Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Scientists return to rainforest for climate change answers

    Nearly a quarter of the way through their two-year project, a team of scientists deployed to Brazil’s Amazon Basin is unraveling the mysteries of how land and atmospheric processes affect tropical hydrology and climate. Their work will go far toward improving the climate-prediction computer models on which scientists and policymakers rely for future climate-related planning.
    “Our job is to go into climatically undersampled regions where there’s not a lot of data,” said Kim Nitschke, leader of the Los Alamos National Laboratory-based Field Instrument Deployments and Operations (FIDO) team. “Our measurements are aimed at fine-tuning climate modeling, both for more accurate design, and then for verification of conditions at specific locations.”
    The experiment, Green Ocean Amazon (GOAmazon), has been underway since January 2014 and nearly 100 collaborators from the US, Germany and Brazil will be studying the rainforest through December 2015. The scientists and their technical assistants have been placing instruments at various sites in Brazil’s Amazon Basin, examining solar radiative energy, atmospheric moisture profiles, and measuring clouds’ and aerosols’ microphysical and chemical properties.

  • Feds to detail WIPP plans

    The Department of Energy is expected to detail its plans for sealing off areas of its troubled underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.
    New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn has given federal officials and the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad until Friday afternoon to submit its plans for permanently sealing the two underground rooms where more than 300 barrels of potentially dangerous containers of waste are stored.
    The waste was packed with cat litter to absorb moisture. Officials are investigating whether a switch from inorganic to organic litter is to blame for a chemical reaction with nitrate salts believed to have caused a February leak that contaminated 22 workers and indefinitely shuttered the plant.
    The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that Los Alamos National Laboratory approved using products that some experts say are widely known to cause a heat reaction when mixed with other contents in the drums that were shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

  • Questions raised about nuke waste

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New questions are being raised about what was mixed with the waste that caused a radiation release from the government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.
    The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that Los Alamos National Laboratory approved using products that some experts say are widely known to cause a heat reaction when mixed with other contents in the drums that were shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.
    New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said the leading theory continues to be that the leak was caused by a reaction between nitrate salts and the organic cat litter packed with the waste to absorb moisture. However, emails posted online by the New Mexico Environment Department show Los Alamos approved using other organic ingredients known to be incompatible with nitrate salts in the waste.
    Department chemist Cole Smith called the products “a bad combination.”

  • Texas storage facility takes precautions with nuke waste

    Dozens of containers of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory are being packed as a precaution into concrete casks at a temporary storage facility in West Texas.
    The waste was shipped to Andrews, Texas, due to the closure of the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository in southeastern New Mexico. The repository has been closed since February because of a radiation release.
    Investigators have focused on a container from Los Alamos as the possible cause of the release.
    Workers at the Texas facility are taking thermal readings of the waste containers before loading them into the concrete casks. The casks are then filled with gravel.
    Equipment inside the casks monitors the internal temperature on a daily basis. Cameras are also monitoring the area where the waste is being stored.
    Last week, LANL told the state on Wednesday that it has isolated and is closely monitoring nuclear waste on its campus that was packed with a type of cat litter suspected in a radiation leak at the government’s underground nuclear waste dump.

  • Planetary scientist to discuss rover's Mars visit

    Agnes Cousin-Pilleri, a post-doctoral researcher in Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Chemistry Division, will discuss the trailblazing discoveries made by the ChemCam instrument on the Curiosity rover on Mars from noon-1 p.m. Wednesday at the Bradbury Science Museum.
    “ChemCam is providing one of the largest and most powerful datasets in Martian exploration,” Cousin-Pilleri said. “In its first year on Mars, Curiosity and ChemCam have made many ground-breaking discoveries.”
    In the first 620 Martian days on the red planet, ChemCam has returned more than 130,000 chemical spectra corresponding to more than 400 targets with more than 2,300 images.
    In Thursday’s talk, Cousin-Pilleri will present an overview of the ChemCam’s findings in the Gale Crater.
    The ChemCam instrument onboard Curiosity is the first to retrieve the elemental composition of Mars and provides researchers with some of the most crucial data in Martian exploration. Observations from this dataset have led to discoveries such as Martian dust contains water, and that rocks near the landing site show more diverse volcanism than was previously thought possible on Mars.
    This talk, like all talks at the Bradbury Science Museum, is free and open to the public.
    Attendees are encouraged to bring a lunch to the talk.

  • Fasano, Wang are top LANL scholars

    There were some triumphant moments, as well as emotional ones at banquet honoring those that received scholarships through the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation’s Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund Monday night.
    This year, 73 students from all over the Northern New Mexico region received 79 scholarships. All of them were funded through the generous contributions of LANL employees, augmented by a $250,000 match by Los Alamos National Security LLC, the company that manages the lab.
    Scholarships ranged from $1,000 all the way up to $30,000.
    This year, Bernalillo High School student Raymond Fasano won the $30,000 Platinum scholarship, and Los Alamos High School student Alexandr Wang received the $20,000 Gold scholarship.
    According to the LANL Foundation, both scholarships were for science-related studies.
    Wang said the scholarship will be “extremely helpful” toward funding his computer science studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He attributed his love of math and science to the local academic environment.
    “Growing up in Los Alamos you always hear about how science is used everyday to solve insanely interesting and difficult problems,” he said. “So, I think I was always inspired by the atmosphere of Los Alamos to study these fields.”

  • Hundreds of barrels deemed possibly dangerous

    ALBUQUERQUE — More than 500 barrels of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory were packed with the kitty litter linked to a radiation release at the government’s underground nuclear waste dump, prompting the state Tuesday to order federal officials to move quickly to seal off the potentially dangerous containers.
    Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn Tuesday gave the U.S. Department of Energy and the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico until May 30 to detail plans for permanently sealing the rooms where more than 300 barrels of the potentially dangerous containers of waste are stored in ancient salt beds a half-mile underground.
    In addition to 368 containers at the dump, environment officials say 57 more are still at Los Alamos and more than 100 are in storage in West Texas.
    On Monday, the department ordered Los Alamos to detail by Wednesday its plans for securing the waste that is still above ground on its campus and at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

  • Emissions verified by LANL

    Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from two coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners area of northwest New Mexico, the largest point source of pollution in America, were measured remotely by a Los Alamos National Laboratory team.
    Led by LANL senior scientist Manvendra Dubey, the study is the first to show that space-based techniques can successfully verify international regulations on fossil energy emissions. Furthermore, the study was able to distinguish that emissions from the nearby San Juan Generating Station are actually less polluting than those from the nearby Four Corners Generating Station.
    “A critical barrier to any future international treaty aimed towards controlling greenhouse and pollutant gas emissions is our inability to verify inventories and reduction of emissions claimed by individual nations following implementation of new technologies” Dubey noted, stressing that “in-stack monitoring of power-plant emissions is mandatory in the United States, and they are reported to the EPA to comply with the U.S. Clean Air Act, allowing us to test how well our verification method worked.”

  • LANL's Rowland to receive DOE Early Career Award

    Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher Joel Rowland is one of 35 national recipients of 2014 Early Career Research Program awards from the Department of Energy. Rowland’s research was recognized by DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research for incorporating hydrological controls on carbon cycling in flood plain ecosystems into Earth System Models (ESM).
    “The DOE Early Career Research Award represents both a significant honor and a tremendous career opportunity. The support provided by this award will afford me the resources to build a research program that is closely aligned with my expertise and fundamental research interests,” said Rowland, of the laboratory’s Earth System Observations Group. “The linkages between land-surface processes and climate dynamics to be studied in my funded research represent a new research direction for earth and climate sciences at the laboratory and will serve to expand and strengthen the lab’s contributions to DOE’s climate science research portfolio.”

  • Manhattan Project Park bill reintroduced

    The Manhattan Project Park bill may be back in play in Congress this year.
    The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness added the amendment to the House FY15 National Defense Authorization Act on April 30.
    According to a release from the Atomic Heritage Foundation, the full House will probably consider the NDAA during the week of May 19. The Senate is expected to consider the NDAA in the fall, probably after the Congressional elections.
    “AHF will continue to work in collaboration with our partners in the local communities, the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, TRIDEC, and the Energy Communities Alliance to see the bill passed and the park established. We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Doc Hastings for spearheading the effort to pass the bill in the House and to Chairman Buck McKeon and the Armed Services Committee for agreeing to include the bill in the House NDAA,” the press release said.
    Hopes that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act would become law last year were dashed when the U.S. Senate rejected a House of Representatives amendment attaching the bill to the National Defense Authorization Act.