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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Funding available for N.M. businesses

    The Venture Acceleration Fund of Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the company that manages and operates Los Alamos National Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration, is accepting applications for the 2013 calendar year.

    Companies selected will receive awards that can range from $10,000 to $100,000 in order to commercialize technology and take it to market faster.

    VAF helps innovative companies reach the next level of success through business and technology development activities, such as proof-of-concept, prototyping, securing initial customers or obtaining additional funding. Companies located in the Northern New Mexico counties of Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval, Rio Arriba, Taos, San Miguel and Mora are given preference for funding, as are projects associated with Los Alamos technology or expertise.

    The application deadline is March 1.

    “The quality of applications has increased greatly over the years, so we expect the process will be competitive for 2013,” said David Pesiri, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technology Transfer Division leader. “Nevertheless, our team often assists those companies that aren’t selected by connecting them with other resources to meet their specific needs and achieve good commercialization outcomes for the most customers possible.”

  • Education conference set for Santa Fe

    Up to 300 students from middle and high schools in Northern New Mexico will explore science and math through hands-on experiments and presentations at the 34th annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. March 2 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, Marcy Street, Santa Fe.
    LANL partners with the New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering, Los Alamos Women in Science, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the LANL Foundation, Santa Fe Institute and Flow Science Inc., in Santa Fe, for EYH to increase awareness of, and interest in science, technology, engineering and math activities and careers. The Santa Fe City Council also is a co-sponsor.
    Early registration for this year’s conference ends Friday, but additional registrations will be accepted up to Feb. 25 as space is available. Walk-in registrations may be taken on the day of the event, but contact the registrar first by writing to eyh-registrar@lanl.gov by email.
    For more information, send an email to eyh13@lanl.gov by email or go to the EYH web page at nmnwse.org.

  • Manhattan Project Park still possible

    All hope was not lost as bills to create the Manhattan Project National Historic Park stalled in Congress last session.
    The legislation appears to have a new lease on life and supporters are optimistic about the chances of seeing a new national park by the end of the current session.

    The proposed park would encompass historical sites in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., and together they tell the story of the secret project to build the first atomic weapons during World War II.

    New Mexico’s recently retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) sponsored the bill in the Senate last session. Bingaman was chair of the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, where bills regarding public lands receive a first hearing.

    The committee’s new chair, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has expressed support for the proposed park in the past.

    Supporters were also excited to learn that newly elected Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who voted for the bill as a member of the House last session, was named to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

  • McMillan: Workforce reduction not viable

    Sequestration impact scenarios continue to dominate the news.

    Sequestration was enacted in the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

    The debt ceiling was raised in 2011 in exchange for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, which were to be determined by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, known as a “super committee.”

    If no deal is reached by the committee, automatic, across the board cuts of 10 percent will go into effect.

    The next deadline is fast approaching March 1.

    Meanwhile, there has been quite a bit of speculation as to how sequestration may impact the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    In a memo to employees Wednesday, Lab Director Charlie McMillan said workforce reduction was not a viable option in dealing with sequestration impacts.

    “In the coming days and weeks you will likely see media reports about possible budget reduction scenarios and their impacts to the laboratory, McMillan wrote.

  • New process speeds conversion of biomass to fuels

    Scientists took a major step forward recently toward transforming biomass-derived molecules into fuels. The team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers elucidated the chemical mechanism of the critical steps, which can be performed under relatively mild, energy-efficient conditions. The journal Catalysis Science & Technology published the research.
    “Efficient conversion of non-food biomass into fuels and chemical feedstocks could reduce society’s dependence on foreign oil and ensure the long-term availability of renewable materials for consumer products,” said John Gordon, one of the senior Los Alamos scientists on the project.
    “Also, efficient conversion could decrease the production of greenhouse gases. However, current technologies to convert biomass into fuels require extreme conditions of high temperatures and high pressures, both of which make the conversion process prohibitively expensive.”
    The study provides important insight into a critical step in biomass fuels synthesis and it may enable the design of better, non-precious-metal catalysts and processes for large-scale transformation of biomass into fuels and commodity chemicals.
    For more than a century, chemists focused on a “more is better” approach, adding functionality to molecules, not removing it.

  • Scrap metal plan draws fire

    SANTA FE (AP) — The federal government is drawing opposition from the steel industry and others for its proposal to commercially recycle scrap metal from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear sites.
    The Department of Energy recommends that scrap metal exposed on its surface to radiation be recycled if the metal is uncontaminated or if radiation levels are low enough. The department released a draft environmental assessment in December.
    According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the proposal includes about 350 metric tons of scrap metal at Los Alamos.
    The scrap would include metal from file cabinets, tools, equipment and structural steel from demolished buildings. It would be mixed with other scrap metal and melted down for use in new products.
    The head of a steel producers group said the proposal could risk contamination of food cans, building beams and car parts.
    “Scrap metal that is potentially contaminated by radiation should not be released into the general stream of commerce. Period,” Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said in a Jan. 30 statement.
    A public comment period on the draft assessment ends Monday.
    In 2000, Bill Richardson, who was U.S. energy secretary at the time, decided against allowing sales of contaminated scrap metal.

  • Lawmakers seek reformer

    Members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham, are asking President Obama to nominate a candidate to lead the Nuclear National Security Administration who will work with Congress to reform the agency and maintain the highest scientific and technical capabilities at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.
    In a letter to President Obama, the federal lawmakers who represent the two labs say, “The NNSA has recently suffered from a series of ongoing management, security and budgetary problems and effective new leadership is needed now to restore the confidence of the public and of their representatives in Congress.”
    “We believe there is an opportunity now to make substantial improvement in NNSA’s management and oversight responsibilities and we urge you to nominate someone with the leadership ability to help guide the transformation.”  
    In their request, they emphasize the need to maintain adequate budgets for LANL and SNL in light of current federal budget constraints to support and grow the missions of the labs, maintain a strong employee workforce and complete environmental cleanup.

  • LANL security remains tight

    Residents that routinely drive through the gates of the Los Alamos National Laboratory at the intersection of Diamond Drive and West Jemez Road probably have noticed one key security change: having to present a photo ID. Vehicles are now also subject to random searches.

    According to Michael Lansing, associate director for Safeguards and Security for LANL, that change started in late December, and LANL has been implementing other, less public changes based on recent information.

    “We want the community to know what we’re doing,” Lansing told attendees at a recent business breakfast hosted by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce. “We know that does impact the community when we do things in a security space and we’re sensitive in ensuring that what we do is one, you’re informed, and two, just as importantly, we take into consideration the impacts on the community the things we’re going to do,” he said.

    As far as the vehicle searches go, Lansing said there is no rhyme or reason to the increased scrutiny.

  • DOE falls victim to hackers, some employee info compromised

    The Department of Energy notified its employees Monday of a recent cyber incident that occurred in mid-January.

    The cyber-attack targeted the headquarters’ network and resulted in the unauthorized disclosure of employee and contractor Personally Identifiable Information.

    NNSA spokesman Josh McConaha said no further information was available on the situation.

    The email to employees said no classified data was compromised.

  • TA-55 project resumes

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory announced on its website that it has resumed the troubled Nuclear Material Safeguards and Security Upgrade Project at Technical Area 55 and it is shooting for a completion date in September.

    Workers from the laboratory and four subcontractors will complete construction and commissioning of the critical security project in the September timeframe, managers said.

    “We’ve mobilized the subcontractors and will have two phases of construction,” said project manager Ty Troutman. “The first starts in February, and it involves things that are not impacted by the weather. I expect a full restart in the late March timeframe.”

    Originally, the system was supposed to cost $213 million, but cost overruns increased the project to $254 million, according to a memo written by Lab Director Charlie McMillan to employees. The revised cost is now $244 million, according to lab spokesman Fred DeSousa.

    According to officials, the lab discovered and reported to the NNSA a construction defect from the 2010 timeframe, and a pair of separate technical issues, resulting in a completion delay for the TA-55 Plutonium Facility security perimeter upgrade project.

    The lab sought legal counsel to help deal with the original botched construction of the project.