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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • NNSA, S. Korea reach accord

     The National Nuclear Security Administration today signed an agreement with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) to continue cooperation on low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel development. This agreement will facilitate conversion of civilian research reactors in Europe so that the reactors will use non-weapons usable LEU fuel instead of highly enriched uranium (HEU), supporting President Obama’s goal to advance global nuclear security.
    The agreement was signed by NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington and MISP Director for Space & Nuclear Cooperation Kim Dae-Ki during the annual International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna.
    “The Republic of Korea is a key partner in the international effort to develop new LEU fuels that allow for the conversion of the most challenging civilian research reactors,” said Harrington. 

  • NNSA overhaul gains momentum

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a seven-year, $213 million upgrade to the security system that protects the lab’s most sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn’t work. Those same facilities, which sit atop a fault line, remain susceptible to collapse and dangerous radiation releases, despite millions more spent on improvement plans.

    In Tennessee, the price tag for a new uranium processing facility has grown nearly sevenfold in eight years to upward of $6 billion because of problems that include a redesign to raise the roof. And the estimated cost of an ongoing effort to refurbish 400 of the country’s B61 bombs has grown from $1.5 billion to $10 billion.

    Virtually every major project under the National Nuclear Security Administration’s oversight is behind schedule and over budget — the result, watchdogs and government auditors say, of years of lax accountability and nearly automatic annual budget increases for the agency responsible for maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

  • Explosives exhibit opens at the Bradbury Museum

     For more than 70 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory has been a frontrunner in explosives research, development and applications. To highlight the lab’s work in the field of explosives, the Bradbury Science Museum is opening a new exhibit titled “The Science of Explosives” at 4 p.m. on Sept. 18.
    “The science of high explosives was born at Los Alamos on July 4, 1943 when the physicist Seth Neddermeyer conducted his first implosion experiment to test a theoretical concept,” said Cary Skidmore of Los Alamos’ Detonator Technology Group. “Since that time, theory, experiment and simulation have combined at Los Alamos to effectively lead the world in many aspects of explosives science, technology and safety.”
    “Building a scientific understanding of high explosives has been a core capability of Los Alamos National Laboratory since the Manhattan Project,” said Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck.
    “Today the laboratory continues to ‘write the book’ on these energetic materials, and we’re excited to be able to present this work in our new exhibit.”

  • Report: Quality of science at labs solid

    The science and engineering capabilities that underpin the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship and nonproliferation missions at the nation’s three national security laboratories are “healthy and vibrant,” says a new report from the National Research Council.
    The committee that wrote the report found no problems with the quality of science and engineering that would prevent certification of the stockpile. However, the report identifies several issues that, if not addressed, have the potential to erode the ability to perform high-quality work at the laboratories.
    Congress asked the Research Council to review the quality of scientific research and engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which are part of the National Nuclear Security Administration. This report is the second of the two-phase study; the first report, released in February 2012, examined management of the laboratories.
    The new report examines the laboratories’ capabilities in four areas of fundamental importance to their primary missions:
    (1) Weapons design;
    (2) System engineering and understanding of the effects of aging on system performance;
    (3) Weapons science base;

  • Surprise lab guest to make cameo appearance

     An as-yet-undisclosed Los Alamos National Laboratory official will “revive” the 69-year-old tradition of playing a corpse on stage this weekend in the Los Alamos Little Theater’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
    The laboratory’s first director, Robert Oppenheimer, played the corpse in the Little Theater’s production of the same play in 1944. Other scientists filled in on occasion.
    The appearances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
    “I have always enjoyed the theater and hope to give a lively performance,” the mystery actor deadpanned. “But the lines are very difficult.”
    The production is the stage version of the classic story written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939. Its best-known version is perhaps the 1944 film starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.
    The play is a black comedy revolving around a homicidal Brooklyn, N.Y. family, including two elderly sisters who kill off lonely old men by poisoning them with homemade elderberry wine-laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide.
    The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. at the Los Alamos Little Theater, 1670 Nectar St in Los Alamos.
     The play continues on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees through Sept. 28.

  • Lab lecture series continues

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s role in the development of nuclear weapons during the Cold War period of 1947 to 1991 will be discussed by Byron Ristvet of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday at the Bradbury Science Museum. The talk is part of the laboratory’s 70th anniversary lecture series.
    “Los Alamos National Laboratory’s role in conjunction with the Department of Defense in meeting this challenge with new nuclear weapon designs was an amazingly complex and intellectual endeavor,” said Ristvet.
    Ristvet also will talk about the need for development of nuclear weapons from the target design-testing-stockpile sequence, and emphasize the importance of nuclear weapons testing toward ensuring that U.S. nuclear weapons systems will be reliable and provide for the defense of the nation.
    Ristvet is a senior subject matter expert to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Research and Development Directorate in the areas of nuclear and conventional weapons effect and testing, hard and deeply-buried target characterization and defeat, counterterrorism, cooperative threat reduction, knowledge preservation and nuclear test readiness.

  • Moniz no stranger at LANL

    This week’s visit was not the first time that Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz had stepped foot in Los Alamos.

    Back in 1972, Moniz was a postdoc at the lab and in 1976 he was a limited term employee.
    Moniz returned as a lab affiliate from 2002-2005.

    Last Tuesday, Moniz returned to Los Alamos in his new capacity as DOE secretary. He later traveled to Albuquerque to visit Sandia lab.

    Moniz took a little time to weigh in on a couple of issues.

    On the subject of an advisory panel, which is looking at the relationship between the NNSA and the labs, Moniz said, “We think the NNSA governance issues do need to be addressed. We view this as an opportunity actually to help work through the issues. We want to make this a very strategic relationship with the lab leadership, helping us all work together, establishing directions going forward.”

    On the subject of President Barack Obama making national security and climate change the subject of two speeches, Moniz said, “In view of the President’s emphasis on nuclear security and climate change, the work at Los Alamos has never been more important.”

    Moniz also was asked about the cleanup funding.

  • PF-4 quake analysis continues

    The Department of Energy this week updated the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety board on its schedule for completion of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Facility (PF-4) Alternate Seismic Analysis.

    Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, in a letter to DNFSB chair Peter Winokur said the NNSA has completed two major analysis efforts, a dynamic linear analysis and a static nonlinear pushover analysis.

    “In my September 28, 2012, letter to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), I committed NNSA to conducting a modal loading analysis, the alternate analysis, of the PF-4 facility to augment the previous analyses. NNSA believes this alternate analysis will be helpful in understanding further the seismic integrity of the PF-4 facility and providing assurance that all of its structural elements that require updating are identified,” Poneman wrote.
    Poneman’s letter indicated the timetable for completion of the upgrades would be in by December although he gave some wiggle room on the schedule.

  • DOE awarded task order for LANL waste control

    The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a task order in support of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Legacy Waste Project to Waste Control Specialists (WCS) of Andrews, Texas under the Environmental Management (EM) Low-Level and Mixed Low-Level Waste Disposal Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) Master Contract.
    The award is a firm, fixed-price task order, based on pre-established rates with a $1.29 million value and has a one-year performance period.
    The work to be performed under this task order includes the receipt and disposal of 207 cubic yards of Class C Mixed Low-Level Waste generated at the DOE Los Alamos National Laboratory. The waste is from clean-up and remediation activities.
    WCS is currently the only contractor under the two EM Low-Level and Mixed Low-Level Waste Disposal ID/IQ Master Contracts that possess the proper licenses to dispose of Class C Mixed Low-Level Waste.
    The mission of the Office of Environmental Management is to complete the cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. 

  • Magnetic charge crystals imaged in artificial spin ice

    A team of scientists has reported direct visualization of magnetic charge crystallization in an artificial spin ice material, a first in the study of a relatively new class of frustrated artificial magnetic materials-by-design known as “Artificial Spin Ice.”

    These charges are analogs to electrical charges with possible applications in magnetic memories and devices; in describing this class of materials, the new work demonstrates their utility.

Los Alamos National Laboratory staff scientist Cristiano Nisoli explained, “Magnetic technology generally concerns itself with manipulation of localized dipolar degrees of freedom,” he said. “The ability of building materials containing delocalized monopolar charges is very exciting with possible technological implications in data storage and computation.”

    Honeycomb configuration helps disassemble magnetic islands

    “The emergence of magnetic monopoles in spin ice systems is a particular case of what physicists call fractionalization, or deconfinement of quasi-particles that together are seen as comprising the fundamental unit of the system, in this case the north and south poles of a nanomagnet,” Nisoli said.