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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • LANL scientist wins ACS award

    Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Jaqueline L. Kiplinger has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the F. Albert Cotton Award in Synthetic Inorganic Chemistry, sponsored by the F. Albert Cotton Endowment Fund.
    “To be nominated and selected for the Cotton Award by my American Chemical Society colleagues is such an extraordinary honor,” Kiplinger said “I have found so much joy in actinide chemistry research, both in advancing fundamental knowledge for the nation, and in training future generations of scientists.”
    The award recognizes outstanding synthetic accomplishment in the field of inorganic chemistry. A formal announcement of the names of the 2015 ACS National Award Recipients is in the Aug. 11 issue of Chemical & Engineering News. The American Chemical Society will present her with the award at the Society’s 249th ACS National Meeting in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
    Kiplinger was honored for her work in establishing synthetic routes to novel uranium and thorium compounds that have opened new frontiers in understanding the nature of bonding and reactivity in actinides.

  • Moniz vows to get WIPP working

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is vowing to get southeastern New Mexico’s troubled nuclear waste dump back in operation as soon as possible after a mysterious radiation leak that has indefinitely shuttered the nation’s only permanent repository for waste from decades of nuclear bomb building.
    During a town hall meeting packed with state and community officials, and many supporters of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, Moniz said, “If you stick with us, were sticking with you.”
    About a dozen community leaders and residents were at the Carlsbad airport to welcome Moniz and show their continued support for the plant, which employs about 650 people.
    At least one speaker, however, said the leak showed the 15-year-old, multi-billion dollar project has failed and should be abandoned. Others complained about a lack of information and the slow pace of identifying the cause of the leak.
    Officials have yet to pinpoint what caused a barrel of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to breach in one of the plant’s half-mile-deep rooms Feb. 14, contaminating 22 above-ground workers with low levels of radiation. One theory has focused on a chemical reaction in highly acidic waste that was packed with organic cat litter to absorb moisture.

  • LANL probes mysteries of uranium dioxide’s thermal conductivity

    Nearly 20 percent of the electricity in the United States is generated by nuclear energy from uranium dioxide fuel, but mysteries still surround exactly how the material controls the electrical production: poor thermal conductivity can limit the conversion rate of heat produced by fission, however we don’t know the physics underlying this behavior or, as it turns out, some of the properties to which it gives rise.
    “A deeper understanding of the physics that governs the performance of important engineering materials, such as uranium dioxide, should lead to improvements in efficiency and safety,” said David Andersson, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on the project, “which are ultimate goals of the Department of Energy’s program to develop advanced predictive computer models of nuclear reactor performance.”
    New research at Los Alamos is showing that the thermal conductivity of cubic uranium dioxide is strongly affected by interactions between phonons carrying heat and magnetic spins. “This leads to unexpected behavior of the thermal conductivity: For example, in single crystals the measured thermal conductivity is different along the side or edge of the cubic unit cell than along the diagonal, even at and above room temperature,” said Andersson.

  • Two LANL scientists named ACS Fellows

    Rebecca Chamberlin and Donivan Porterfield, both of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Actinide Analytical Chemistry group, have been selected as a 2014 Fellows of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

  • Scientists uncover combustion mechanism to better predict warming by wildfires

     Scientists have uncovered key attributes of so-called “brown carbon” from wildfires, airborne atmospheric particles that may have influenced current climate models that failed to take the material’s warming effects into account. The work was described by a collaborative team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Montana in the journal Nature Geosciences this week.
    “Biomass burning and wildfires emit fine particulates that are toxic to humans and can warm or cool climate. While their toxicity is certain, their specific climatic effects remain unclear and are a hot research topic,” said Manvendra Dubey, a senior Los Alamos climate scientist. “Smoke from wildfires accounts for one-third of the Earth’s ‘black’ carbon — the familiar charred particles that are associated with fires with large flames. While black carbon is relatively simple — solely consisting of carbon — brown carbon contains a complex soup of organic material, making it difficult to identify, characterize and model.”

  • Hazmat Challenge is serious business

    If you thought your week has been challenging due to the unpredictable weather, it was nothing compared to what hazardous material technicians had to face during Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 18th Annual Hazmat Challenge.
    Facing real-world chemical leak scenarios of all types: indoor, outdoor, overturned trucks, leaking railcars and other challenges, hazmat techs from all over the nation competed at Tech Area 49 this week to see who did the best, and safest job of cleaning up the simulated spills. According to Chris Rittner, a Hazmat and training specialist with LANL, the weather only slowed down the competition a little bit.
    “We kind of take a ‘train like you fight’ mentality. If it’s raining lightly, that doesn’t stop us. The only thing that stops us is heavy rain or lightning, and that’s just strictly a safety issue, because we don’t want undue safety hazards while conducting training exercises,” he said.
    Started in 1996, the competition was originally just meant to sharpen the skills of LANL’s hazardous materials teams, but the competition quickly grew by word of mouth to include teams from across the nation.

  • Lab worker fired after writing anti-nuclear piece

    A former member of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s non-proliferation team says he was fired after writing an article for a nonprofit website in support of abolishing nuclear weapons.
    James Doyle, who lives in Santa Fe, said he believes he was let go after 17 years because lab officials feared the article, which espoused his personal views, could be interpreted as a voice from the laboratory and could present problems in seeking funding for Los Alamos’s nuclear bomb building mission.
    A Los Alamos spokesman said the lab doesn’t discuss personnel matters.
    Doyle said he was fired July 8, several months after lab officials claimed his article raised classification concerns. He says the article had been cleared for publication by the proper officials before it was published.
    Doyle’s attorney Mark Zaid said he believes there was clear retaliation, and he is pursuing administrative remedies for his client.
    The Center for Public Integrity initially broke the story.
    In its story, a number of former advisers were quoted.
    “It sure looks like he’s being fired for supporting the president’s policy,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a special adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden.

  • Scholarship fund breaks a record

    The Los Alamos National Employees’ Scholarship Fund broke a record this year. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesman Steve Sandoval, the fund brought in more funds this year than in any year of its existence.
    The fund was founded in 1998 through a partnership with the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. Each year, employees and subcontractors with the lab donate to the fund. The fund’s purpose is to support promising students that attend school in Northern New Mexico with college scholarships.
    “Contributions totaled about $342,000 and with a contributing match of $240,000 from the Los Alamos National Security LANS it’s about $592,000 total,” Sandoval said. “We had a great fundraising drive this year.”

  • Scientists ignite aluminum water mix

    Don’t worry, that beer can you’re holding is not going to spontaneously burst into flames, but under the right circumstances aluminum does catch fire, and the exact mechanism that governs how, has long been a mystery.
    Now, new research by Los Alamos National Laboratory explosives scientist Bryce Tappan, published as the cover story in the prestigious German journal of chemistry Angewandte Chemie, for the first time confirms that chemical kinetics — the speed of a chemical reaction — is a primary function in determining nanoaluminum combustion burn rates.
    “It’s been long understood that nanoscale aluminum particles, 110 nanometers and smaller, are highly reactive. Aluminum particles at this scale have been used in novel explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnic formulations,” said Tappan. “The understanding of the combustion mechanism impacts how we look at the design of ever smaller aluminum particles like molecular aluminum clusters as well as possible nanoaluminum applications like hydrogen fuel storage devices — and this might be a little ‘out there’ — but also energetic formulations that could use extraterrestrial water as the oxidizer in rocket fuel.”

  • Moniz to visit WIPP

    CARLSBAD (AP) — Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have announced that U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will visit Carlsbad on Aug. 12 to discuss the government’s underground nuclear waste dump.
    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has been indefinitely shuttered in the wake of a Feb. 14 reaction that sent radioactive particles into the air above the repository and contaminated 22 workers with low levels of radiation. The release is still under investigation.
    Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Steve Pearce last month invited Moniz to visit the facility. They want to talk with him about recovery funding, how the money would be spent and why it’s needed.
    The facility is the nation’s only permanent repository for plutonium-contaminated gloves, tools and clothing from the federal government’s nuclear facilities.
    “We believe that the recovery is now at a stage where it would be important for you to observe the efforts directly,” the lawmakers wrote Moniz in June. “The workers and the community would also appreciate hearing firsthand the Department’s plans for returning WIPP to full operation. We look forward to hosting you in Carlsbad.”