Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Regional leaders speak out on sequestration

    The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities announced this morning the endorsement and unanimous support of State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard’s House Memorial 71 that recognizes the critical importance of New Mexico’s National Laboratories and DOE facilities to the state’s economic welfare and the negative effects that sequestration will have on New Mexico’s economy.
     Los Alamos National Laboratory alone has close to a $3 billion impact on the state’s economy each year and supports more than 24,000 jobs in Northern New Mexico.
    “Sequestration would have a devastating effect on our local communities,” said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, chair of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. “We fully understand the tremendous impact that LANL has on the economy of Northern New Mexico and the continued instability in our federal budget has a ripple effect that is felt from Taos to Espanola to Santa Fe.”
    The Regional Coalition recognizes that Northern New Mexico is highly dependent on federal spending in the area of nuclear technology and sequestration may cause tens of thousands of New Mexicans to lose their jobs through direct and indirect job losses at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • After 23 years, NNSA still on 'the list'

    The U.S. Government Accountability Office has once again targeted the National Nuclear Security Administration and placed it on its “high risk” list.

    The GAO cites the NNSA’s inability to bring in a Los Alamos plutonium factory at a reasonable rate and on schedule.

    The list is put together every two years and it highlights agencies that are “most in need of transformation” because of management and other problems.

    According to the report, this is why NNSA is on the high-risk list.

    “The Department of Energy, the largest civilian contracting agency in the federal government, and relies primarily on contractors to carry out its diverse missions and operate its laboratories and other facilities.

    “Approximately 90 percent of DOE’s budget is spent on contracts and large capital asset projects. GAO designated contract management — which includes both contract administration and project management — as a high-risk area in 1990 because DOE’s record of inadequate management and oversight of contractors has left the department vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

  • Employee gets $1M from jury

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s operator said it will challenge a jury’s award of $1 million to a lab employee whose lawsuit said an angry supervisor twice made comments about using a gun to resolve on-the-job disputes.

    A jury made the award to Marlayne Mahar earlier this week following a 3 1/2-day trial in District Court in Santa Fe, the Albuquerque Journal reported this morning.

    Mahar’s lawsuit against Los Alamos National Security LLC, the partnership that runs the lab, alleged breach of the lab’s workplace violence policy, breach of contract and acting in bad faith.

    The lab disputed the allegations and said it will challenge the trial’s results.

    The newspaper also reported that Mahar’s lawyer, Tim Butler of Santa Fe, said the jurors listened to evidence from both sides, made the award in Mahar’s favor and that he and Mahar “respect their decision.”

    The suit said a newly hired supervisor in the plutonium processing facility told Mahar in 2009 that a boss could shoot a worker who says the wrong thing. Another female employee days later reported that the same supervisor got angry with her and told her he was going to “bring in a gun and take care of it himself,” according to the suit.

  • No fine for LANL after contamination incident

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory will not be fined by the Department of Energy’s Office of Enforcement after a contamination incident at the Neutron Science Center last year.

    According to a federal report, 30 workers were contaminated with radioactive Technetium-99 in an incident last August.

    According to a letter sent to Lab Director Charlie McMillan from the DOE Office of Enforcement, LANS identified beta contamination at the LANSCE Luján Center and adjoining building 622. The highest contamination levels were found at the Luján Center, inside experimental area room ER-1, with levels exceeding 240 million disintegrations per minute (dpm) per I00 cm 2 (i.e., the maximum reading for the measurement device used).

    Offsite, at least nine homes were found with beta contamination, at levels up to 64,000 dpm. Five employees were identified with skin contamination at levels up to 16,800 dpm, and 25 employees had contaminated personal clothing and items with levels up to 980,000 dpm.

    The federal accident investigation called the contamination completely preventable and described a culture of lax adherence to typical safety procedures at the lab’s Neutron Science Center, where a technician unknowingly reused a canister that had contained radioactive Technetium-99, triggering the contamination.

  • Report details diesel spill at RLUOB

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory recently submitted a report to the New Mexico Environment Department, detailing a diesel spill outside the Radiological Laboratory/Utility Office Building that occurred Jan. 22.

    According to the lab, about 350 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from piping connected to an above ground storage tank located outside the RLUOB.

    A statement from the lab said, “We shut the tank system down and immediately removed approximately 5 cubic yards of impacted soil,” said Tony Grieggs, manager with the laboratory’s Environment Safety and Health organization. “We also measured the air around the tank, as well as the basement of the RLUOB, to make sure no diesel vapors were in the air inside or outside of the building.

    “We’re continuing our investigation to determine the extent of the impact on the soil. In addition, the tank manufacturer is going to address the issue with the pipe fitting and re-check the equipment to make sure it is working properly before we bring the tank system back online.”

    According to a 14-day report that was submitted to NMED by Feb. 8, LANL representatives discovered the presence of a diesel spill from an aboveground storage tank system at Technical Area 55. The 12,000-gallon AST system is used for the RLUOB emergency generator.

  • IG scrutinizes cyber security

    The Department of Energy Inspector General has been monitoring the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s cyber security safeguards and those costs.

    And it still has a fair amount of concerns.

    The report said, “We were unable to obtain an accurate amount due to the laboratory’s limited ability to track its IT spending.  The audit found that while additional action is needed, LANL had taken steps to address concerns regarding its cyber security program raised in prior evaluations. 

    “However, our audit identified continuing concerns related to LANL’s implementation of risk management, system security testing and vulnerability management practices.”

    The report said the issues identified occurred, in part, because of a lack of effective monitoring and oversight of LANL’s cyber security program by the Los Alamos Site Office, including approval of practices that were less rigorous than those required by Federal directives.  In response, NNSA management concurred with the findings and recommendations and agreed to take necessary corrective actions. 

    LANL, meanwhile, released the following statement concerning the cyber security audit.

  • Report details sequestration fallout

    The Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee released a report on sequestration.

    The news did not look as bad for Los Alamos as it did for other National Nuclear Security Administration sites.

    The report indicated that LANL would have to enact a furlough for more than 500 employees for about two weeks if Congress does not come up with a resolution before March 1.

    It’s worse at other sites, according to the report.

    Sequestration would require the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to furlough 700-1,000 of 4,500 employees for a period of up to six months.

    The Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas will furlough up to 2,500 employees for 3 weeks. and Sandia National Labs will lay off up to 100 positions and forgo hiring staff to support the B61 bomb life extension program.

    The report stated, “the NNSA plays a critical national security role in developing and maintaining the Nation’s nuclear deterrent. In the area of our nuclear weapons stockpile, efforts to refurbish and extend the life of several weapons systems would be delayed, including the B-61, leading to increased costs and impacts to deployment and readiness in the future.

  • 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.