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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • LANL beats waste shipping goal

    Los Alamos National Laboratory, which broke its waste shipping records in 2012, has exceeded last year’s mark with three months left to go in fiscal year 2013. During the past nine months, Los Alamos shipped 1,074 cubic meters of transuranic (TRU) and mixed low-level waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and other approved waste disposal facilities, exceeding last year’s record of 920 cubic meters.

    “Los Alamos continues to exceed expectations dispositioning waste from Area G,” said Pete Maggiore, assistant manager for Environmental Operations at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos Field Office. “The success of this campaign has been made possible through the efforts of many people, including our partners at the New Mexico Environment Department.”

    The effort is part of an agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management to remove 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste stored aboveground at Area G, the laboratory’s waste storage facility, by June 30, 2014. The accelerated removal campaign is in its second year, with a goal to remove 2,600 cubic meters of waste by September 30, 2013. Since the campaign began, Los Alamos has removed 1,994 cubic meters of waste.

  • LANL racks up more 'Oscars of Innovation' awards

    R&D Magazine has announced the winners of its annual “R&D 100” competition, commonly known as the “Oscars of Innovation,” and three technologies from Los Alamos National Laboratory and its partners are among the honorees.

    “The innovation and creativity shown in this year’s awards is truly inspiring. It gives me great confidence in the Laboratory’s intellectual vitality and ongoing role in national security science. Congratulations to our researchers and their partners,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charles McMillan.

    A Digital X-ray Imager for Field Use

    •  MiniMAXis a battery powered, digital x-ray imaging system that is completely self-contained, lightweight, compact and portable. Its applications include homeland security (postal inspection of suspicious packages and explosive ordnance disposal), nondestructive testing, weld inspection, disaster relief (to triage broken bones and confirm dental X-rays) and for field and veterinary medicine. (Joint entry with Los Alamos, Leica Camera AG, JDS Uniphase and JENOPTIK Optical Systems LLC.)

    Nuclear Fission for Spacecraft

  • Regional Coalition getting noticed

     

    Local representatives of a 13-member delegation of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities who traveled to Washington, D.C. two weeks ago believe their efforts to secure more cleanup funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory are paying off. 

    State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, councilor Steve Girrens, who serves as the county’s alternate member on the coalition, and Deputy County Administrator Brian Bosshardt represented Los Alamos County on the trip. 

    “I really want to reiterate how great it was to have this bipartisan, diverse group go and speak in support of LANL,” Garcia Richard said. “This group has really been trying to work on securing funding for the 3706 cleanup. 

  • IG pushes lab for more action

    A couple of weeks ago, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Chairman Peter Winokur sent a letter to new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

    A main topic of the letter included the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    Winokur wrote, “As you assume your duties, the Board would like to provide you with a brief summary of its views on the current challenges DOE faces in the area of safety at DOE’s defense nuclear facilities. In particular, the Board draws your attention to the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory that analysis shows may be vulnerable to collapse as a consequence of design basis seismic earthquake and the many challenges awaiting resolution regarding the storage and disposition of legacy waste at the Hanford site.”

    The main thrust of the letter, though, was PF-4.

    A May 24 Site Office Report detailed a number of incidents at PF-4.

    The report stated, “Several of these issues were self identified and conservative action was taken to respond, critique, and develop corrective actions. However, these infractions and deviations indicate potential conduct of operations and Criticality Safety Evaluation (CSE) issues that emphasize the need for LANL to continue criticality safety improvements.”

  • Senate bill has $250 million for cleanup; House bill, meanwhile, earmarks $195M

    U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined the Senate Appropriations Committee this week in approving a bill that includes significant support for important New Mexico installations and programs, including Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and New Mexico water projects.

    The bill includes record-level base funding for waste cleanup at Los Alamos (LANL), and significant funding levels for WIPP operations and maintenance. Udall also included an amendment to the bill’s report language to improve voluntary water transfers in the Middle Rio Grande Basin Endangered Species Collaborative Program.

    Key provisions for New Mexico in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill include:
    • LANL cleanup: $250 million ($35 million above the president’s budget request).
    • WIPP cleanup: $222 million ($19 million above the president’s request).
    • DOE algae biofuels: $30 million ($14.5 million above the president’s budget request).
    • WaterSMART programs: $51 million, including $20 million for grants as requested by Udall ($16 million above the president’s request).

  • LANL website gains recognition

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s safety video website, Safety Cinema, won the 2013 Communicator Award from the International Academy of Visual Arts in the education category. The website also won the International Summit Creative Award in the training category.
    Safety Cinema is a series of videos, fliers, posters, presentation slides and safety practices that support the well-being of employees at work and at home. The videos provide technical information in an informal fashion and are designed to appeal to a wide audience.
    Making Safety Cinema products available to the Department of Energy and the general public also supports best practices for DOE and the Voluntary Protection Program. “Easy access to the site supports VPP by sharing safety resources throughout the DOE complex, other government organizations, international corporations, schools and universities,” said Associate Director for Environment, Safety and Health Michael Brandt.
    “The site was created at the request of the Department of Energy and other national and international government agencies to provide easy access to the Laboratory’s safety videos,” said Robin Nicholas of Los Alamos’ Industrial Hygiene and Safety Division. 

  • Lab halts some work at plutonium facility

    In a memo to employees Thursday, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan announced that certain work operations at the Plutonium Facility would temporarily pause programmatic activities.

    McMillan’s action comes on the heels of another federal report criticizing Los Alamos for not doing enough to protect the public from dangerous releases of radiation in the event of wildfires or an earthquake.

    An audit released Thursday by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General reiterated concerns that watchdogs and a federal oversight board have long expressed about the lab’s main plutonium facility — which sits atop a fault line — being able to withstand an earthquake. And the Las Conchas Fire that burned its way to the edges of lab property two years ago highlighted the dangers of storing on-site thousands of barrels of toxic waste.

    The audit pushes the lab to move more quickly in securing the plutonium lab (PF-4). It also asks for more effective fire protection for the barrels, which are scheduled to be removed by the end of next year.

    “Because of the nature and importance of the work we do, it is important to regularly assess all aspects of our operations to ensure we are executing our procedures and operational processes appropriately,” McMillan said in the memo.

  • U.S., Russia reach nuke fuel pact

    The National Nuclear Security Administration earlier this week announced that it has monitored the elimination of more than 475 metric tons (MT) of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) under a landmark nuclear nonproliferation program, commonly known as Megatons to Megawatts. With today’s 475 MT HEU milestone, deliveries under the U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement of low enriched uranium (LEU) produced from Russian HEU are 95 percent complete, and HEU roughly equivalent to 19,000 nuclear weapons has been permanently eliminated.
    “The HEU Purchase Agreement has reached yet another important milestone on the path towards blending down and eliminating 500 metric tons of Russian weapons HEU. The HEU Program has been one of the most successful nonproliferation and material disposition programs in U.S. history and is a success we share with our Russian partners,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The President’s nonproliferation goals have been advanced by the hard work and dedication of both U.S. and Russian personnel under the landmark 1993 agreement.”

  • LANL taking steps to remediate chromium plume

    Los Alamos National Laboratory environmental program experts are one step closer to determining the best way to remediate a chromium plume in groundwater beneath Mortandad Canyon. Members of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and laboratory environmental cleanup offices began pumping tests last week at the well known as R-42. The well is east of the lab’s Technical Area 55. These tests are the first key steps directed at addressing the chromium contamination.

    Juan Griego, deputy manager of NNSA’s Los Alamos Field Office, congratulated the employees working on the project.

    “It’s an honor to be here today to represent the NNSA in this important endeavor,” he said as employees opened the valve from which treated water spilled into a fenced-off reservoir. “Congratulations for taking on the challenge and getting us to where we are today.”

    “This is a critical step in our move from investigation to remediation,” said Jeff Mousseau, associate director of the laboratory’s environmental programs directorate, pointing out R-42 is one of several wells that will contribute to the effort.

  • Portable imaging system created

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and Tribogenics, the pioneer of innovative X-ray solutions, have partnered to create a lightweight, compact, low-cost X-ray system that uses the MiniMAX (Miniature, Mobile, Agile, X-ray) camera to provide real-time inspection of sealed containers and facilities.

    The technology will be featured at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Nuclear Security: Enhancing Global Efforts, July 1-5, in Vienna, Austria.

    “Cost and portability are the major barriers to expanding the use of X-ray imaging,” said Scott Watson of Los Alamos’s Nuclear Engineering and Nonproliferation Division. “We designed MiniMAX to demonstrate that such a system will open up new applications in security inspection, field medicine, specimen radiography and industrial inspection.”

    Los Alamos has developed MiniMAX as an alternative to the large, expensive and fixed facilities presently required for security inspections using X-ray imaging.

    The complete MiniMAX portable radiography system weighs less than five pounds, compared to much larger and heavier systems currently available.

    Los Alamos Physicists demonstrated MiniMAX using a conventional X-ray source, a radioisotopic source, and a prototype source from Tribogenics operating at 90 keV.