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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • BPU draws solar supporters

    A special Board of Public Utilities meeting held Friday to discuss proposed changes to the electric rate structure drew approximately 15 members of the public.
    Most of the public comment centered on a proposal to charge customers with home photovoltaic systems a $10 distributed generation fee beginning in January, increasing to $12 in July, in order to recover infrastructure costs.

    Solar supporters asked BPU to take a broader look before agreeing to that rate structure, such as analyzing cost/benefits and looking at alternatives such as selling Renewable Energy Credits from home PV generation to recover costs.

    "I think it's important that the board realize that this is not simply a simple economic calculation that you can use to calculate a rate structure. What you are really facing is a matter of public policy in this county as to how we're going to treat distributed power production, green energy, etc," Mike Wheeler said.
    So while I understand your concerns and dilemmas on the rate structure, it's most important that this board consider the public policy that comes about because of your decision."
    Several citizens asked the board to delay implementation until options were thoroughly evaluated, since the number of home solar households just recently increased from 36 users to 44.

  • DOE IG report: Sandia misused federal funds

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Managers at one of the nation’s premier federal laboratories improperly used taxpayer funds to influence members of Congress and other officials as part of an effort to extend the lab’s $2.4 billion management contract, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General said in a report Wednesday.
    A review of documents determined that Sandia National Laboratories formed a team and worked with consultants beginning in 2009 to develop a plan for securing a contract extension without having to go through a competitive process.
    That plan called for lobbying Congress, trying to influence key advisers to then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu and reaching out to a former director of the National Nuclear Security Administration and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who led the Energy Department under the Clinton administration.
    One consultant suggested the lab’s message to decision-makers should be that competition was not in the best interest of the government.
    “We believe that the use of federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition was inexplicable and unjustified,” the inspector general said in its report.

  • LANL celebrates 100 supercomputers — VIDEO added

    From the 1952 MANIAC to Bonanza deployed just this month, Los Alamos National Laboratory has deployed 100 supercomputers in the last 60 years — a showcase of high-performance computing history.
    “The computing capability in our data centers in any given year dwarfs what was there 10 years before,” said Randal Rheinheimer of the High Performance Computing division, “and Los Alamos has been on that curve for 60 years.”
    The Los Alamos computers deployed along the way include the MANIAC II, which started its nearly 20-year service life with over 5000 vacuum tubes, all of which were replaced over time with circuit boards. Any computing device today would have to be purpose-built to compute as slowly as the MANIAC computers. But compared to a room full of people with mechanical calculators, those early computing tools were significant advances, Rheinheimer notes. “It was the first and only triumph of serial over parallel computing.”

  • Lab scientist to discuss earthquakes

    Earthquakes and their possible causes is the topic of the next series of Frontiers in Science lectures by Paul Johnson of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Geophysics group. The first lecture is at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW in Albuquerque.
    “What is it that makes the Earth move under our feet?” Johnson asks. “How is it that earthquakes can cause other earthquakes? Can human activities also trigger earthquakes?”
    Additional Frontiers in Science lectures at 7 p.m. are scheduled for:
    Nov. 17 at Crossroads Bible Church, 97 East Road, Los Alamos
    Nov. 18 in the James A. Little Theater New Mexico School for the Deaf, 1060 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe.
    About the Speaker
    Johnson is a Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow and in 2011 was selected as an American Geophysical Union Fellow. He earned a doctoral degree in physical acoustics from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie at the Sorbonne, Paris. He also is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and a Fulbright Scholar to France. He has worked at the Laboratory more than 35 years.

  • Explosives performance key to stockpile stewardship

    As the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent ages, one essential factor in making sure that the weapons will continue to perform as designed is understanding the fundamental properties of the high explosives that are part of a nuclear weapons system.
    “As we move forward with our stockpile and as it’s aging and as we’re replacing components, we want to make sure that we have confidence that those materials perform as intended,” said Dana Dattelbaum, a chemist in the laboratory’s Shock and Detonation Physics group. “And that we are also continuing to improve on safety.”
    As nuclear weapons go through life extension programs, some changes may be advantageous, particularly through the addition of what are known as “insensitive” high explosives that are much less likely to accidentally detonate than the already very safe “conventional” high explosives that are used in most weapons.
    “We’re very interested in understanding chemical dynamics in extreme conditions,” said Dattelbaum. “Chemical reactions are occurring in very extreme environments with very fast reaction rates, and we really don’t fully understand the first bond-breaking steps and the subsequent bond-breaking steps as an explosive detonates.”

  • Venture fund earns honor

    The Venture Acceleration Fund, created by Los Alamos National Security, LLC received the 2014 entrepreneurship award from the International Economic Development Council.
    The award was presented at IEDC’s annual conference this week in Fort Worth, Texas.
    “Since the VAF was initiated in 2006, LANS has invested approximately $3 million in 49 New Mexico businesses,” said David Pesiri, director of Los Alamos’ Feynman Center for Innovation. “Now it’s a community effort, with Los Alamos County, the city of Santa Fe and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership stepping forward to partner with us.”
    Kathy Keith, the executive director of the Regional Development Corporation, said the fund has been an excellent resource for small businesses.
    “The Venture Acceleration Fund has effectively helped entrepreneurs start new businesses, grow existing businesses and contribute to a more diverse economy,” Keith said. “It all began with an investment from LANS…and we continue to work closely with the lab’s Feynman Center and Community Programs Office to administer the program.”
    The IEDC annually recognizes the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials and most influential leaders.

  • LANL scientists test new rocket design flight

    Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists recently flight tested a new rocket design that includes a high-energy fuel and a motor design that also delivers a high degree of safety.
    “What we’re trying to do is break the performance versus sensitivity curve, and make a rocket that’s both very high-energy, as well as very safe,” said Bryce Tappan, an energetic materials chemist at the laboratory. “Typically, when you look at a propellant that’s high-performance, it’s not as safe a material.” See the flight tests and hear how Tappan and his research partners at New Mexico Tech and Penn State accomplished a fully successful flight in a new video on the laboratory’s YouTube Channel.
    Conventional solid-fuel rocket motors work by combining a fuel and an oxidizer, a material usually rich in oxygen, to enhance the burning of the fuel. In higher-energy fuels this mixture can be somewhat unstable, and can contain sensitive high explosives that can detonate under high shock loads, high temperatures, or other conditions.
    The new rocket fuel and motor design adds a higher degree of safety by separating the fuel from the oxidizer, both novel formulations that are, by themselves, not able to detonate.

  • 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.