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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • 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
  • WIPP honored

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) was recognized as one of two finalists at the New Mexico Sustainable Business Summit held in Albuquerque in August 2013.
    The second annual summit, presented by Albuquerque Business First and the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce (NMGCC), is a business expo and awards luncheon to recognize organizations that have “green” practices integral to the way they operate.
    WIPP was selected as an honoree in the category of sustainable workplace. “I’m very proud of the WIPP team,” said Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) Manager Joe Franco. “It’s essential to protect human health and the environment, and we encourage the WIPP Team to look for ways to improve our processes.”  

  • Lab sustains ‘millions’ in flooding damage

    Last week’s storms, especially the one on Friday the 13th, caused extensive damage to county property.
    Initial estimates by the county were in excess of $5 million.

    Flooding also was rampant at Bandelier National Monument as the park was closed for a week so workers could clean up the debris in and around Frijoles Canyon and the visitor center.

    Friday, lab officials discussed what kind of damage was done on Los Alamos National Laboratory property.

    And the news was not good. And in fact, it was almost catastrophic.

    “Last week, we experienced what my surface water people call an epic event,” said Dave McInroy, program director for LANL’s environmental Corrective Actions Program.

    “We got over seven and one-half inches in a seven-day period and an inch and a half on Friday.”
    McInroy said the rain on that Friday caused catastrophic damage to the lab’s well monitoring stations and access points and past environmental characterization efforts at the lab. McInroy estimated there were “millions” of dollars in damages.

  • Klotz begins NNSA nomination hearing

    Lieutenant General Frank Klotz (USAF-Ret.) was on the hot seat Thursday morning.
    Klotz appeared before the Senate Armed Forces Committee as NNSA administrator nomination hearings got underway. Speculation in Washington centers on the fact that Klotz should not face any major pitfalls in his quest to be the next NNSA administrator.
    In prepared remarks, Klotz said the NNSA has a unique and special responsibility for pursuing two different, but complementary principles that have traditionally guided American nuclear weapons policy.
    “The first is that the United States must continue to lead international efforts to limit and reduce nuclear arsenals, combat nuclear proliferation and secure nuclear materials across the globe,” Klotz said. “The second is that appropriately-sized nuclear forces still play an essential role in protecting U.S. and allied security interests, even as we seek to reduce the overall number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security policy. As President Obama and congressional leaders have repeatedly emphasized, as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.”