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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Lab suspends shipments

    Los Alamos National Laboratory employees reported to work Monday and Tuesday.

    But the effects of the shutdown are starting to take effect.

    The Los Alamos Monitor has learned that LANL has suspended its operations for processing and shipping transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

    Four shipments already loaded will be completed. Nuclear material has been secured and facilities are being put into a “safe standby” condition.

    The laboratory directed approximately 200 subcontractors on the TRU project to stand down and report back to their companies. These are mostly EnergySolutions subcontractors. Certain other environmental monitoring operations, including those supporting the Santa Fe water utility and a chromium pump test, continue.

    “The Administration strongly believes that Congress can quickly come to a resolution to fund the work necessary to American people,” the lab said in a statement. “This lapse in appropriations has serious impacts on the Department’s ability to carry out its mission, including at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

  • Lab management of waste facility faulted

    A project to replace an aging and degrading radioactive waste treatment facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory is 11 years behind schedule and its price tag has nearly tripled because of ineffective management, according to a government audit released Wednesday.

    The report from the Department of Energy’s Inspector General says the National Nuclear Security Administration and Los Alamos have spent $56 million since 2004 on plans to replace its 50-year-old and sometimes failing Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility. But design work is still not complete and the two-phase project now won’t be finished until 2017 and 2020 at the earliest.

    According to the audit, the facility that treats and disposes of low-level and transuranic waste has degraded and sometimes fails, leaving the lab with no way to process radioactive liquid waste while repairs are being made.

    The audit is the latest in a series of government reports to detail cost overruns and delays by projects overseen by the NNSA, prompting Congress to appoint a task force that is studying a potential overhaul of the DOE-run agency.

  • Shutdown enters its second day

    Employees reported to Los Alamos National Laboratory Wednesday as the federal government shutdown entered its second day.

    Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said the lab has about a week’s worth of carryover money.

    The LANL website reported Tuesday afternoon that employees should report to work unless told otherwise by their manager.

    The Weapons Complex Monitor reported Tuesday that the exact amount of carryover funding available during the government shutdown is different at each DOE site, but the department declined to provide details on how long sites and programs could continue to operate normally under the shutdown.

    “The Administration strongly believes that Congress can quickly come to a resolution to fund the work necessary to American people. This lapse in appropriations has serious impacts on the Department’s ability to carry out its mission.

  • Former lab director dies

    Family members say former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Harold Agnew, who also worked on the Manhattan Project, has died. He was 92.

    His family says Agnew died Sunday at his home in Solano Beach, Calif., while watching football. He had been suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

    Under his leadership, Los Alamos developed an underground nuclear test containment program, acquired the first Cray supercomputer, and trained the first class of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

    During the Manhattan Project, a World War II program that provided enriched uranium for the atomic bomb, Agnew went to Los Alamos as a graduate student. He was a scientific observer on the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan Monday remembered Agnew as a national treasure who transformed the Laboratory into what it is in the 21st century.

    “His contributions to the laboratory made us the institution we are today,” McMillan said. “It was his vision – decades ago – that recognized that national security science brings value to a broad spectrum of breakthroughs. Los Alamos and the nation will be forever in Harold’s debt.”

  • Committee OKs $43M for NNSA request

    The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee took up the issue of the NNSA request to reprogram $120 million from the deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility.
    According to a letter obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor, the reprogramming request was for more work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which would establish an alternate plutonium capability.
     The Sept. 18 letter from Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) to the Department of Energy finance office, stated that $43.3 million of that request was approved.
    In the letter, Frelinghuysen and Kaptur stated that the money can be used for planning and pre-conceptual design work on an alternate plutonium strategy, as well as to relocate equipment from the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility and to achieve operational readiness of LANL’s Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building.
    The committee members said the money can’t be used to “perform construction activities, including reconfiguring PF-4 to meet enduring plutonium infrastructure requirements.” Frelinghuysen and Kaptur said NNSA should request work needed to upgrade the lab’s Plutonium Facility as a new line-item construction project.

  • Diversity of Mars soils leaves LA scientists thirsty for more

    Within its first three months on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity Rover saw a surprising diversity of soils and sediments along a half-kilometer route that tell a complex story about the gradual desiccation of the Red Planet.
    Perhaps most notable among findings from the ChemCam team is that all of the dust and fine soil contains small amounts of water.
    “We made this discovery literally with the very first laser shot on the Red Planet,” said Roger Wiens, leader of the ChemCam instrument team. “Every single time we shot at dust we saw a significant hydrogen peak.”
    In a series of five papers covering the rover’s top discoveries during its first three months on Mars that appear today in the journal Science, Los Alamos researchers using the rover’s ChemCam instrument team up with an international cadre of scientists affiliated with the CheMin, APXS, and SAM instruments to describe the planet’s seemingly once-volcanic and aquatic history.

  • Memo: Lab employees to report to work Tuesday

    There has been some speculation on how a possible federal government shutdown would affect New Mexico,
    The biggest question, though, is how it will affect the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    If the House and Senate can’t agree on a government funding bill by Monday, the federal government will shut down.
    And, right now, the House and Senate can’t agree on a bill because they are wrangling over Obama’s healthcare legislation.
    Most of the lab staff works for private contractors that run the lab. A consortium led by Bechtel, better known as Los Alamos National Security, LLC, runs LANL. There are some employees that do actually work for the federal government and there has been uncertainty as to their status.
    The Los Alamos Monitor obtained an email from the lab in which LANL director Charlie McMillan stipulated that LANL employees should report to work Tuesday,
    The email said the following:

  • LANL scholarship committee adds members

    Five new members have been named to the Los Alamos National Laboratory Employees’ Scholarship Fund Advisory Committee.
    Rebecca Chamberlin, Nuclear Forensics Scientist and Nonproliferation Program Manager at LANL who has served on the committee for four years, will be chair. The committee selects the recipients of more than $400,000 in scholarship awards each year, recruits in a seven-county area in Northern New Mexico for applicants and helps raise funds during the campaign. Members are laboratory employees and retirees and community donors. New members are:
    • Greg Erpenbeck, a native Northern New Mexican who began his career at LANL in his senior year at New Mexico State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science in 1987. He joined LANL as a full-time member of the technical staff in 1998. He has been a donor to the scholarship fund since its inception. He is active in community life, coaching Little League baseball for five years and YMCA basketball for two years, organizing the Los Alamos Knights of Columbus scholarship fundraiser and working in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church’s youth ministry program. As the father of a toddler, he said he has a strong interest in seeing the program thrive.

  • GAO wants NNSA to think long-term on plutonium

    The Government Accountability Office’s latest report, which was released two weeks ago, urges the National Nuclear Security Administration to think long-term when it comes to a plutonium strategy.

    In 2012, the Los Alamos National Laboratory submitted a report, which analyzed its plutonium options after NNSA deferred the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility for at least five years last year.

    According to the study, these options include relocating analytical chemistry and materials characterization capabilities among facilities at LANL, moving some capabilities to facilities at other sites, or some combination of the two.

    The GAO report indicated that the lab has put the potential cost to move plutonium capabilities between $480 million and $820 million.

    “Such a move, which would involve the expanded use of the recently completed Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building and the lab’s existing Plutonium Facility, would come with several other concerns,” the GAO said.

    “Following the study, NNSA tasked the M&O contractor for LANL with assessing the space inside PF-4 to see if it could be repurposed to better support plutonium research for the nuclear weapons program and other mission areas.”

  • 50 years of space