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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • State withdraws permit for WIPP expansion

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico regulators have withdrawn a preliminary permit for an expansion of the federal government's troubled nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico.
    Citing recent back-to-back incidents that included a radiation release that contaminated 17 workers, the New Mexico Environment Department on Friday notified the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) that it has withdrawn a pending draft permit.
    "NMED cannot move forward on the WIPP's request to open additional underground storage panels and for the other requested permit modifications until more information is known about the recent events at the WIPP," Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said in a statement. "Just as NMED needs more information to make informed decisions on permit modifications, the public also needs more information about the radiation release in order to provide informed input during the public comment period. Once NMED has all of our questions answered, we will proceed with consideration of a revised draft Permit."
    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is the nation's only permanent underground repository for low-level radioactive waste, including things like plutonium-contaminated gloves, tools and protective clothing, from nuclear weapons facilities.

  • LANL may ship waste to Texas

    Nuclear Waste Partnership, the management and operating contractor at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in coordination with the U.S. Department of Energy, is proposing to ship transuranic waste currently located at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for temporary storage at Waste Control Specialists, located in western Andrews County, Texas.
    The Department has committed to the state of New Mexico to removing 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste from LANL by June 30.
    Lab spokesman Matt Nerzig said the campaign was 80 percent complete when WIPP operations were suspended.
    The waste will be moved to WIPP for final disposal once the site reopens. Any shipments of LANL transuranic waste to a temporary storage site are contingent upon the completion of an appropriate National Environmental Policy Act analysis.
    Nerzig said the goal is to begin shipments after the completion of the NEPA analysis with a target date of April 1.
    “We initially estimate that as many as 140 shipments of TRU waste from LANL would be sent to WCS,” said Nerzig, who added that the contract is contingent the completion of an appropriate analysis of the potential environmental impacts pursuant to the NEPA Act.

  • DOE puts Internet WIPP rumor to rest

    An Internet rumor has been fueling concerns this week about the need to be prepared to evacuate southeastern New Mexico because of recent events at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.
    According to a release from WIPP, there is absolutely no basis for these rumors. Monitoring conducted by Nuclear Waste Partnership of air, soil, water and vegetation is showing no radiation releases that would approach levels causing health concerns. Independent monitoring by the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center has reached similar conclusions.
    In a recent letter to New Mexico’s senators, Ron Curry, regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, noted that “initial field measurements combined with modeling of potential public exposures indicate that it is very unlikely that any exposures would approach regulatory limits or represent a public health concern.”
    A package of work and safety controls required before safe re‐entry can take place at the WIPP has been prepared by Nuclear Waste Partnership, the management and operations contractor at WIPP. The package will be submitted to the Department of Energy for review and approval, the next step before sending personnel into the WIPP underground facility to understand the source of the recent radiation release.

  • LANL’s Jia named Fellow

    Quanxi Jia of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (MPA-CINT) is a 2014 Fellow of the Materials Research Society (MRS).
    The MRS Fellow program recognizes outstanding members whose sustained and distinguished contributions to the advancement of materials research are internationally recognized.
    The number of new fellows selected annually is capped at 0.2 percent of the current total MRS membership.
    Achievements
    The MRS recognized Jia for “pioneering contributions to the development of high-temperature superconducting-coated conductors and for advancing the processing and application of multifunctional metal-oxide materials.”
    Jia received a doctorate in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He joined LANL in 1993 as a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow, and was converted to a staff in 1996.
    He is a leader at the Nanoscale Electronics and Mechanics at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), which is jointly operated by Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories.
    He specializes in the synthesis of nanostructured materials, multifunctional materials, and thin films. 

  • Report: WIPP fire preventable

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The truck that caught fire a half mile underground at a southeastern New Mexico nuclear waste dump was 29 years old, improperly maintained and operating without an automatic fire-suppression system, according to a report to be released Friday.
    The report also will detail deficiencies in emergency training and responses at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad.
    “It was preventable,” Ted Wyka, a Department of Energy official who led the investigation, told a community meeting on Thursday evening as he previewed the findings of the probe into the first of two back-to-back incidents at the federal government’s only permanent repository for waste from the nation’s nuclear bomb-building facilities.
    An investigation of a radiation release nine days later that contaminated 17 workers is expected in a few weeks.
    The report was previewed just hours after the contractor that runs the site confirmed it had demoted WIPP President Farok Sharif.
    Wyka said the investigation of the truck fire did not reveal exactly what sparked the blaze, but he said the old truck that was hauling salt had a buildup of oil and other combustible materials as well as active leaks.

  • LANL studying alternatives for shipping toxic waste

    With the nation’s only underground nuclear waste dump shuttered by a mysterious leak, Los Alamos National Laboratory has begun looking at alternatives for meeting a June deadline to remove toxic waste from a mesa on its northern New Mexico campus.
    Lab spokesman Matthew Nerzig confirmed Tuesday that officials are exploring other options for removing the last of nearly 4,000 gallons of plutonium-contaminated tools and protective gear from its bomb-building labs if the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad remains closed indefinitely.
    The presence of that waste — some of which was dug up from decades-old, unsealed dumps in the northern New Mexico mountains and is now stored outside with little protection — came to the public’s attention three years ago as a massive wildfire lapped at the edges of the sprawling lab property.
    The lab has since agreed to have it all removed from the mesa by the end of June. The lab was ahead of schedule for getting the nearly 4,000 barrels to WIPP when back-to-back accidents and a radiation release closed the repository last month.

  • Learn how to do business with the lab, government

    The Regional Development Corporation (RDC) is hosting the “Resource Roundtable: Opportunities Close to Home,” a free event at Buffalo Thunder Resort from 1-5 p.m. Thursday, the agency announced.
    Three topics will be covered: finance, doing business with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and doing business with the government. The small format of the event will facilitate small group discussions between entrepreneurs and knowledgeable resource providers.
    Co-sponsoring the event is the Minority Business Development Agency Business Center and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Members from these two organizations will be joined by representatives from the following organizations:
    • New Mexico Economic Development Department
    • LANL Small Business Program Office (procurement)
    • LANL Express Licensing
    • LANL Community Programs Office
    • New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program (NMSBA)
    • Small Business Administration (SBA)
    • Los Alamos Connect

  • Coalition lobbies for cleanup funding

    Members of the Regional Coalition of LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) Communities (Regional Coalition) traveled to Washington, D.C during the week of Feb. 24 to advocate for $255 million in support of environmental remediation at LANL, and to discuss the Federal Legislative Priorities of the Coalition.
    The $255 million represents an increase in $30 million from the previous fiscal year, and is the minimum amount needed to meet the cleanup agreement requirements negotiated between the N.M. Environment Department and the U.S. Department of Energy.
    The members of the coalition who traveled to D.C. for meetings include: former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Los Alamos County Commissioner Steve Girrens, Rio Arriba Deputy County Manager David Trujillo, coalition executive director Darien Cabral, and Jennifer Padilla of the coalition’s executive director team.
    The coalition members met with the following:
    • Senator Martin Heinrich
    • Senator Tom Udall
    • Representative Ben Ray Lujan
    • Bruce Held, the Acting Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
    • Plus other Department of Energy and Nuclear Security Administration staff and key members of pertinent Congressional Committees

  • Workers preparing to enter WIPP

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy and the operators of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste dump said Monday they are making plans to allow specially trained workers to enter the site for the first time in weeks after more than a dozen employees were exposed to low levels of radiation during a mysterious leak.
    Officials acknowledge they are in uncharted territory in responding to something that has never happened since the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant opened in 1999. The site is important to the nation’s efforts to clean up decades of Cold War-era waste, and administrators are eager to resume operations once they are convinced it’s safe to do so.
    WIPP has been shuttered since early February. Shipments were halted after a truck hauling salt through the repository’s tunnels caught fire, and nine days later the plant’s alarms were triggered by the radiation release.
    The first major step in finding out what caused the radiation release happened over the weekend as crews — covered from head to toe in special blue protective suits and booties — slowly lowered a bundle of air and gas monitoring machines into the repository’s air intake system and its salt shaft.

  • LAFD unveils new ladder truck

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County officials “pushed in” a new ladder truck during a ceremony Monday at Fire Station No. 1 on West Jemez Road across from the J. Robert Oppenheimer Study Center and Otowi Building at LANL’s Technical Area 3. Los Alamos County Fire Department provides fire protection services to the Laboratory. Driver engineer Joseph Romero of the Los Alamos County Fire Department actually backed the ladder truck into the fire bay. The 2013 custom built Smeal ladder can pump up to 2,250 gallons per minute and extends to a height of 105 feet.