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Local News

  • UC Board of Regents approves LANL bid submission

    The University of California regents Thursday approved a plan for the 10-campus system to bid on the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s management and operations contract.
    Board of Regents member and former U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and UC Vice President for National Laboratories Kimberly Budil, submitted a joint statement on the board’s vote shortly after it was taken.
    “Today’s action by the UC Board of Regents authorizing the University to submit a bid for the management and operating contract of Los Alamos National Laboratory is further evidence of UC’s ongoing commitment to the stewardship of this great scientific and technological enterprise,” they said.
    UC has been involved in the managing the lab for 75 years. Since 2005, it’s latest role is being a partner with Bechtel, BWXT Government Group Inc., and URS.
    The partnership is known as Los Alamos National Security LLC. In 2015, the Department of Energy decided not to extend LANS’ contract, citing several lapses in safety. UC has until Dec. 11 to submit a bid. LANS’ contract expires Sept. 30 of next year.
    According to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s website, 39 other potential contractors may be interested in submitting a bid.
    UC officials made sure to include UC’s management experience with the lab as a selling point in its bid.

  • Jury deliberates in New Mexico corruption trial

    SANTA FE (AP) — A jury in New Mexico is weighing whether to convict a former state senator on corruption charges for his role in the sale of a state-owned building.
    Jury deliberations began Thursday at a state district court in Santa Fe in the trial against ex-Sen. Phil Griego.
    State prosecutors say Griego used his position as a Senator to help authorize the 2014 sale of a State Parks building in downtown Santa Fe without properly disclosing his business relationship with the buyer. Griego earned a $50,000 commission on the sale as a real estate agent for the owners of a luxury inn.
    Griego says he broke no laws. Testifying in court, he expressed regret for not announcing his personal financial involvement in the sale. Prosecutors say he pressured witnesses during the trial.

  • National lab scientists complete critical plutonium experiment at test site

    The first of 10 critical experiments using plutonium was successfully completed at the Nevada Test Site this year by researchers from Las Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, LLNL announced this week.

    This was the first successful criticality experiment in 40 years. Another nine total configurations are planned at the site before March 2018, according to Nolan O’Brien, a public information officer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

    “The series is ongoing,” O’Brien said Thursday. “We will continue to test new configurations and bring them to critical.”

    For the test, researchers layered stacks of plutonium and brought them to "critical," the point at which fissile material can sustain a nuclear chain reaction.

    “We were right at critical, and we kept it together for an hour,” Catherine Percher, a nuclear engineer at LLNL who is leading the experimental series, said. “It was amazing to see the constant, slow increase in the neutron population. If we had too much mass, we would have to correct for that in our models. But we achieved a near-perfect benchmark.”

    The experiment was one in a series that aims to help ensure plutonium operations continue to be conducted safely, according to O’Brien.

  • Correction

    In the Nov. 1 Los Alamos Monitor article titled “SF’s call to halt plutonium pit program will not affect LA,” the article should have read"provisions in it that support requests for more federal dollars."​

  • Garcia Richards declares candidacy for state land commissioner

    State lawmaker Stephanie Garcia Richard, a Democrat from Los Alamos, confirmed Wednesday she would be running for state land commissioner following an announcement by Democrat Ray Powell that he would be withdrawing from the race.

    Garcia Richard, who represents District 43 in the state House of Representatives, said Powell called her to ask that she get back in the race. Powell had been state land commissioner for several terms. He announced that he would be stepping away due to health problems from an auto-immune disease.

    Garcia Richard said she had contemplated running for the statewide post that oversees state trust lands for educational institutions earlier this year, but had decided to not pursue it when Powell announced he would run.

    His announcement Wednesday changed that.

    “He called me up and asked me to reconsider. This seat gives me a good opportunity to advocate for education funding, renewal energy resources and conservation,” Garcia Richard said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

    An educator with three terms in the Legislature under her belt, Garcia Richard said she would have a unique opportunity to challenge the public’s perspective of “what the land commissioner is.”

  • Ex Sandia Labs employee indicted on fraud, money laundering

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Authorities say a former Sandia National Laboratories worker used her position and created a phony company to defraud the facility of more than $2 million.

    A federal grand jury indicted 55-year-old Carla Sena of Albuquerque on Wednesday on 11 counts including wire fraud, major fraud against the U.S. and money laundering.

    Most of the lab's work involves research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons.

    A former procurement officer, Sena was tasked in 2010 with overseeing the bidding for a $2.3 million contract for moving services.

    The indictment said Sena prepared a bid for a company under someone else's name and leveraged other bidders' information to ensure herself the winning bid.

    Sena is also accused of diverting at least $640,000 between December 2011 and April 2015 to her father's businesses.
    It was not immediately known if Sena had an attorney.
     

  • Powell ends bid for New Mexico State Land Office; Garcia Richard to run

    Staff and Wire Report

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Democrat Ray Powell is ending his bid for New Mexico land commissioner after finding out he has a rare auto-immune condition that affects the communication between nerves and muscles.

    Powell made the announcement Wednesday on social media, saying there's a good probability he can live an active life with treatment but that if he were elected, he wouldn't be able to sustain the intense effort required by the office.

    Powell has endorsed Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard, a state lawmaker from Los Alamos. Garcia Richard confirmed with the Los Alamos Monitor she will run for the state land commissioner, forgoing running for her third term as state reporeseatative for Dist. 43.

    Democratic Sen. George Munoz of Gallup and Garrett VeneKlasen with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation are also running.

    Powell served as land commissioner from 1993-2002 and again from 2011-2014. He narrowly lost the 2014 general election to Republican Aubrey Dunn.

    The land commissioner oversees management of millions of mineral and surface acres.
     

  • Small prescribed burn planned for SF watershed

    Fire managers on the Santa Fe National Forest are planning to take advantage of unseasonably favorable conditions, including fuel moisture levels, air quality, forecasted winds and weather, to conduct a one-day prescribed burn in the Santa Fe Watershed on Thursday.

    The 248-acre treatment area is approximately four miles east of the City of Santa Fe on the east end of the McClure Reservoir and adjacent to the western boundary of the Pecos Wilderness.  Impacts from the hand and aerial ignitions are expected to be minimal due to the location and small size of the treatment area.

    Historically, low- to moderate-intensity wildfires burned through southwestern dry conifer forests like the SFNF every seven to 15 years on average as part of a natural cycle that removed leaf litter, eradicated disease and thinned the understory, making room for new growth. 

    Prescribed fires are one of the most effective tools available to resource managers for restoring fire-adapted ecosystems like the SFNF by applying low- to moderate-intensity fire to the landscape under specific conditions within predetermined boundaries.

  • Honor, Duty and Sacrifice
  • Sanchez-Gagne seeks state district court judge post

    Maria Sanchez-Gagne, an attorney who served as director of state Attorney General’s Border Violence Division for ten years, has announced her candidacy for a state district court judge post in the First Judicial District.

    The judicial district encompasses Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties. Sanchez-Gagne, a Democrat, has thrown her hat into the ring for the district court judge post in Division 2, which was recently vacated by District Judge Sarah Singleton and filled with an appointment by Gov. Susana Martinez of Gregory S. Shaffer. Shaffer had been the Santa Fe County attorney.

    Shaffer is seeking election to the post.

    With a primary in June, party-selected candidates then face off in November of next year during a general election.
    Sanchez-Gagne has been in public service for more than two decades, including a post as an assistant attorney general as a prosecutor of felony child abuse and sexual assault cases, according to a press release issued by her election committee.

    She began her career as an assistant district attorney in the First Judicial District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor from 1996 to 2000. Her cases included domestic violence and child abuse.