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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Unresolved costs at lab trouble Inspector General

    The Department of Energy Inspector General issued an audit report on costs incurred by the Los Alamos National Laboratory during Fiscal Year 2010 and the National Nuclear Security Administration management team agreed with it.

    Millions of dollars in questioned and unresolved costs at LANL have been under review for some time. The final IG report released this month does not point to any clear path for resolution in terms of how the millions in taxpayer money may have been expended at the national lab.

    The report stated, “We identified approximately $50,000 in questioned and unresolved costs claimed by Los Alamos during Fiscal Year 2010. We also identified nearly $24 million in subcontract costs requiring audit; nearly $1.4 million in unresolved questioned subcontract costs; and, approximately $10.7 million in unresolved costs pertaining to a potential Anti-Deficiency Act violation.

    “Finally, we identified more than $434 million in previously reported unresolved costs from prior years. The National Nuclear Security Administration’s management agreed with the findings and recommendations and provided proposed corrective actions.”

    As of July 2012, the contracting officer and NNSA’s Office of Field Financial Management were working with Los Alamos to resolve the questioned costs.

  • Lab to pursue fix in botched security system

    Los Alamos National Security, LLC, is bringing in outside counsel to help it deal with the botched construction of a security upgrade at the lab.

    Originally, the system was supposed to cost $213 million, but cost overruns have jacked the project up to $254 million, according to a memo written by Lab Director Charlie McMillan, to employees.

    The National Nuclear Security Administration is holding LANS, LLC accountable for the projected $41 million in cost overruns.

    Last month, NNSA spokesman Josh McConaha said in a statement, “The performance on this project has been unacceptable and we will hold LANS fully accountable for all costs.  

    “We take our responsibility to protect taxpayer dollars seriously and we will use all the tools available to correct the situation.”

    According to the trade journal Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, LANS hired attorneys to help the lab pursue claims against subcontractors that did the work on the security system.

    There are reports that the cost overruns could be paid for by money that had been earmarked for the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility or the bonus that LANS, LLC receives for running the lab.

  • Manhattan Project website launches

    Stories about living in secret cities erased from the map and working on a top-secret project to make an atomic bomb are now available in video and transcripts on the Internet. “Voices of the Manhattan Project” is a new website with a variety of oral histories, which provide new insights into this history.

    The Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society are launching a new website on the 70th anniversary of Gen. Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer’s search for a site for a research laboratory.

    Stirling Colgate was a senior at the Los Alamos Boys Ranch School when Oppenheimer visited there. According to his oral history, Colgate recognized the man in the porkpie hat right away and suspected what might be in store for the isolated mesa. Colgate thought Los Alamos was “a crazy place to do any war thing.” The rest is history.

    The collection of nearly 30 oral histories is just the beginning. AHF and LAHS hope to add some 200 from their collections and perhaps many more from organizations at the other Manhattan Project sites and elsewhere. Eventually, the site should provide a rich tapestry of people and perspectives on one of the most significant developments in modern history.

  • Venture Fund makes awards

    Two local biotech start-ups, a water and power company and a hardware inventor are the latest recipients of $165,000 in Venture Acceleration Fund awards from Los Alamos National Security, LLC.
    Mustomo, Inc., IX Power, Synfolia and Tape-Ease will receive funding to take their products and services to the next development level. Three of the four companies are commercializing technology and intellectual property developed by New Mexico’s national laboratories and educational institutions.
    “Although the program was originally intended to commercialize lab technologies, VAF frequently funds companies with no tie to LANL or research institutions,” said David Pesiri, the laboratory’s Technology Transfer Division leader. “This round of VAF funding represents a special opportunity to push national lab and research institution technology into the marketplace and to build upon other tech transfer efforts such as Labstart.”

  • LANL names 2012 Fellows

    Three members of the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientific staff are being honored with appointment as Laboratory Fellows for 2012.

    The new Los Alamos Fellows include Charles Farrar,  Steven Elliott and Mikhail Shashkov.

    The committee ranked a collection of nominations on the basis of:
    •  Sustained, high-level achievements in programs of importance to the laboratory;
    • A fundamental or important discovery that has led to widespread use;
    • Having become a recognized authority in the field, including outside recognition and an outstanding record of publications.

    “Chuck, Steven and Mikhail have made exceptional contributions in their fields and to national security,” Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan said. “To be honored by their peers is a testament to their work. I congratulate the 2012 Laboratory Fellows and thank them for their service.”

    Farrar, of the Los Alamos National Security Education Center, is one of the preeminent structural health monitoring pioneers in the world.

  • LANL names 2012 Laboratory Fellows

    Three members of the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientific staff are being honored with appointment as Laboratory Fellows for 2012. The committee ranked a collection of nominations on the basis of:

    1) Sustained, high-level achievements in programs of importance to the Laboratory; 2) A fundamental or important discovery that has led to widespread use; 3) Having become a recognized authority in the field, including outside recognition and an outstanding record of publications.

    The new Los Alamos Fellows are

    •  Charles Farrar
    •  Steven Elliott
    •  Mikhail Shashkov

    "Chuck, Steven, and Mikhail have made exceptional contributions in their fields and to national security,” said lab Director Charlie McMillan. “To be honored by their peers is a testament to their work. I congratulate the 2012 Laboratory Fellows and thank them for their service.”

  • Coalition gets heads-up on D.C.

    Attorney Seth Kirshenberg has his finger on the pulse of Washington.

    The D.C. based attorney has helped Los Alamos County with issues regarding the Department of Energy. And he also is the director of the Energy Communities Alliance of which the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is a member.

    Kirshenberg was in town Friday to address the coalition and offer it a glimpse in what to expect in Washington now that the election season is over.

    Kirshenberg told the coalition that there are three things it needs to be doing as the New Year approaches.

    He said the coalition needs to plan ahead, identify priorities and understand the environment in Washington.

    “And that is not always easy,” said Kirshenberg, who works at the firm Kutak Rock in Washington.

    Primary issues facing the lame-duck Congress is a possible fiscal cliff where sequestration might take effect if a budget agreement is not in place by the end of the year. Sequestration would trigger mandatory budget cuts of $1.2 trillion and would cause massive financial headaches for DOE facilities including the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • Report traces the timeline of contamination

    This is the conclusion of a two-part series that began in Friday’s edition.

    A 116-page federal report delves into the background of how the radioactive contamination accident happened at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Neutron Center in August.

    The report traces a timeline back to 2010 at the Luján Center, which is a national facility for defense and civilian research in nuclear and condensed-matter sciences, hosting scientists from national laboratories, universities, industry and international research facilities. One type of experiment conducted there is irradiation of sample materials in a neutron beam.

    The report goes on to state that between 2010 and 2012, Luján Center personnel worked with personnel from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to irradiate samples of powdered praseodymium technetate, neodymium technetate and lutetium technetate.

    Each of the three samples contained Technetium-99 (Tc-99), an intrinsically radioactive isotope that emits low energy beta particles.

    The report concluded that it is difficult to know that a sample canister contains Tc-99 if the canister is not clearly marked and/or labeled. The lutetium technetate sample was later determined to be the source of the contamination in the August 2012 incident.

  • TA-21 demolition

    Workers continue to tear down enclosures at TA-21 on DP Road near the Los Alamos Monitor. The metal enclosures were used to cover the excavation and cleanup of a decades-old waste disposal site.

  • Order modified to include Intellus NM

    The National Nuclear Security Administration and Los Alamos National Security, LLC, submitted a modification to the March 1, 2005 Consent Order and received approval for requested modification from the New Mexico Environment Department Hazardous Waste Bureau.

    The Class 1* equivalent modification to the Consent Order was submitted to the NMED-HWB Oct. 22.

    The modification added a new section, Section III.Z, Public Environmental Database, that requires the maintenance of a publicly accessible database containing data from environmental media collected as part of environmental investigation and monitoring activities. The NMED-HWB approved the modification Oct. 29.  The name of the database is Intellus NM,

    The new Consent Order requirement replaces the Risk Analysis, Communication, Evaluation and Reduction (RACER) database which was terminated by NMED-HWB on Oct. 30.

    “Adding this enforceable requirement to the Consent Order ensures that the laboratory will continue to make its environmental data available to the public,” said Pete Maggiore, assistant manager of the Environmental Projects Office for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Site Office.