Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Space travelers could assist in healing nuclear scar

    Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have devised a method to use cosmic rays to gather detailed information from inside the damaged cores of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, which were heavily damaged in March 2011 by a tsunami that followed a great earthquake.

    In a paper in Physical Review Letters, researchers compared two methods for using cosmic-ray radiography to gather images of nuclear material within the core of a reactor similar to Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 1. The team found that Los Alamos’ scattering method for cosmic ray radiography was far superior to the traditional transmission method for capturing high-resolution image data of potentially damaged nuclear material.

    “Within weeks of the disastrous 2011 tsunami, Los Alamos’ Muon Radiography Team began investigating use of Los Alamos’ muon scattering method to determine whether it could be used to image the location of nuclear materials within the damaged reactors,” said Konstantin Borozdin of Los Alamos’ Subatomic Physics Group and lead author of the paper.

  • NMCF report digs deep on settlement

    The Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Association, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Environment Department are in the midst of negotiating the termination of the 2007 Settlement Agreement and Stipulated Final Order (Chromium Settlement).

    Officials, however, have refused comment on the progress of the negotiations.

    Here is a little background:

    In 2007, NMED reached a settlement with LANL over the lab’s failure to report chromium contamination in a monitoring well. The department said the lab paid a $251,870 penalty as part of the settlement.

    “This enforcement action should remind the operators of LANL that they have a duty to report significant environmental contamination to the state and residents promptly,” Environment Secretary Ron Curry said at the time. “Chromium contamination is a serious issue.”

    The department had accused the lab’s operators, Los Alamos National Security LLC and the U.S. Department of Energy, of violating LANL’s hazardous waste permit and a 2005 consent order that governs environmental cleanup activities by failing to report increases of chromium in a groundwater monitoring well in 2004.

  • Neutron research shapes drug design 

    Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have used neutron crystallography for the first time to determine the structure of a clinical drug in complex with its human target enzyme.

    Seeing the detailed structure of the bonded components provides insights into developing more effective drugs with fewer side effects for patients.

    The atomic details of drug binding have been largely unknown due to the lack of key information on specific hydrogen atom positions and hydrogen bonding between the drug and its target enzyme. In this research, scientists used the drug acetazolamide (AZM) — a sulfonamide drug that has been used for decades to treat a variety of diseases such as glaucoma, altitude sickness and epilepsy. But when the drug binds with the wrong form (called an isoform) of the target enzyme for the disease, it can produce unpleasant side effects in patients (so called “off-target” drug binding).

    Enter neutron crystallography — the use of neutron scattering to paint a picture of these bonds.

    By providing precise information on hydrogen bonding between target enzymes and the treatment drugs (carbon anhydrase II targeted by AZM in this study), the research enables improvements in targeted binding with fewer side effects.

  • NNMC honors LANL’s Marquez

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Executive Director Richard Marquez is the namesake for a new leadership and service  award at Northern New Mexico College in Española.

    “I am honored and humbled by this recognition from Northern New Mexico College,” Marquez said. “I have been fortunate with regard to my education and career with opportunities and mentors. I believe in paying it forward and I am optimistic that this award will shed light on all of the other people who donate time and resources to making Northern New Mexico a better place.”

    The creation of the Richard Marquez Leadership and Service Award was announced by Northern New Mexico College President Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo at a foundation dinner Sept. 29 in Española. In addition to recognizing Marquez, the award will be conferred to others in future years for outstanding leadership and service.

  • Opening new doors

    Santana Garcia-Chang and Francisco “Kiko” Rael, formerly of Questa, have a new home: Los Alamos and they love it.

    They also have the seeds of careers at Los Alamos National Laboratory — thanks to a helping hand from a scholarship fund started by lab employees and run by the LANL Foundation.

    Garcia-Chang and Rael hang out with scientists and engineers. Rael enjoys playing pickup soccer at the community field.

    They visit Mesa Public Library and the Fuller Lodge Art Center.

    “Los Alamos feels like a small town that’s tight-knit and ideal for families, and still has cultural things to do,” Garcia-Chang says. “It’s our home.”

    Their days are busy: caring for their toddler son, Javan, working at Los Alamos National Laboratory where she is an intern and he is a full-time contractor and studying for college classes. But their eyes are on the prize of careers in environmental/civil engineering and health physics for radiation protection.

  • NMCF’s removal raises ruckus

    Some activists are none too happy that the New Mexico Community Foundation has been asked by the Department of Energy to relinquish its responsibility as outreach coordinator and database manager of the Intellus NM Project.

    But in the ultimate of ironies, Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, who has filed two suits against DOE in relation to the CMRR project, oddly lands on the side of the government regarding this issue.

    “We never thought it was a good idea for the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) to undertake the RACER work, and I spent a couple of hours with them about eight years ago trying to talk them out of it,” Mello said. “To our eyes, there was no reason for NMCF to do that work and many strong reasons not to do it. We thought NMCF should stick to its primary mission rather than undertake work for LANL’s operating contractor as an operating foundation on contract.”

    Mello said the RACER program at NMCF set up serious conflicts of interests with NMCF grantees then-current and prospective and the RACER program led to “community meetings” in which NMCF “was used as a forum for NMED and LANL regulatory issues — again inappropriately in our view.”

  • NNSA pursues PF-4 scrutiny

    The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and the National Nuclear Security Administration have been going back and forth regarding the seismic integrity of LANL’s Plutonium Facility.

    In a letter to DNFSB Chairman Peter Winokur from NNSA's top security official, DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman, he tells Winokur the NNSA and LANL have been working methodically to evaluate PF-4 to understand how the facility would perform if subjected to an earthquake.,

    “This effort has already resulted in several structural improvements to assure the safe operations of PF-4. As part of a deliberative process outlined in national consensus codes and standards, NNSA and LANL have progressed from relatively simple calculations and modeling approaches to more sophisticated methods (referred to as static nonlinear pushover analysis), to provide additional detail and confidence that we have identified all the facility structural elements that require upgrading.

    "The initial results of the nonlinear pushover analysis are complete and have undergone an independent peer review. The final report thoroughly/documenting the methodology and the results will be issued as soon as the peer review comments are addressed,” Poneman wrote.

  • Southwestern U.S. trees face rising drought stress, mortality

    Combine the tree ring growth record with historic information, climate records and computer model projections of future climate trends, and it paints a grim picture for the future of trees in the southwestern United States.
    That’s the word from a team of scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Arizona and several other partner organizations.
    Described in a paper published in Nature Climage Change. “Temperature as a potent driver of regional forest drought stress and tree mortality,” the team concluded that in the warmer and drier Southwest of the near future, widespread tree mortality will cause forest and species distributions to change substantially.
    The researchers aligned about 13,000 tree core samples with known temperature and moisture data, further blending in known historic events such as documented mega droughts that drove the ancient pueblo indians out of longtime settlements such as Mesa Verde, Colo.

  • Atomic bomb trigger man dies at 96

    PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — Robert F. Christy, a former California Institute of Technology professor who helped design the trigger mechanism for the atomic bombs used in World War II, died Wednesday. He was 96.

    Christy died of natural causes at his home in Pasadena, surrounded by his family, according to Caltech spokeswoman Deborah Williams-Hedges.

    Christy was one of the early recruits to the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos Laboratory, a U.S. government research project to develop atomic weapons during the war. He was hand-picked to join by his University of California, Berkeley, professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, with whom Christy studied quantum mechanics.

  • LANL Foundation to host conference

    A team called the “rock stars” of education will present at the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation’s 15th Annual Conference on Education from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Oct. 11-12 at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Conference Center.
    Dr. Harry K. Wong and Dr. Rosemary Wong, authors of the best-selling book, “The First Days of School,” will present the keynote session on “Effective Teaching.” Dr. Jeff Goldstein, director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education and a popular Huffington Post tweeter, will be the afternoon speaker.
    Harry Wong has been called “Mr. Practicality” for his common sense, research-based, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for student success. He is credited with renewing entire schools and rescuing frustrated teachers. 
    The speakers will address two audiences. Oct. 11 is open to public school teachers in Northern New Mexico. Oct.12 is a special presentation to schools participating in LANL Foundation’s Inquiry Science Education Consortium (ISEC): Dulce, Española, Mesa Vista, Peñasco, Pojoaque, Santa Fe and Springer.
    Registration, including, breakfast, lunch and conference materials, is $70 per person for non-ISEC educators and is available at lanlfoundation.org.