another one, and they overcame geographic distance to advance human understanding.
    “It is tremendously exciting working with researchers around the world, helping them apply the software and algorithms that we have developed to see the inner workings of molecular machines,” said Thomas Terwilliger, a senior Los Alamos scientist and Laboratory Fellow.
    In this case, researchers at Montana State University have provided the first blueprint of a bacterium’s “molecular machinery,” showing how bacterial immune systems fight off the viruses that infect them. By tracking down how bacterial defense systems work, the scientists can potentially fight infectious diseases and genetic disorders. The key is a repetitive piece of DNA in the bacterial genome called a CRISPR, for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.