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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • LA researcher named ACS Fellow

    Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Kristin Omberg was named as an American Chemical Society (ACS) Fellow for her contributions to national security as a “technical leader in detecting and mitigating biological threats” and to the ACS community.

    Omberg is the acting division leader of the Decision Applications Division and the laboratory’s project leader for the Department of Homeland Security’s BioWatch Program. BioWatch is a detection system that monitors for potential airborne bioterror attacks.

    Her BioWatch team in the Decision Applications Division provides support for test evaluation, field sampling, event reconstruction and sample management system software. She also has been the principal investigator for research tracking biological agents in the environment.

    Omberg holds a doctorate in chemistry and a doctoral certificate in public policy analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She began her career at LANL in 1995 as a graduate student in the Chemical Science and Technology Division and then became a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Materials Science and Technology Division in 1999. She moved to the Decision Applications Division in 2001.

  • Los Alamos provides HOPE for radiation belt storm probes

    Los Alamos National Laboratory expertise in radiation detection and shielding is poised to help a national team of scientists better understand a mysterious region that can create hazardous space weather near our home planet.

    The Helium Oxygen Proton Electron analyzer is one of a suite of instruments that was successfully launched Thursday as part of the Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission — an effort by NASA and the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory to gain insight into the sun’s influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the planet’s radiation belt.

    The radiation belt — also known as the Van Allen belt in honor of its discoverer, James Van Allen — is a donut-shaped soup of charged particles that surrounds Earth and occupies the inner region of our planet’s magnetosphere.

    The outer region of the belt is comprised of extremely high-energy electrons, a shower of tiny, negatively charged bullets if you will, that can easily pierce the skin of spacecraft and knock out their electrical components.
    Because of these hazards, spacecraft routinely avoid the region.

  • Physicist honored by American Physical Society

    Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist George Kyrala, along with researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is among a team honored with the American Physical Society’s 2012 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research. The team is being recognized for its work on a far-reaching discovery about laser-matter interaction, which has important implications for LLNL’s National Ignition Facility.

    The award is for “predicting and demonstrating the technique of laser scatter on self-generated plasma-optics gratings that enables generation and redirection of high-energy laser beams important for indirect drive inertial confinement fusion and high-power laser-matter interactions.”

    The research has roots in discoveries from the late 1990s, when physicists noted that laser beams crossing each other’s paths in plasma could exchange energy.

    This could potentially degrade the implosion symmetry of targets, a crucial requirement for fusion ignition. This is one of many phenomena known as laser-plasma interaction, in which the plasma created by a laser can interfere with the beam.

  • Numbers grow in lab incident

    The ongoing investigation into the discovery of accidental radiation exposure at the Los Alamos National Laboratory last Saturday has revealed that 18 lab employees were exposed, as well as one contractor.

    Earlier in the week, lab officials reported that about a dozen workers had been subjected to the radiological incident.

    However, officials also stressed no one was harmed, as the incident involved very low levels of radiation from a form of Technetium.

    “This is not the Technetium 99m that is used for medical isotopes. It is still a beta emitter, which occur naturally in the environment,” said Nancy Ambrosiano, public information officer for LANL. “The incident involved approximately the same radiation levels that occur naturally in bricks or stone flooring in the Southwest.”

    Ambrosiano also said “it’s important to note that the highest measured exposure is more than 10 times less than what is allowed by law.”

    The Department of Energy’s Radiological Assistance Program (RAP) teams have also just about completed determining where the contaminated employees went after being exposed to the radiological material.

  • Tauscher gains seat on governing boards

    Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), today announced that the Honorable Ellen O. Tauscher has been named as an independent governor on the LLNS and LANS Boards of Governors.
    The LLCs manage Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. and Los Alamos National Laboratory respectively, for the U.S. Department of Energy. The appointments take effect Sept. 17.
    Tauscher has also been appointed as a member of the LANS/LLNS Boards’ Mission Committee. The Mission Committee serves in an advisory role to review current and future national security issues and laboratory initiatives, capabilities and strategic plans to address these issues.
    “We are very pleased to welcome Ellen Tauscher to the Boards of Governors of LANS and LLNS,” Pattiz said. “Ms. Tauscher has a distinguished record as a seven-term member of Congress with expertise in national security matters, a former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and as an investment banker. She is respected by the national and international arms control communities, by members of Congress and by the business community. She will add greatly to our boards and the national laboratories.”

  • Workers exposed to radiation

    According to Los Alamos National Laboratory officials, about 12 employees were accidentally exposed to Technetium-99, a type of low-level radiation that travels fast, but is stopped by the clothing and skin. As of press time, LANL is determining when and how the exposure occurred.

    “They are investigating what exactly happened and how to accurately characterize it at this point,” said LANL Public Information Officer Nancy Ambrosiano.

    The dosage the workers received is approximately 10 times lower than the allowable amount of millirems by law and does not pose a public health threat, according to LANL officials.

    LANL officials are also saying that some of the employees apparently took the radiation home with them and a clean-up operation is now underway. As of late Monday afternoon, LANL officials could not say where the employees may have traveled after they left the lab.

    One place that was checked though was Chamisa Elementary School.  According to a statement on the school’s site, Chamisa was given the all clear sign, with no signs of contamination found.

    “We appreciate the thoroughness of the lab in assuring the safety of our students and staff,” said a statement on the site.

  • Tauscher gains seat on governing boards

    Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), today announced that the Honorable Ellen O. Tauscher has been named as an independent governor on the LLNS and LANS Boards of Governors.

    The LLCs manage Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., and Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, respectively, for the U.S. Department of Energy. The appointments take effect Sept. 17.

    Tauscher has also been appointed as a member of the LANS/LLNS Boards’ Mission Committee. The Mission Committee serves in an advisory role to review current and future national security issues and laboratory initiatives, capabilities and strategic plans to address these issues.

    “We are very pleased to welcome Ellen Tauscher to the Boards of Governors of LANS and LLNS,” Pattiz said. “Ms. Tauscher has a distinguished record as a seven-term member of Congress with expertise in national security matters, a former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, and as an investment banker. She is respected by the national and international arms control communities, by members of Congress, and by the business community. She will add greatly to our boards and the national laboratories.”

  • Plan B would require $800M

    A little more information has trickled out concerning the Los Alamos National Security LLC’s proposal for plutonium sustainment without the help of a new Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement facility.

    This is better known as Plan B when it comes to the CMRR project.

    NNSA and the Obama administration have made it known they want to defer the project for five years and the House and Senate appropriators on the Energy and Water committees agreed, zeroing out funding for the project.
    Defense committees, though, have pushed funding for the project in their budget proposals.

    It’s likely nothing will be decided until after the election and if that is the case the lab will continue to run on a Continuing Resoluation.

    In the meantime, NNSA and lab officials are ironing out details for Plan B as part of its plutonium strategy.

  • Laser research holds more promise for cancer treatment

    Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have observed for the first time how a laser penetrates dense, electron-rich plasma to generate ions. The process has applications for developing next generation particle accelerators and new cancer treatments.
    The results, published online Aug. 19 in Nature Physics, also confirm predictions made more than 60 years ago about the fundamental physics of laser-plasma interaction. Plasmas dense with electrons normally reflect laser light like a mirror. But a strong laser can drive those electrons to near the speed of light, making the plasma transparent and accelerating the plasma ions.
    “That idea has been met with some skepticism in the field,” said Rahul Shah of LANL’s plasma physics group. “We think that we’ve settled that controversy.”
    The team, which also included researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany and Queens University in Belfast, UK used the 200 trillion-watt short-pulse TRIDENT laser at Los Alamos National Laboratory to observe the transparency phenomenon at 50 femtosecond resolution. Until now, those dynamics have been witnessed only in computer simulations.

  • ECA peer exchange tackles environmental issues

    The Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) had a peer exchange in Los Alamos last week. It was the first time ECA has met here in more than five years.

    The main topic of discussion was environmental management (EM), although other issues of concern to the participants were also discussed in length.

    Seth Kirshenberg, executive director of the ECA, began a series of panel discussions Thursday with a summary of current issues.

    Kirshenberg reported that Congress is expected to pass a six-month continuing resolution until a new budget is passed, with provisions that could impact DOE communities.

    The main concern was a new limitation that prevents agencies from moving money around. In the past, Department of Energy Environmental Management (DOE-EM) had considerable flexibility in directing money to the most urgent environmental cleanup needs at each site.

    “The bottom line is, we don’t have that flexibility to move money between the major control elements if the CR passes as it is today,” Kirshenberg said.