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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Update focuses on partnerships

    POJOAQUE — Los Alamos National Laboratory hosted its quarterly Community Leaders meeting Thursday at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino.
    LANL Director Charlie McMillan, Kim Davis Lebak, manager of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office and Christine Gelles, acting field manager for DOE’s Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office focused their presentations on the laboratory’s various partnerships.
    Davis Lebak praised LANL’s investment in the Community Commitment Plan.
    “LANL has gone well beyond what’s required, and we’re appreciative of the lab’s active engagement and community and strategic partnerships,” Davis Lebak said.
    McMillan touched upon partnerships with various scientific communities, the unions and the business community, but emphasized the importance of educational partnerships at this time.
    “The laboratory faces what I view as a real opportunity in our staffing. Over the next five years, we expect to lose a third of the laboratory workforce. They’ll either retire or leave for other reasons,” McMillan said.

  • Doing Good for the Community

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Vecinos Volunteer Match program partnered with the American Red Cross to install smoke alarms in residences on Friday. Here, Debbi Wersonick, center, of the Community Programs Office talks with Clare Ryan, right, of the American Red Cross, and Dan Shields, of Los Alamos’ Weapons Physics Group, a volunteer installer. Nearly a dozen LANL employees installed more than 30 smoke alarms in Tsikimu Park, a 55-and-over residential community that recently witnessed a fire that resulted in injuries to the residents.

  • Moniz, South Korea sign agreement

    Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz and Korean Foreign Minister Yun signed the successor United States-Republic of Korea Agreement for Civil Nuclear Cooperation Monday in Washington.
    The United States and the Republic of Korea — South Korea — are world leaders in civil nuclear energy and “have a long and productive history of nuclear cooperation, and this relationship will continue to strengthen and grow as a result of this agreement,” the DOE said in a statement Monday.
    The agreement charts a joint path forward to address critical issues facing both civil nuclear programs, such as spent fuel management and assured fuel supply.
    It contains provisions to ensure nonproliferation and nuclear security, and thereby enhances the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.
    “The agreement would allow the United States and the Republic of Korea to continue peaceful nuclear cooperation, enable expanded cooperation between our respective nuclear industries, and reaffirm our two governments’ shared commitment to nonproliferation,” Moniz said.

  • ATHENA creates surrogate organs

    The development of miniature surrogate human organs, coupled with highly sensitive mass spectrometry technologies, could one day revolutionize the way new drugs and toxic agents are studied.
    “By developing this ‘homo minutus,’ we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing: There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs,” said Rashi Iyer, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    ATHENA, the Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer project team, is nearing the full integration of four human organ constructs — liver, heart, lung and kidney — each organ component is about the size of a smartphone screen, and the whole ATHENA “body” of interconnected organs will fit neatly on a desk.
     A new video available on the Los Alamos National Laboratory YouTube channel updates the ATHENA project as it begins to integrate the various organ systems into a single system.
    Some 40 percent of pharmaceuticals fail their clinical trials and there are thousands of chemicals whose effects on humans are simply unknown.

  • U.S. House panel cites numerous failures of nuke officials

    Members of a U.S. House panel said Friday that they are frustrated with decades of security and safety lapses at some of the laboratories, manufacturing facilities and other sites that make up the nation's nuclear complex.

    The lawmakers, during a hearing in Washington, D.C., pushed top officials with the U.S. Energy Department and the National Nuclear Safety Administration for details on how the agencies plan to revamp oversight of the contractors that run the facilities.

    The hearing focused on oversight failures that contributed to a 2014 radiation release that forced the indefinite closure of the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico. Investigators determined that a container of waste improperly packed at Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured, allowing radiation to escape.

    The mishap in New Mexico is just the latest in a long string of security and safety breaches. Members of the panel pointed to the disappearance of classified computer disks at Los Alamos in 2004 and the 2012 break-in at one of the nation's most secure sites by an 82-year-old nun and fellow activists.

  • Trujillo fund has been successful

    The online fundraising efforts for the worker injured in the May 3 accident at Los Alamos National Laboratory has exceeded its goal.
    As of this morning, the Julian and Deborah Trujillo Recovery Fund had raised $25,828, slightly more than the original goal of $25,000. The fundraiser will be open for 50 more days, according to the website youcaring.com.
    Trujillo was suffering from injuries sustained in last month’s accident at TA-53. He is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and was working on a transformer at TA-53 when the electrical accident occurred.
    According to the website, more than 400 people have contributed to the efforts, which are to help defray medical costs associated with the accident.
    Trujillo was taken to University of New Mexico Hospital shortly after the accident to be treated for severe burns. His condition was listed as critical for more than two weeks following the accident.
    Local 611’s business manager, Carl Condit, said he was pleased by the outpouring of effort from the community and the union to help the family.
    “The union membership is always doing charity work,” he said. “It’s heartwarming to see everyone helping the Trujillo family through a very tough time.”

  • UPDATE: LANL, Sandia both facing DOE penalties

    Two nuclear laboratories in New Mexico are facing hefty fines for the faulty handling of classified information or material.

    The federal Department of Energy has fined Sandia Corp. $577,500 for violation of control of nuclear weapons data, reports the Albuquerque Journal. Los Alamos National Laboratory is also facing fines for two separate incidents.

    Sandia Corp. is a Lockheed Martin company that serves as the private operator of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

    Sandia presented information at improper lab settings and to the public over many years, according to a preliminary notice of violation issued by the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration last week.

    The company was cited for four Level 1 violations and two lesser ones. The Level 1 errors are said to cause a higher national security risk.

    At Los Alamos National Laboratory, the private contractor Los Alamos National Security LLC faces a $247,500 fine for loss of classified material and a $150,000 fine for exposure of workers to a hazardous material.

  • OPM tells feds to be wary

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy have largely kept quiet about a cybersecurity hack that was announced Thursday.
    The United States Office of Personnel Management announced that there was an incident that had been discovered in April that affected its Information Technology systems and that data may have been compromised.
    While it is unknown who was behind a potential hack, U.S. officials believe it might have been hackers from China that have gotten into personnel files and other sensitive material at the OPM, which does background checks for the vast majority of government employees.
    Following the incident, LANL and Los Alamos Field Office personnel were directing all questions to the NNSA headquarters. A NNSA official, which the Los Alamos Monitor reached late Friday, redirected questions to the OPM.
    The NNSA spokesperson said only that DOE personnel were notified by Secretary Ernest Moniz Thursday following the announcement.
    The Department of Homeland Security on Friday said it was possible employees all departments of the government could have personal data compromised.
    Starting Monday and continuing through June 19, OPM will send notifications to approximately 4 million individuals whose information was potentially compromised.

  • Information from the OPM on cybersecurity breach

    The following is information released by the Office of Personnel Management for those that may have been affected by Thursday night's cybersecurity incident:

     

    The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently became aware of a cybersecurity incident affecting its systems and data that may have compromised the personal information of current and former Federal employees.

  • Rover's ChemCam instrument gets sharper vision

    NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s “ChemCam” instrument recently got a major capability fix, as Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists uploaded a software repair for the auto-focus system on the instrument.
    “Last November we discovered that a small laser used to focus the ChemCam telescope on its targets had failed” said Roger Wiens, instrument lead at LANL. “Without this laser rangefinder, the ChemCam instrument was somewhat blind. The main laser that creates flashes of plasma when it analyzes rocks and soils up to 25 feet from the rover was not affected,” he said, “but the laser analyses only work when the telescope projecting the laser light to the target is in focus.”
    The team knows approximate distances to each target, but this information is not accurate enough to provide an in-focus image.
    Since November the team had limped along by taking nine images, each at a different focus, for every target. The data that was returned contained eight blurry images and one in focus, “a rather poor return for the effort and time, but better than nothing,” Wiens said.