Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • 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. 

  • NNSA head visits N.M. labs

    Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz on Thursday pointed to renovations at one of the nation’s top federal labs as examples of what the National Nuclear Security Administration needs to do as it looks to modernize its operations across the country.
    Klotz was in New Mexico to get a firsthand look at Sandia National Laboratories’ testing facilities as he settles in to his new position at the helm of the NNSA.
    More than $100 million was spent to renovate five large-scale facilities around Sandia that are critical to ensuring the safety and durability of the nation’s nuclear stockpile. They include an underground centrifuge capable of producing 300 G’s of force, a 10,000-foot rocket sled track for measuring high-velocity impacts and a special burn room that can almost melt steel.
    The renovations at Sandia came in under budget by $4 million. But watchdogs and government auditors have raised concerns over other NNSA projects, saying virtually every major project under the agency’s oversight has been behind schedule or over budget.
    Klotz acknowledged those concerns Thursday. He said some of the agency’s infrastructure dates back to the 1940s when the federal government began the top-secret Manhattan Project. Facilities age, equipment becomes obsolete and better technology becomes available, Klotz said.

  • Lab doing what it can to help WIPP facility

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is doing its part to help the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant get to the bottom of what caused the radiation leak. The lab also is helping in WIPP’s remediation efforts even though the facility still is closed.
    According to lab spokesperson Patti Jones, the lab has a program group called Repository Science and Operations permanently located in Carlsbad that routinely supports WIPP operations. This group of about 60 people is part of the Associate Directorate of Environmental Programs.
    “About half of the staff and has been supporting WIPP recovery since February in a variety of roles, from radiological and waste signature analysis to involvement with the mobile loading team,” said Jeff Mousseau, associate director of environmental programs.
    According to Jones, the laboratory provided a radiological controls expert who provided support for initial radiological survey planning and a team of carpenters who provided support to prepare for HEPA filter inspections and evaluations.
    “We also provided a crew that conducted HEPA filter testing,” Jones said.
    Jones added that the robotics effort was a collaboration between Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratory. LANL provided both a robot and an operator for this effort, she said.

  • Crews find damaged material at WIPP

    Crews searching for the source of a radiation release from the government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico have found damaged bags of minerals in the mine, but officials say they have yet to identify what caused the radiation leak.
    The U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday that workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant found several huge bags of magnesium chloride that are placed on top of waste containers to absorb moisture and carbon dioxide have been “grossly disturbed.”
     It’s not clear, however, what damaged the bags. And officials say they haven’t found any structural damage in the waste-storage area of the repository near Carlsbad.
    The dump has been shuttered since a Feb. 14 leak sent low levels of radiation into the air, contaminating 21 workers with radiation.
    According to a press release from WIPP, new air sampling results from the cities of Hobbs, Eunice, Loving and Artesia show no detectable radiological contamination.
    A total of 89 air samples have been collected from 15 locations since the Feb. 14 event.
    All air sampling results after Feb. 18 show no contamination.

  • LANL releases strategic plan

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan addressed the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities last Friday, giving an overview of the state of the laboratory.
    The biggest piece of news was that LANL has just completed a new strategic plan. McMillan spelled out three themes underlying the plan.
    “These are themes that for me have been part of my thinking about the laboratory since I took on the leadership. And today our plan lays out these themes into ideas, into strategies, into mission, vision, goals,” McMillan said.
    “First, we have to deliver on our commitments while simultaneously insuring the capabilities that the nation will need, and for an uncertain future.
    “The first part of that I think is self-evident. If we aren’t able to deliver on our commitments today, there’s simply not going to be a future to talk about.
    “The second part, though, is equally important. When I think about the laboratory, I feel responsibility for the laboratory at two phases in its life. One is for, the laboratory of today. The other is the laboratory 20 years from now.

  • LANL inks business agreement

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and RG Construction of Rio Rancho will be signing a mentor-protégé agreement on May 7 at the New Mexico Veterans Business Expo and Job Fair at the Albuquerque Convention Center. This working arrangement between LANL and RG Construction will promote economic and technological growth, promote and foster the establishment of long term business relationships, and provide opportunities for the protégé (RG Construction) to gain visibility within the Department of Energy complex.
    The expo and job fair continues on May 8, where businesses can meet qualified veterans, look for reliable suppliers and network with other businesses and agencies at the local, state and federal level.
    Los Alamos’ Small Business Program Office is a sponsor of the business expo and job fair.  

  • LAFO names top employee

    Dan Krivitsky’s success in facilitating work between federal agencies and his efforts in counter-terrorism initiatives and Intelligence Work For Others earned him Employee of the Year for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Los Alamos Field Office.
    Krivitsky of Los Ranchos, near Albuquerque, is a member of the field office’s Security Operations Team.
    He and federal employees from around the state were recognized Thursday at a banquet sponsored by the New Mexico Federal Executive Board.
    In 2013, Krivitsky was instrumental in forming a counter-threat working group at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), ensuring that disparate security and intelligence stakeholders met routinely to discuss potential threats to the laboratory. He also fostered relationships with numerous State and Federal agencies to improve the flow and expand the network of threat information providers for the laboratory.

  • Management, safety cited for radiation release at WIPP -- updated and report attached


    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A radiation release from the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico was the result of a slow erosion of the safety culture at the 15-year-old site, which was evident in the bungled response to the emergency, federal investigators said in a report released Thursday.

    The report from the U.S. Department of Energy's Accident Investigation Board cited poor management, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper training and oversight at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad. The report also found that much of the operation failed to meet standards for a nuclear facility.

    The series of shortcomings are similar to those found in a probe of the truck fire in the half-mile-deep mine just nine days before the Feb. 14 radiation release that shuttered the plant indefinitely.

    Given the latest findings, watchdog Don Hancock said the leak that contaminated 21 workers with low doses of radiation in mid-February was a "best-case scenario."

    "Everything conspired for the least bad event to occur, based on what we know — and there is a still a lot we don't know," he said.

  • NNSA announces $25M grant for nonproliferation

    The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development today announced the award of a $25 million grant to a North Carolina State University-led consortium for research and development (R&D) in enabling capabilities for nonproliferation. This sizeable, long-term investment will support the consortium at $5 million per year for five years. The grant is in response to a funding opportunity announcement issued in May 2013.
    This grant will provide the U.S. government with cutting edge research and development to identify and address multi-disciplinary and cross-functional technology and research needs that are critical to detecting foreign nuclear weapon proliferation activities.
    Specifically, the research projects pursued by the consortium will include technologies to enhance simulation capabilities, algorithms and modeling; new test and evaluation models for detection sensors; new remote sensing capabilities; and applications of data analytics and data fusion to better characterize and detect special nuclear materials.

  • McMillan addresses pit production report

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan was in Washington last week to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.
    McMillan provided an update on recent Los Alamos technical and scientific achievements; the proposed plutonium strategy under evaluation in numerous national security circles; and, Los Alamos budget realities that pose challenges to meeting mission requirements.
    The following came from the Senate website and this was McMillan’s written testimony to the subcommittee.
    In his testimony, McMillan addressed a recent Pit Production report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which was written by Jonathan Medalia.
    Medalia received the help of Brett Kniss, Drew Kornreich, and Amy Wong, of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Greg Mello and Trish Williams-Mello of Los Alamos Study Group in drafting the report.
     “Many of the ideas in the report were originally contemplated by lab staff as they began to look at alternatives to CMRR‐NF,” McMillan said. “While the report is comprehensive, it fails to recognize many of the risks and challenges certain options would face.”