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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • IG: Safety issues not addressed

    A new audit from the Department of Energy’s Office of the Inspector General was critical of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s actions to implement nuclear safety management measures.
    The report, “Nuclear Safety: Safety Basis and Quality Assurance at the Los Alamos National Laboratory,” was released on Thursday.
    According to the audit, which was conducted in February, LANL has taken steps to improve nuclear safety, specifically mentioning seismic-related risks at PF-4, the lab’s plutonium facility and taken some other steps, but LANL “continued to have problems in fully implementing a number of critical nuclear safety management requirements.”
    Among the findings of safety shortcomings, the audit said LANL had fallen short in developing safety basis documents that met the National Nuclear Security Administration’s expectations in regard to nuclear hazards and mitigation controls, it hadn’t adequately resolved issues for two nuclear facilities — WETF and WCRRF — and hadn’t resolved other “long-standing” deficiencies.
    The report noted that NNSA management was in general agreement with IG’s findings.

  • Hintze will head EM at field office

    The Department of Energy’s Office of Emergency Management announced Monday that Douglas E. Hintze will be the new manager as the manager of the new EM Los Alamos Field Office (LAFO).
    Hintze comes to Los Alamos after serving as the assistant manager for Mission Support at the DOE Savannah River Operations Office since September 2012.
    “Doug’s experience in helping to manage work at one of our largest cleanup sites makes him an excellent choice to head up (Emergency Management at LAFO) as we continue to assume direct responsibility for the remaining legacy cleanup activities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory,” acting EM Assistant Secretary Mark Whitney said.
    EM established the EM-LA Field Office in March as part of transitioning direct responsibility for the remaining legacy cleanup at the laboratory from the National Nuclear Security Administration to EM.
    The work includes transuranic waste disposition, soil and groundwater remediation and decommissioning and demolition of aging facilities.
    Christine Gelles, EM associate deputy assistant secretary for Waste Management, headed the office in an acting capacity before Hintze was named manager.

  • Some still seek help 70 years after test

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — An unknown blast shook the desolate New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, unsettling the historic Hispanic village of Tularosa.
    Most residents lacked phones and radios, so they relaxed when Army officials said it was just an ammunition explosion — despite the raining ash.
    They didn’t learn scientists from the then-secret city of Los Alamos successfully detonated the first atomic bomb at the nearby Trinity Site until after the U.S. announced it had dropped the weapon on Japan a month later, helping end World War II.
    “It was a source of pride,” Tina Cordova, a former Tularosa resident whose father was 3 years old during the Trinity Test.
    It became a source of anger after many residents developed cancer and blamed it for their health problems.
    Thursday marks the 70th anniversary of the test that took place as part of the Manhattan Project, the secretive World War II program that provided enriched uranium for the atomic bomb. While the state holds commemorative events, Tularosa residents press for acknowledgement and compensation from the U.S. government.

  • 'Missing' plutonium magnetism found

    OAK RIDGE, Tennessee – Groundbreaking work at two Department of Energy national laboratories has confirmed plutonium’s magnetism, which scientists have long theorized but have never been able to experimentally observe.
    The advances that enabled the discovery hold great promise for materials, energy and computing applications.
    Plutonium was first produced in 1940 and its unstable nucleus allows it to undergo fission, making it useful for nuclear fuels as well as for nuclear weapons.
    Much less known, however, is that the electronic cloud surrounding the plutonium nucleus is equally unstable and makes plutonium the most electronically complex element in the periodic table, with intriguingly intricate properties for a simple elemental metal.
    While conventional theories have successfully explained plutonium’s complex structural properties, they also predict that plutonium should order magnetically. This is in stark contrast with experiments, which had found no evidence for magnetic order in plutonium.

  • LANL Foundation breaks fundraising record

    Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $356,550 to the 2015 Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) drive, the lab announced this week.
    The drive encourages LANL employees, retirees and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to northern New Mexico students.
    Additionally, more employees participated in this year’s campaign than in past years, LANL announced.
    “Our employees know first-hand that education can unlock opportunity for these talented students who hold the promise to be future leaders in government, industry or the nonprofit sector,” said Steve Girrens, LANL associate director for Engineering Sciences, this year’s LAESF scholarship drive champion. “This scholarship program provides an opportunity for employees, contractors and retirees to play a valuable role in helping our region’s high school and college academic stars attain their higher education goals.”
    Coupled with $250,000 in matching funds from Los Alamos National Security, the total amount contributed in this year’s campaign is nearly $607,000.
    Scholarships are awarded on the basis of grade-point average, test scores, diversity, financial need, academic rigor, leadership and community involvement.

  • 'DisrupTech' will be at golf course

    A showcase of disruptive technologies developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory will take place Thursday at the Los Alamos Golf Course Event Center.
    “The purpose of our event, called ‘DisrupTech,’ is to expose entrepreneurs, investors, business people, and other leaders to potentially world-changing, disruptive, early-stage technologies developed by Los Alamos scientists and promote the innovation culture at the laboratory,” said David Pesiri, head of the LANL’s Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation. “This showcase, and the energy that we anticipate in the interaction between science and industry, is only possible through the partnership and ideas that the New Mexico Angels have brought. We are happy to work with the New Mexico Angels to help get these ideas into the marketplace,” he said.
    DisrupTech will feature eight technology presentations in the areas of sustainable fracking, solar cell materials, biofuels, tamper forensics, neutralization of toxic chemicals, biotechnology, water treatment and industrial process improvement.

  • Federally protected owls found nesting at lab

    Biologists located a record seven federally threatened Mexican spotted owl chicks on Los Alamos National Laboratory property during nest surveys last month.
    “We’ve never found this many chicks,” said Chuck Hathcock, wildlife biologist with the Environmental Stewardship group at LANL. “It’s encouraging to see successful nests because it’s an indication that our efforts to protect these species are making an impact.”
    Under its Habitat Management Plan, the laboratory protects and manages species that are federally listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, including the Mexican spotted owl and Jemez Mountain salamander.
    The laboratory’s plan was originally approved in 2000 and requires surveillance and protection of endangered species and their habitats. Much of the owls’ primary habitat in the Jemez Mountains was destroyed during the Las Conchas fire in 2011, making the protection of the remaining habitat on LANL property even more crucial.

  • 'Secret City' welcomes festival

    Visitors will have a chance to unlock the mysteries behind the former secret city of Los Alamos during the eighth annual Los Alamos ScienceFest July 15-19.
    Los Alamos ScienceFest, the town’s signature annual event, is themed “the Secret City Unlocked” in recognition of the recent designation of the Manhattan Project Historic National Park and popularity of the WGN hit TV series “Manhattan.”
    
Most events during ScienceFest will be centered around the town’s once enigmatic history of the Manhattan Project and includes five days of family friendly events including a “Drone Zone” competition, speakers, a “Science of Beer” event, release of two apps created by LANL scientists, tour of historic buildings, and more.
    

“Los Alamos ScienceFest celebrates the town’s relationship between science and creativity with engaging exhibits, events and demonstrations,” said Suzette Fox, executive director of Los Alamos MainStreet. “Our town has earned a reputation as a hot bed of activity in science, biotech, engineering and medicine.
    Los Alamos ScienceFest provides an opportunity for the community to take pride in that reputation and to inspire the next generation to carry it forward.”

  • Foundation will give awards to 2 students

    The LANL Foundation announced last week it was accepting applications for Northern New Mexico Tribal Business Scholarships.
    Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 will be awarded to two qualified applicants pursuing undergraduate degrees in business-related fields from an accredited post-secondary educational institution, the foundation announced.
    In order to be eligible, students must be a member of a pueblo or tribe and reside within the seven northern New Mexico counties of Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe or Taos.
    The awards go to “support the growing need for accountants, financial analysts and business information system professionals” within the native communities, according to the foundation.
    Application and instructions are online at lanlfoundation dot org/scholarships. Deadline to apply is July 20.
    More information can be found at the website or by contacting Tony Fox at 505-753-8890.

  • Hruby promoted to head Sandia

    ALBUQUERQUE — Last week, Jill M. Hruby was named the next president and director of Sandia National Laboratories, the country’s largest national lab.
    Hruby will be the first woman to lead a national security laboratory when she steps into her new role July 17.
    A Sandia staff member and manager for the past 32 years, Hruby most recently served as a vice president overseeing Sandia efforts in nuclear, biological and chemical security, homeland security, counterterrorism and energy security.
    Hruby will be the first woman to lead any of the three national security labs — Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore— under the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
    She succeeds Paul Hommert, who is retiring July 16 after serving as Sandia president and laboratories director since 2010.
    Hruby’s appointment was announced to the Sandia workforce by Rick Ambrose, who chairs the board of directors for Sandia Corp. and is the executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems.