Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • State sets deadline for handling nuke waste

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The federal government’s only underground nuclear waste dump remained shuttered Monday and state environment officials said they have set deadlines for the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractor to deal with radioactive waste left above ground at the repository.
    Dozens of drums and other special containers that have been shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant from federal facilities around the country are being stored in a parking area at the plant and inside the facility’s waste handling building.
    From there, the waste is usually taken to its final resting place deep in underground salt beds. However, the repository has been closed since early February due to back-to-back accidents, including a radiation release that exposed at least 13 workers and set off air monitoring devices around the plant.
    Under its permit with the state, the dump can keep waste stored in the parking area for only 30 days and up to 60 days in the handling building. Due to the closure, the state is extending those deadlines to 60 days and 105 days, respectively. The federal government would have to develop an alternative storage plan if the underground dump remains off-limits for more than three months.

  • Report details pit options

    Apparently, Jonathan Medalia’s lecture at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Washington two weeks ago was just the appetizer.
    This week, the Los Alamos Monitor obtained a 90-page report, titled U.S. Nuclear Weapon Pit Production Options for Congress, written by Medalia, a specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy for the Congressional Research Service in Washington.
    Front and center in the report is the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    First a little history — until 1989, the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado mass-produced plutonium pits and since then the United States has made at most 11 pits per year.
    The report said, “U.S. policy is to maintain existing nuclear weapons. To do this, the Department of Defense states that it needs the Department of Energy (DOE), which maintains U.S. nuclear weapons, to produce 50-80 ppy by 2030.
    “While some argue that few if any new pits are needed, at least for decades, this report focuses on options to reach 80 ppy. Pit production involves precisely forming plutonium — a hazardous, radioactive, physically quirky metal. Production requires supporting tasks, such as analytical chemistry (AC), which monitors the chemical composition of plutonium in each pit.”

  • Fourteen receive LANL Foundation scholarships

    Fourteen Northern New Mexicans have received $1,000 Returning Student/Regional College scholarships from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Employees’ Scholarship Fund.
    These awards help students returning to a formal education for certification or a two-year degree at an accredited regional college. Many of the students receiving these awards are pursuing new careers.
    Funding comes from donations by LANL employees and a matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC. The scholarships are administered by the LANL Foundation.
    Awards go to:
    • Catrina Garcia, Santa Fe, to pursue an Associate of Science degree in nursing from Santa Fe Community College.
    • Jessica Garcia, Española, who is a Licensed Practical Nurse, to pursue a nursing degree at Northern New Mexico College.
    • Ross Griego, Chimayo, who is returning to school after military service and 20 years working with a nonprofit, to pursue an Associate of Arts degree from Northern.
    • Leigh Ann Grow, Los Alamos, is a special education aide in the Los Alamos schools and is pursuing a teaching certificate at SFCC. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in chemistry from the University of Idaho.

  • LANS selects CSNI for telecommunications support

    CNSI last week announced it has been selected by Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) to continue its work providing telecommunications support and related services at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
    LANS has managed operations at the laboratory since 2006 and CNSI was selected in 2008 to support telecommunications at the laboratory. As part of the service contract, CNSI supports the laboratory’s efforts to utilize the latest technology in its communications system, with special emphasis toward a LANL-wide conversion to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. Recently, CNSI was awarded a new 3 year contract with 1 base year and 2 additional option years to continue the telecommunications support.
    As part of the telecommunication support to LANS, CNSI has operated LANL’s switching offices, maintained hundreds of miles of transmission and distribution facilities and provided comprehensive customer support to one of the Department of Energy’s largest and most significant science and technology institutions.

  • Steinhaus to speak in ABQ

    As a former teacher and educational administrator, Community Programs Office Director Kurt Steinhaus is passionate about education.
     Steinhaus manages the Community Commitment Plan, which details how the Laboratory and Los Alamos National Security, LLC, implement educational investment initiatives by Los Alamos in Northern New Mexico.
    Steinhaus provides his perspective on what schools, teachers, administrators, parents and communities can do singly and collectively to improve education in New Mexico’s and the nation’s schools during a TEDxABQED talk Friday.
     TEDxABQED is from 1 to 5 p.m. in the African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro N.E., in Albuquerque.
    Friday’s TEDxABQED talk is sold out, however it can be watched on a livestream.
    “Teachers have told us that the Math and Science Academy has changed their teaching careers and given them a renewed energy to teach math and science,” said Steinhaus. “Collectively we’re making a difference for teachers and students in Northern New Mexico.” 

  • LANL to co-sponsor youth conference

    Approximately 150 Northern New Mexico girls will get hands-on experience learning about science and math at the 35th annual Expanding Your Horizons conference from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 6 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory partners with New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering, Los Alamos Women in Science, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, and the LANL Foundation on EYH to increase awareness of and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and careers.
    “Science outreach has always been important to me,” said Jan Frigo of the Laboratory’s Space Data Systems Group, chair of this year’s EYH. “Expanding Your Horizons participants participate in hands-on workshops, browse a career fair and interact with many female role models in STEM careers.”
    Early registration for the conference has ended, but a waiting list has been created to accommodate additional students as space is available.
    Contact Susan Coulter at 667-8425 or write to eyh14_planning@lanl.gov.

  • Sandia lab releases economic impact report

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Sandia National Laboratories says it spent about $975 million dollars on goods and services during the last fiscal year, and more than 40 percent of that went to New Mexico businesses.
    The federal lab released its annual economic impact report Monday.
    One of Sandia’s managers, Don Devoti, says 2013 was a challenging year for the national economy and for small businesses in New Mexico. Still, he says Sandia’s spending was up $79 million.
    Lab officials say models suggest the effect Sandia has on New Mexico’s economy could be about three times the total amount it spends on purchases and salaries.

  • Existing facilities could be option for further plutonium work

    Second of a series
    During his talk in Washington last week, Jonathan Medalia, a specialist in nuclear weapons policy for the Congressional Research Service, talked about existing buildings in relation to pit production.
    Medalia said other sites away from LANL could be used including Livermore, Idaho and Savannah. Then he discussed the pros and cons of LANL’s Plutonium Facility (PF-4) and the Radiological Laboratory-Utility-Office Building, which was completed in 2010.
    A source said the idea of using existing facilities is nothing new and the lab actually has been doing that very thing.
    RLUOB has 19,500 square feet of lab space, plus office space. But as a Radiological Facility, it is permitted to hold 38.6 grams (plutonium) Pu-239E. WGPu (weapons-grade plutonium) is more radioactive than pure Pu-239.
    “The utility basement and the laboratory floor above it are made of heavily-reinforced concrete, while the office floors are built to the standards of an emergency response building like a fire station, so RLUOB is much more seismically robust than CMR (Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building). LANL estimates the cost of moving AC and related work from CMR to RLUOB and PF-4 to be $800 million,” he said.

  • WIPP officials say environment is safe 

    CARLSBAD (AP) — Officials investigating a leak from the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste dump tried to reassure skeptical southeastern New Mexico residents Monday night that their health is safe.
    More than 250 people attended a two-hour meeting to ask questions about back-to-back accidents at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad and the first-known release of radiation from the repository.
    “I’m just a mom,” said Anna Hovrud, “and my first reaction was to start praying. ... Basically I am not understanding about two-thirds of what has been said here. Is there a chance we could be exposed to radiation, that we are being poisoned somehow, while we are waiting for these samples?”
    Joe Franco, who manages the Department of Energy’s Carlsbad office, told Hovrud “there is no risk from this event that would be a hazard to you or your children.”
    Farok Sharif, president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership that runs the plant, told Hovrud his family also lives in the community. And he said he has been to the site repeatedly in the past week — without protective gear — to gather readings “because I know it is safe.”

  • Nun, 84, sentenced to three years for breaking into Tennessee nuclear facility

    An 84-year-old nun was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws at the Tennessee plant.
    Two other peace activists who broke into the facility with Megan Rice were sentenced to more than five years in prison, in part because they had much longer criminal histories of mostly non-violent civil disobedience.
    Although officials said there was never any danger of the protesters reaching materials that could be detonated or made into a dirty bomb, the break-in raised questions about safekeeping at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. The facility holds the nation’s primary supply of bomb-grade uranium and was known as the “Fort Knox of uranium.”
    After the break-in, the complex had to be shut down, security forces were re-trained and contractors were replaced.
    In her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, even though sentencing guidelines called for about six years.
    In 2010, Rice was arrested at the Los Alamos National Laboratory during a protest.