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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • 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.

  • Shutdown hits LANL contractors

    In an interview two weeks ago, Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Member Services Coordinator Katy Korkos told the Los Alamos Monitor that the impact of a government shutdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory could hit subcontractors twice as hard as other entities.

    “Lab subcontractors will never be able to recover the income that they’re losing currently,” Korkos said.

    Subcontractors can only bill for work performed and their contracts are subject to firm end dates, so they are not able to receive an extension to complete the required work and recoup their losses.

    Conversations with a couple of those contractors revealed just how extensive the losses from the government shutdown could be.

    Energy Solutions is already feeling the impact. The company is one of approximately 20 subcontracted to process and ship transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. LANL shut down those operations Oct. 8, affecting an estimated 200 workers.

    For Energy Solutions, that is only one of the dominos to fall.

    “It’s affecting projects not only here but in Oakridge, Idaho and Hanford,” Vice President Miles Smith said.

    “Everywhere we’re working is shut down. We only have two projects that are not affected by this.”

  • LANL readies for Oct. 18 shutdown

    The government shutdown has lasted for more than a week — 10 days to be exact.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory employees have reported to work but they also have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    On Wednesday, it did.

    LANL director Charlie McMillan sent a memo to all employees, stating that “without a resolution to the budget impasse, Los Alamos will complete the transition to closure as of the end of business on Friday, Oct. 18.”
    McMillan followed up the memo with an all-hands meeting Thursday.

    McMillan said that the NNSA has directed all labs and sites to start preparing for the orderly closure of all operations except for those required to maintain minimum safety.

    “We will continue to conserve available funding through reductions in travel and discretionary spending. Effective immediately, all travel, overtime and hiring must be approved by a PAD (Principal Associate Director).

    “We are currently preparing a list of the safety and security operations that will continue and personnel who would work through the closure to staff them. All other employees will be placed on unpaid furlough starting Monday, Oct. 21 until the laboratory can restart.

  • Sandia to shut down Oct. 21

    Sandia National Laboratory officials announced Tuesday that they will be forced to begin to shut down and furlough much of the lab’s workforce by Oct. 21 if the budget impasse is not resolved.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory officials, meanwhile, have told employees that the lab has a limited ability to stay open in the government shutdown.

    LANL released the following statement Tuesday.

    “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, including at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). While the Department was able to fund some continued activity for a short period following September 30, 2013, the continued lapse in appropriations is having a significant impact on Departmental operations,” the statement said.

  • 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).