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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • EM head visits WIPP, LANL

     EM Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Whitney Thursday visited the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., where he became the first non-WIPP employee to tour the underground facility since a truck fire and unrelated radiological release temporarily closed the facility in February.
     “EM and the greater DOE is committed to reopening WIPP to support the important mission of cleaning up the nation’s legacy of nuclear waste,” Whitney said. “DOE’s highest priority is the safety, health and protection of the public, the workers, the community, and the environment.”
    Whitney also made a visit to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    EM’s Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) Manager Joe Franco appreciated Whitney’s visit to WIPP.
    “We believe today’s tour of the underground facility represents a significant benchmark for progress toward resumption of normal activities at the facility,” Franco said. CBFO has responsibility for WIPP and the National Transuranic Program.
    A recovery plan outlining the necessary steps to resume operations at the transuranic waste disposal site was released in September, and CBFO staff and contractors have been actively engaged in accident investigations and recovery related activities since the early days following the events.

  • Crews respond to water leak at LANL's CMR

    Emergency crews and the lab security force responded to a call at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building Wednesday.
    According to a lab spokesman, there was a report of a leaking pipe at the CMR facility, located at Technical Area 3.
    The spokesman later said there was a fire suppression leak from a faulty sprinkler head.
    “Major clean-up done and fire suppression system back on line yesterday evening,” a statement from the lab.
    The spokesman added, “there was no contamination in the water, which is removed by the building’s drainage system.”
    According to the lab website, the CMR facility totals 550,000 square feet, including an administrative wing, an office wing, six laboratory wings, and one area that includes hot cells that provide heavy shielding and remote-handling capabilities for work on highly radioactive materials. Three laboratory wings are in various stages of shutdown.

  • Four Corners methane hotspot points to coal-related sources

    A large, persistent methane hot spot has existed over the Four Corners area of the U.S. Southwest for almost a decade, confirmed by remote regional-scale ground measurements of the gas.
    “A detailed analysis indicates that methane emissions in the region are actually three times larger than reported by EPA. Our analysis demonstrates that current EPA inventories are missing huge methane sources in the region,” said Manvendra Dubey, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on the project. “We attribute this hot spot to fugitive leaks from coal-bed methane that actually preceded recent concerns about potential emissions from fracking,” Dubey said.
    A team of LANL, NASA and University of Michigan scientists reported these results in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming.
    The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.

  • Parks to take over as LANL Foundation CEO

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation announces that its board of directors has named Jennifer Parks as the next Chief Executive Officer effective mid-January 2015.
    She will assume the role currently held by Susan Herrera, who announced earlier this year her plan to retire after 17 years as its founding director.
    Parks joins the LANL Foundation from the New Mexico Community Foundation, where since 2010 she has served as President and CEO, guiding the organization in its mission to support New Mexico’s most underserved communities, strengthen nonprofits and grow philanthropy by connecting donors to valuable projects and vulnerable communities.
    Under Parks’ leadership, NMCF awarded $17 million in grants and scholarships to nonprofits and individuals throughout New Mexico, launched initiatives in statewide giving and increasing opportunities for women and girls, managed several emergency funds, acted as fiscal sponsor for approximately 50 nonprofits, and grew the endowment from $12 million to over $18 million, with $26 million in total assets.
    She is also a leader in the collaboration with five major community foundations to investigate shared efficiency and statewide impact.

  • LANL receives recognition for safety excellence

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has received Star-level recognition from the Department of Energy as part of DOE’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). Los Alamos becomes the largest site in the DOE complex to receive VPP Star Status.
    “Hazards are part of our everyday work and achieving VPP Star recognition validates the evolution of worker-manager partnerships in making our laboratory safe,” said laboratory director Charlie McMillan “However, this accomplishment does not mark the finish line; we must continue the actions that brought us this far and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to our Integrated Safety Management System and our Strategic Plan values through programs such as our employee-led Worker Safety and Security Teams and our VPP Office.”
    Officials from the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration joined Laboratory managers and employees at a VPP Star flag raising ceremony Tuesday at the laboratory’s main technical area.
    Star is a status for DOE contractors who have and continue to implement excellent safety programs that systemically protect employees. It is based on an assessment of management commitment, employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control and safety and health training.

  • Cloud of secrecy lifted from Oppenheimer case

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — After more than half a century of intrigue and mystery, the U.S. Department of Energy has declassified documents related to a Cold War hearing for the man who directed the Manhattan Project and was later accused of having communist sympathies.
    The department last week released transcripts of the 1950s hearings on the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, providing more insight into the previously secret world that surrounded development of the atomic bomb and the anti-communist hysteria that gripped the nation amid the growing power of the Soviet Union.
    Oppenheimer led the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which developed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The secretive projects involved three research and production facilities at Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington.
    The once-celebrated physicist lost his security clearance following the four-week, closed-door hearing. Officials also alleged that Oppenheimer’s wife and brother had both been communists and he had contributed to communist front-organizations.

  • Lab to operate under continuing resolution

     Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan updated community leaders on various issues Tuesday at the Santa Fe Convention Center.
    McMillan said the lab will operate under a continuing resolution to begin FY15 through at least Dec. 11. The lab will operate with a $274 million increase and an overall budget of $2.37 billion.
    McMillan also said the lab will have stable staffing in FY14 and that is projected into FY15. FY14 costs were up $24 million to $2.11 billion, purchasing was at $536 million and staffing levels were at 10,000.
    McMillan also addressed the status of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. He unveiled a statement from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
    “The safe and efficient cleanup of the Los Alamos Site in New Mexico is a high priority for the DOE. The Secretary of Energy has directed the NNSA and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) to develop a plan for the transition of the Los Alamos Site legacy environmental cleanup work from NNSA to EM.

  • McMillan addresses leaders in Santa Fe

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan addresses community leaders in Santa Fe this morning. More on this event will be in Wednesday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

  • Team advances understanding of Greenland ice sheet

    An international research team’s field work, drilling and measuring melt rates and ice sheet movement in Greenland is showing that things are, in fact, more complicated than we thought.
    “Although the Greenland Ice Sheet initially speeds up each summer in its slow-motion race to the sea, the network of meltwater channels beneath the sheet is not necessarily forming the slushy racetrack that had been previously considered,” said Matthew Hoffman, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on the project.
    A high-profile paper appearing in Nature this week notes that observations of moulins (vertical conduits connecting water on top of the glacier down to the bed of the ice sheet) and boreholes in Greenland show that subglacial channels ameliorate the speedup caused by water delivery to the base of the ice sheet in the short term. By mid summer, however, the channels stabilize and are unable to grow any larger. In a previous paper appearing in Science, researchers had posited that the undersheet channels were not even a consideration in Greenland, but as happens in the science world, more data fills in the complex mosaic of facts and clarifies the evolution of the meltwater flow rates over the seasons.

  • LAESF applications available

    Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) is now accepting applications for 2015 awards. The largest scholarship pool in Northern New Mexico, LAESF supports students who are residents of Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos counties seeking four-year degrees in fields that serve the region.
    High school seniors enrolling in or undergraduates currently attending an accredited post-secondary educational institution are eligible to apply. Applicants must have at least a 3.25 cumulative unweighted grade point average and scores of 19 ACT or 930 SAT (combined Math plus Critical Reading only).
    Applications are submitted through an online portal at lanlfoundation.org/scholarships. Deadline to apply is January 20, 2015.
    Scholarships ranging from $20,000 to $1,000 recognize academic performance, leadership potential, extracurricular activities, community service, critical thinking skills and career goals relevant to local community needs.
    For more information, visit lanlfoundation.org/scholarships or contact Tony Fox at tony@lanlfoundtion.org or 753-8890. ext. 116.