Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • 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.

  • Webster takes over top weapons position at lab

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan announced Friday that, after nationwide searches, Robert Webster has been selected to be the laboratory’s next principal associate director for the weapons programs, and Craig Leasure has been selected as the new principal associate director for operations.
    In his new role as Weapons Program leader, Webster will be responsible for the development and execution of LANL’s primary mission, assuring the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.
    That program is the primary component of the laboratory’s $2.2 billion FY15 budget.
    “Webster is a 26-year veteran of the weapons program here at Los Alamos and a national leader in stockpile stewardship,” McMillan said. “He brings a clear vision for mission-science integration, insights on tackling key challenges and strong relationships with key internal and external stakeholders that are critical to sustaining our mission vitality.”
    Since 2012, Webster has served as the associate director for weapons physics, with responsibility for the vision, execution and integration of three programs: Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC), Science Campaigns (SC), and the Inertial Confinement Fusion program in weapons science.

  • Update focuses on partnerships

    POJOAQUE — Los Alamos National Laboratory hosted its quarterly Community Leaders meeting Thursday at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.
    LANL Director Charlie McMillan, Kim Davis Lebak, manager of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office and Christine Gelles, acting field manager for DOE’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office focused their presentations on the laboratory’s various partnerships.
    Davis Lebak praised LANL’s investment in the Community Commitment Plan.
    “LANL has gone well beyond what’s required, and we’re appreciative of the lab’s active engagement and community and strategic partnerships,” Davis Lebak said.
    McMillan touched upon partnerships with various scientific communities, the unions and the business community, but emphasized the importance of educational partnerships at this time.
    “The laboratory faces what I view as a real opportunity in our staffing. Over the next five years, we expect to lose a third of the laboratory workforce. They’ll either retire or leave for other reasons,” McMillan said.

  • Doing Good for the Community

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Vecinos Volunteer Match program partnered with the American Red Cross to install smoke alarms in residences on Friday. Here, Debbi Wersonick, center, of the Community Programs Office talks with Clare Ryan, right, of the American Red Cross, and Dan Shields, of Los Alamos’ Weapons Physics Group, a volunteer installer. Nearly a dozen LANL employees installed more than 30 smoke alarms in Tsikimu Park, a 55-and-over residential community that recently witnessed a fire that resulted in injuries to the residents.

  • Moniz, South Korea sign agreement

    Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz and Korean Foreign Minister Yun signed the successor United States-Republic of Korea Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation Monday in Washington.
    The United States and the Republic of Korea — South Korea — are world leaders in civil nuclear energy and “have a long and productive history of nuclear cooperation, and this relationship will continue to strengthen and grow as a result of this agreement,” the DOE said in a statement Monday.
    The agreement charts a joint path forward to address critical issues facing both civil nuclear programs, such as spent fuel management and assured fuel supply.
    It contains provisions to ensure nonproliferation and nuclear security, and thereby enhances the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.
    “The agreement would allow the United States and the Republic of Korea to continue peaceful nuclear cooperation, enable expanded cooperation between our respective nuclear industries, and reaffirm our two governments’ shared commitment to nonproliferation,” Moniz said.

  • ATHENA creates surrogate organs

    The development of miniature surrogate human organs, coupled with highly sensitive mass spectrometry technologies, could one day revolutionize the way new drugs and toxic agents are studied.
    “By developing this ‘homo minutus,’ we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing: There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs,” said Rashi Iyer, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    ATHENA, the Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer project team, is nearing the full integration of four human organ constructs — liver, heart, lung and kidney — each organ component is about the size of a smartphone screen, and the whole ATHENA “body” of interconnected organs will fit neatly on a desk.
     A new video available on the Los Alamos National Laboratory YouTube channel updates the ATHENA project as it begins to integrate the various organ systems into a single system.
    Some 40 percent of pharmaceuticals fail their clinical trials and there are thousands of chemicals whose effects on humans are simply unknown.

  • U.S. House panel cites numerous failures of nuke officials

    Members of a U.S. House panel said Friday that they are frustrated with decades of security and safety lapses at some of the laboratories, manufacturing facilities and other sites that make up the nation's nuclear complex.

    The lawmakers, during a hearing in Washington, D.C., pushed top officials with the U.S. Energy Department and the National Nuclear Safety Administration for details on how the agencies plan to revamp oversight of the contractors that run the facilities.

    The hearing focused on oversight failures that contributed to a 2014 radiation release that forced the indefinite closure of the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico. Investigators determined that a container of waste improperly packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured, allowing radiation to escape.

    The mishap in New Mexico is just the latest in a long string of security and safety breaches. Members of the panel pointed to the disappearance of classified computer disks at Los Alamos in 2004 and the 2012 break-in at one of the nation's most secure sites by an 82-year-old nun and fellow activists.