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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Security repairs completion pushed to February

     Repairs to a security system that protects the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s plutonium complex at Technical Area 55 is taking longer than expected.
    Lab spokesman Fred DeSousa says the planned December completion date of the security system for the lab’s plutonium complex has slipped to February.
    “Improvements in project management have been made. Construction is nearing completion and we’ve finished the testing, acceptance and verification phases in a number of areas,” DeSousa said in a statement.
    “We expect to complete the project within the total project cost of $244 million although official closeout of project documentation will not occur until mid-February. Thanks to regular collaboration with our NNSA partners, we remain committed to delivering a state-of-art set of buildings and systems that will help ensure the continuing security of our plutonium facilities.”
    The February timeline means that construction completion, testing, verification, and closeout of project documentation.
    DeSousa says the work is taking longer than expected because additional problems were found as work was done over the past year.
    The work includes repairs to a newly built network of fences, intrusion detection systems and cameras.

  • Lab to kick off giving campaign Wednesday

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory will host its kickoff event for the employee giving campaign from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the upper parking lot near the intersection of East Jemez Road and Diamond Drive. The “Cruis’n to Campaign” car show is open to the public and there is plenty of parking.
    “We have nearly 90 vehicles registered. At the ‘Cruis’n to Campaign’ kickoff event employees and the public also can meet representatives from the United Way of Northern New Mexico and United Way of Santa Fe County. All car show participants receive a commemorative t-shirt and are eligible for prizes,” lab spokesman Steve Sandoval said.
    For more information, call Debbi Wersonick of the Community Programs Office at 667-7870.

  • LANL offers insurance options

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has made the decision to move from an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) health insurance plan to Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) options this year.
    Faced with rising healthcare costs, LANL rejected options other employers are taking, such as increasing the employees’ share of premiums, changing providers or going to a single plan such as the high deductible plan Sandia National Laboratories adopted.
    “What the lab decided to do was put the focus on a healthier workforce and more responsibility on us as consumers,” C.J. Bacino said.
    Employees must choose between the PPO plan and HDHP options.
    “The PPO is actually more robust (than the current EPO plan) because it will allow you to go out-of-network. It costs more money to go out-of-network, but there is still coverage,” Bacino, of the Human Resources Division said during one of the meetings explaining new plan options.
    The PPO plan comes with an 11 percent increase in premiums, as opposed to the eight percent increase the EPO plan would have been subject to. Those choosing the HDHP plan will see premiums decrease by 19 percent.
    Employee share of premiums continue to be 20 percent for the PPO plan. HDHP plans offer a 15/85 split on premiums.

  • Crews respond to CMR building

    The radio scanner was in full tilt Monday afternoon as the Los Alamos National Laboratory emergency management team responded to a call at the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building.

    According to lab spokesman Kevin Roark, emergency crews responded at 3:20 p.m. to an incident in which an employee carrying a ladder hit a pipe inside the building. The pipe burst and water poured out.

    “We checked for radioactivity and we checked all the people. The water was non-detect for radiation or hazardous material,” Roark said.

    Roark said it was either just water or sanitary waste.”

    Roark said that lab personnel always proceed as if it was a worst-case scenario.

    “Our people are extremely well trained and they follow certain processes,” Roark said. “And they followed those procedures perfectly.”

    Roark said an all-clear was in effect by the early evening.

    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.

  • LANL researches electrical grids

    Electrical grids are the largest engineered systems ever built. Expected to reliably deliver power whenever and wherever consumers demand it, the systems affect almost every aspect of day-to-day lives.

    Today’s grids already exhibit complex nonlinear dynamics that are not well understood and will become more complex as renewable energy sources are incorporated and consumer appliances become more intelligent and autonomous.

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Scott Backhaus of Condensed Matter and Magnet Science (MPA-CMMS) and Michael Chertkov of Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems (T-4) are authors of an article for Physics Today that outlines the physics of several phenomena associated with power grid behavior and describes technologies that should prove influential in the workings of the future grid.
    Significance of the research

  • LANL wins 4 NNSA awards

     The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Tuesday announced that it has awarded 18 Sustainability Awards for innovation and excellence to its national laboratories and sites.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory won four awards for work in DNA, greenhouse gases, environmental sustainability and energy management.

    The awards recognize exemplary individual and team performance in advancing sustainability objectives through innovative and effective programs and projects that increase energy, water and fleet efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases, pollution and waste. NNSA has conducted an internal environmental stewardship awards program for more than a decade.

    “I congratulate the winners of this year’s Sustainability Awards and all those involved in our efforts to implement environmentally responsible and sustainable operations and projects,” said James McConnell, NNSA Acting Associate Administrator for Infrastructure and Operations. “NNSA will continue striving to develop new and creative solutions to minimize the environmental impact of our vital national security mission.”

  • Report critical of NNSA

    The Union of Concerned Scientists says the United States is set to spend $60 billion on new nuclear warheads and facilities. To illustrate its point, the union delivered a 92-page report on its website and talked about how UCS believes this was a misguided plan.

    One of the main topics of discussion was plutonium pits production at Los Alamos.

    And right out of the box, the report criticizes the performance of the National Nuclear Security Administration, saying it “is not performing its job well. In fact, the NNSA has been struggling to prioritize its work for some time.”

    The report states the Obama administration’s initial plan for the nuclear weapons complex was to build two major weapons facilities — the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement–Nuclear Facility in Los Alamos, and the Uranium Processing Facility in Knoxville, Tenn., — and a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility to dispose of plutonium from dismantled warheads. The administration’s plan also included ambitious programs to extend the lifetime of several types of warheads. However, skyrocketing costs and constrained budgets have led the NNSA to reconsider its plans for all three facilities.

  • Subcontractors return

    Los Alamos National Laboratory subcontractors felt the most immediate impact of the government shutdown and may feel the effects of budget uncertainty for some time to come.

    LANL Director Charlie McMillan issued a memo to employees that read, “We are beginning the process of formally recalling our subcontractors. This may take a number of days depending on the program, funding on-hand and release of FY 2014 funds.”

    Energy Solutions is one of approximately 20 subcontractors processing and shipping transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad as part of the “3,706 Transuranic Waste Campaign.” Those operations shut down Oct. 8.

    Vice President Miles Smith reported on Thursday that the company hopes to resume work on the project Monday.

    “For us it’s fantastic,” Smith said. “We’ll get people back and nobody will have been impacted financially, since we’ve advanced vacation and taken other steps. That would not be the case if we’d gone another week.”

    When Smith was contacted Thursday, LANL had not yet issued the authorization to return to work.

  • LANL ramps back up

    Throughout the 16-day government shutdown, Los Alamos National Laboratory employees continued to report to work.

    On Thursday, lab Director Charlie McMillan wrote a memo to his employees, providing an update on the lab’s status.

    “I’m pleased to confirm what you may have already seen in news reports. The federal budget impasse has been temporarily resolved,” he wrote. “I am lifting the suspension of operations planned for the end of the day today. All LANS employees should report for work as normal.”

    The memo told workers that it will take some time for the lab to return to normal operations.

    “Please work with your managers and Facility Operations Directors to accomplish this safely and securely. When in doubt, ask,” McMillan wrote. “ We are beginning the process of formally recalling our subcontractors. This may take a number of days depending on the program, funding on-hand and release of FY 2014 funds.

    “We will complete time collection for this week but will temporarily suspend collection of time for the weeks of Oct. 21 and 28. Corrections for those weeks will be made available next week.”
    McMillan made a number of other points.

  • Lab employee files lawsuit

    A lawsuit filed by a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee alleges he was put in a position with less authority in retaliation for complaining that security protocols weren’t followed during VIP visits.

    The suit was filed by Michael Irving in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, according to documents obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor.

    The suit, filed by Irving’s attorney Donald Gilpin of Albuquerque, alleges he was placed in a position with lesser authority after he complained several times to his superiors after learning in 2011 about security breaches during VIP visits.

    It also alleges that Irving has been subjected to a hostile work environment and was discriminated against on the basis of his age.

    The suit claims in the spring and summer of 2011, Irving became aware that security protocols, with regard to VIP visits to the labs, were not being followed. He made several complaints to his supervisors and the suit alleges those complaints were ignored.

    In the suit, Irving said he was then removed from his security oversight role with regard to VIP visits and was told by his supervisor that he would not be considered for promotions because he was considered a “malcontent” and “troublemaker” by the LANL administration.