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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Moniz: 'Irresponsible' countries are a threat

    Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said the United States could face “grave danger” from foreign entities in his response to President Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy.
    Of particular concern to the DOE, Moniz said, was the proliferation of nuclear weapons by “irresponsible” foreign states and terrorists.
    The strategy highlighted several points, number one of which was the advancement of the “security of the United States, its citizens and U.S. allies.”
    The NSS was presented by National Security Advisor Susan Rice Friday at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.
    Among the most important aims of national security, outlined in the president’s strategy were maintaining a strong national defense, reinforcing homeland security, developing the capacity to prevent, detect and respond to biological threats and striving for a world without nuclear weapons.
    In addition, the NSS states the importance of ensuring nuclear materials “don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
    Moniz said he was behind the strategy outlined.

  • Scientists call for a 'bar code' for antibodies

    More than 100 researchers from around the world, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, have collaborated to craft a request that could fundamentally alter how the antibodies used in research are identified, a project potentially on the scale of the now-completed Human Genome Project.
    “We propose that antibodies be defined by their sequences, just as genes are,” said Andrew Bradbury, a researcher at LANL, “and they should be made recombinantly in cell lines.”
    Referring to antibodies according to the sequences encoding their various subunits, their concentrations and the standardized experimental buffers used for each assay would enable researchers world-wide to employ the same affinity reagents under the same conditions.
    The sequence of an antibody or binding reagent is the ultimate “bar code” for that reagent, ensuring that everyone can use the same reagent for the same target.
    Deriving the bar code involves either selecting antibodies from in vitro libraries, or cloning and sequencing antibody genes from hybridomas, the cells that traditionally make monoclonal antibodies.
    However, it will require a paradigm shift in the way antibodies are supplied.

  • Secret info gets misclassified

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — A Los Alamos National Laboratory employee misclassified information that should have been kept secret but instead was made public, federal investigators said.
    The review by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General found that an official at the bomb-building lab didn’t adequately protect classified information in six instances, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Tuesday.
    Those included an employee’s remarks to a public gathering in which the employee unknowingly included material that should have been classified.
    Another involved an employee’s article that included material that should have been classified but wasn’t.
    The review said the classification officer was lax about keeping his staff current on guidelines for determining what information must be kept secret.
    Specific details about the classified material were not provided.
    The report criticizes the consortium of private contractors that manages the lab for ignoring the problems, even though it was aware of them.

  • Talk to focus on forests

    There was a time when Nathan McDowell would listen politely as those who say global climate change was nothing more than either a statistical anomaly or a farce.
    He’s not so quiet anymore.
    McDowell, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist and an expert in southwest forests, knows what global climate change has done to nearby vegetation and said the problem isn’t going to get any better by itself.
    That will be the subject of his talk Thursday is “Accelerating Global Vegetative Mortality.” It will be at Mesa Public Library. Talk time is 7 p.m.
    McDowell said he was aghast, but hardly surprised, by the recent reported issued by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association that stated 2014 was the warmest year across the planet since records began being kept in 1880.
    “There was no surprise at all,” he said of the report. “It’s very alarming, but we knew this was coming…it only told us stuff we already know.”
    According to the NOAA, global land temperature was 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average and more than a full degree warmer than the average above the seas.

  • Subarctic forest talk is set for Wednesday

    Annika Hofgaard of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research will give a presentation Wednesday at the Research Park.
    The presentation, “Subarctic Forest Advance — Empirical-Based Results vs. Modeled Predictions,” is scheduled for 1 p.m. on the second floor of the Research Park. The presentation will focus on the northward movement of subarctic forests.
    According to research, a larger proportion of the earth’s surface area may become darker and thus absorb more heat and change of this nature could have a major impact on global climate. The assumption is that a warmer climate will cause the forest-tundra ecotone to advance steadily northward. Empirical-based results, however, do not confirm such an assumption outright.
    Hofgaard is a leading figure in the International Arctic vegetation science community. Currently, her main research interests include impacts of changing climate on vegetation, focusing on Arctic ecology at the tree line.

  • Watchdog critical of WIPP delays

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy and the contractor that runs the federal government’s troubled nuclear waste repository say it could be more than three years before all operations resume at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
    The department and Nuclear Waste Partnership detailed the timeline for decontaminating parts of the plant and resuming the disposal of Cold War-era waste from sites around the country during a meeting Wednesday.
    Full operations will depend on a new ventilation system, something that could take until 2018 to complete.
    Watchdog Don Hancock says there’s a lot of uncertainty around the recovery schedule and costs.
    The repository has been closed since February 2014, when a canister of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory leaked in one of the storage rooms and contaminated more than 20 workers.

  • DOE challenging fines from NMED

    CARLSBAD (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy is contesting more than $54 million in fines, the largest penalty levied by New Mexico for numerous violations that resulted in the indefinite closure of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository.
    The Energy Department and the contractors paid to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Los Alamos National Laboratory said Friday that they want a hearing on the matter.
    Energy officials are also asking for the penalties to be reduced or forgiven.
    The New Mexico Environment Department said discussions of a settlement are ongoing. The state alleges more than 30 violations occurred at both facilities.
    On. Feb. 5, a truck hauling salt at WIPP caught fire. Nine days later, a canister of waste from Los Alamos leaked, forcing the facility’s indefinite closure.

  • WIPP to take a funding hit

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The contractor that runs the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository is being denied millions of dollars in performance pay as part of the financial fallout from a radiation leak that forced the closure of the facility.
    Federal officials have said it could take years and a half-billion dollars to restart operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad because of the February leak.
    The U.S. Energy Department said in documents released Tuesday that it is paying Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC just $21,576 of the $8 million of potential performance incentives for the past fiscal year. The partnership manages the plant under a contract that pays more than $140 million annually.
    The leak occurred when a container packed with radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured in an underground storage area and contaminated more than 20 workers.
    The performance award for Nuclear Waste Partnership was announced shortly after the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration docked the contractor that runs Los Alamos lab, Los Alamos National Security, for its failures related to the radiation leak.
    LANS received $6.25 million in incentives, just a fraction of the more than $63 million that was possible for the last fiscal year.

  • There were big discoveries at LANL this year

    It was a big year for scientific disoveries at Los Alamos National Laboratory, from transferring foolproof computer encryption techniques to market, to using social media for forecasting diseases, creating a virtual human body that could end animal drug tests and even helping pave the way for human visitation to Mars.
    “The breadth of scientific expertise and range of disciplines necessary for supporting Los Alamos’s national security mission can be seen when reflecting on some of the year’s more visible accomplishments,” said Alan Bishop, Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology and Engineering. “Los Alamos remains proud of its legacy of using world-class science to address some of the world’s most pressing and difficult problems.”

    Using Wikipedia to forecast disease

  • 'Performance failure' leads to big loss of funds for LANS

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The contractor that runs one of the nation's premier national laboratories has lost out on tens of millions of dollars from the federal government because of what officials call a serious performance failure.

    The National Nuclear Security Administration finished its annual evaluation of Los Alamos National Laboratory earlier this month and the overall results aren't positive. The fee earned by Los Alamos National Security LLC for the 2014 fiscal year was slashed to $6.25 million, a fraction of the $63.4 million the contractor could have earned, according to documents made public Monday.

    The NNSA singled out a mishap in February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico. That's where a container packed with radioactive waste from Los Alamos ruptured and forced the plant's indefinite closure.

    Lab Director Charlie McMillan acknowledged the weight that the WIPP mishap had on the evaluation in a memo sent Monday to employees. He said the severity of the event resulted in an unsatisfactory rating when it came to the lab's operations and infrastructure.

    "Although this was a very tough year for the laboratory, I am optimistic that next year will be better. I am determined to do all that I can to make it so," he told employees.