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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Heinrich, Udall request LANL cleanup funding

    Martin Heinrich has made plenty of trips to Los Alamos in the past.

    But on Friday, he made his first trip to the Los Alamos National Laboratory as a U.S. senator.

    “We talked about cleanup and a number of issues related to my committees,” Heinrich said in a brief phone interview Friday. We went through some budgetary issues and covered a broad spectrum of issues associated with the lab today.

    “Most of the visit was presentations by staff at the lab. There was not a lot of back and forth.”

    After being sworn in at the beginning of the year, Heinrich also got the following committee assignments — Energy and Natural Resources, Intelligence and Joint Economic Committee.

    And he has been busy getting acclimated to his new role as senator.

    “I look at this as a whole new set of opportunities to work Los Alamos,” Heinrich said. “I had a great visit today and we are continue to work hard with Los Alamos. We talked about cleanup and an number of issues related to my committees. We went through some budgetary issues as well.”

  • Watchdogs dispute plutonium shipment proposal

    Nuclear watchdog groups met in Livermore, Calif., this week to discuss a federal proposal they say would allow the transport weapons-grade plutonium from Los Alamos to California.

    Nuclear Watch New Mexico’s Jay Coghlan, who was on the panel, said he and Tri-Valley CAREs Executive Director Marylia Kelley were in Washington D.C. to discuss the plan with Don Cook, the head of NNSA Defense Programs.

    “We stand behind the fact this plan indeed exists, which NNSA now seems to be backpedaling from,” Coghlan said.
    Kelley told the San Jose Mercury News that although no plan has been formalized, the idea has been discussed by U.S. Department of Energy officials and in documents from the National Nuclear Security Administration.

    “There’s no question that this is the proposal,” Kelly told the newspaper. “What would be the fair thing to say is that the final decision hasn’t been made.”

    NNSA spokesman Joshua McConaha said such a plan does not exist for now.

  • Business owners speak out

    Small business owners attended a roundtable discussion sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Chris Fresquez, the new head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Small Business Office, was introduced and took questions from the business owners.

  • Computer parts probe continues

    Court papers allege that somebody fraudulently obtained more than $1 million in parts from Dell Computers by making hundreds of calls while pretending to place orders for Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories in New Mexico.

    The Albuquerque Journal reports that the alleged fraud reportedly started in 2007 and continued until 2010.

    The case was turned over to the Secret Service that year after a Dell security investigator contacted Albuquerque police.

    Two Albuquerque men were indicted last May on 131 state counts each of fraud up to $20,000. Ronald Campus and Allan Friedt have pleaded not guilty.

    The newspaper reported that a caller who identified himself as Andy Tyler made more than 600 calls to Dell between 2007 and 2009, using serial numbers of the lab computers to place orders.

    It appears a Dell Computers security agent broke the scheme.

    According to the affidavit obtained by the newspaper:

    The U.S. Secret Service got the case in February 2010 from the Albuquerque Police Department, which had been contacted by Don Samuels, a Dell security investigator.

  • Report points to Tritium facility issues

    The Department of Energy Office of Enforcement conducted an independent review of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility Safety Significant Tritium Gas Containment System recently.

    The Los Alamos Site Office made the assessment and it evaluated the functionality and operability of the TGCS (a vital safety system) and to ensure that the system complied with DOE orders and standards.

    Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen, used in research, fusion reactors and neutron generators. The radioactive properties of tritium can be useful. By mixing tritium with a chemical that emits light in the presence of radiation, a phosphor, a continuous light source is made and it is commonly used in exit signs or gun sights, for instance. However, as with any radioactive substance, limiting exposure is recommended.

    After the two-week assessment, which took place last year, LASO and the Independent Oversight committee came away with nine findings.

  • Scientists develop detection technique for live pathogens

    Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have developed a technique for quick detection of live pathogens in the field. The advance could prove to be a game-changer in terms of being able to rapidly identify the source of food-borne illnesses such as E. coli. Identification of bacteria in a complex environment is currently scientifically challenging.

    Current detection and diagnostic techniques are inadequate in major public health emergencies, such as outbreaks of food-borne illness. Finding the source of live pathogens in the suspected food supply requires days of laboratory culture.

    LANL’s new method eliminates the need for laboratory culture and speeds the process. The technique relies on bacteria being critically dependent upon the key nutrient iron. The bacteria synthesize and release sequestering agents, called siderophores, into their environment to bind iron tightly for subsequent uptake. This process occurs only in live, intact bacteria.

    The LANL team created a method to use bacterial siderophores for selective, rapid identification of viable bacteria in their surroundings.

  • LANL 6 plan to appeal

    The attorney for a group of anti-nuclear demonstrators recently filed an appeal on their behalf, just weeks after being found guilty in Los Alamos Municipal Court of obstructing movement and “refusing to obey an officer.”

    “The motion asks Judge Kirk to reverse his decision and find the six defendants not guilty of obstructing movement and reduce the charge of refusing to obey an officer with time served with no probation, fines or costs,” Attorney Jeff Haas said in a written statement.

    Haas said in court that technically, his clients did not block the roadway, since police formed a barrier around the group and redirected traffic to go around them. In his official appeal, Haas also noted that Los Alamos’ municipal code states that authorized roadblocks referred to physical objects such as signs and barriers, and not to people.

    “The statute is clearly referring to a physical object that would be ‘placed or erected,’ and not to a person standing in the roadway,” Haas said.

    In municipal court Jan. 8, Kirk sentenced the six protesters, assigning a $100 fine for each charge and added $41 in court costs plus a $60 probation fee. Together, each of the six was ordered to pay $342. The maximum penalty was 179 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.

  • Griego to leave LASO

    Juan Griego will be leaving his post as the Los Alamos Site Office acting manager in March for a two-year stint with the New Mexico National Guard.

    Griego, a native of Española and a Los Alamos High School graduate, made the announcement to LASO employees earlier this week.

    And the NNSA Los Alamos Site Office released a statement this morning, confirming his departure in March.

    “I have been blessed with the opportunities to serve with both the Department of Energy/NNSA here in Los Alamos for over 26 years and the New Mexico National Guard for over 30 years. Recently, the New Mexico National Guard requested my service as the Deputy Adjutant General on a full-time basis, for up to a two-year period,” Griego said.

    “I have always valued both my military and civil service, and am honored to be considered to serve as the Deputy Adjutant General for the New Mexico National Guard.  This request has been vetted through the NNSA up to the administrator level and approved, reflecting the value that NNSA places on military service contributions by federal civil-service employees.

  • Watchdogs react to 'waiver'

    Reaction has been a bit slow but watchdog groups are weighing in on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s decision that gave the Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a one-year contract extension through a one-time waiver.

    According to documents obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor, the lab originally was not awarded a one-year contract extension. But acting NNSA administrator Neile Miller reversed the recommendation.

    Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch NM Program director commented, “By getting these performance evaluations released publically, Nuclear Watch expects that outraged taxpayers will demand more NNSA oversight and an end to the federal government paying the usual nuclear weapons contractors millions without enforcing performance accountability. Nuke Watch is going back to Congress to demand that it require measurable performance benchmarks before enriching the nuclear weapons contractors. In these tough economic times Americans should expect nothing less.”

    Los Alamos National Security met two of the three criteria but earned less than 80 percent overall at-risk fees in its performance evaluation.

  • ChemCam follows road to Martian Wet Area

    Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Agency have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on Mars.

    Researchers from the Mars Science Laboratory’s ChemCam team described how the laser instrument aboard the Curiosity Rover — an SUV-sized vehicle studying the surface of the Red Planet — has detected veins of gypsum running through an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located some 700 meters away from where the Curiosity Rover landed five months ago.

    “These veins are composed mainly of hydrated calcium sulfate, such as bassinite or gypsum,” said ChemCam team member Nicolas Mangold, of the Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géodynamique de Nantes, in Nantes, France.

    “On Earth, forming veins like these requires water circulating in fractures.”