Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Citizens board schedules next meeting

    The Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board (NNMCAB) will have its next meeting from 1-7 p.m. July 31 at Fuller Lodge.
    The New Mexico Environment Department, Los Alamos National Security, Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency will be attending to provide status updates.
     At 2:45 p.m. DOE/LANS will be presenting on Regional Monitoring and the Consent Order.
    At 3:30, Kurt Steinhaus and Michael Brandt will present the results of the Community Survey on Environment.
    The board will consider action on Draft Recommendations 2013-08 “Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Storage Space for LANL”. The public will have opportunity to address the board and voice their questions and concerns during the two scheduled public comment periods, at 1:15 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    The meeting concludes with comments from the board members. 

  • Wildfires may contribute more to global warming

    Wildfires produce a witch’s brew of carbon-containing particles, as anyone downwind of a forest fire can attest. A range of fine carbonaceous particles rising high into the air significantly degrade air quality, damaging human and wildlife health, and interacting with sunlight to affect climate.

    Measurements taken during the 2011 Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos National Laboratory show that the actual carbon-containing particles emitted by fires are very different than those used in current computer models, providing the potential for inaccuracy in current climate-modeling results.

    “We’ve found that substances resembling tar balls dominate, and even the soot is coated by organics that focus sunlight,” said senior laboratory scientist Manvedra Dubey, “Both components can potentially increase climate warming by increased light absorption.”

    The Las Conchas fire emissions findings underscore the need to provide a framework to include realistic representation of carbonaceous aerosols in climate models, the researchers say. They suggest that fire emissions could contribute a lot more to the observed climate warming than current estimates indicate.

  • Community leaders breakfast

    LANL Director Charlie McMillan spoke with Meralys Stephens and Lucretia Jenkins of the Santa Claran Hotel and Casino, and at Wednesday’s Community Leaders Breakfast at LANL. McMillan then updated the crowd on what has been happening at the lab, which is holding a variety of activities to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

  • IG views groundwater data more favorably

    The Department of Energy Inspector General gave the Los Alamos National Laboratory a passing grade when it comes to its characterization wells.

    It was the second time in eight years that the DOE IG has examined LANL’s characterization report.

    In that 2005 report, the IG said “we noted that the use of mud rotary drilling methods during well construction was contrary to specific constraints established in Resource Conservation and Recovery Act guidance. We also noted that muds and other drilling fluids that remained in certain wells after construction created a chemical environment that could mask the presence of radionuclide contamination and compromise the reliability of groundwater contamination data.

    The report, that was released July 9, said, “specifically, we noted that Los Alamos no longer uses mud rotary drilling methods during well construction, and appropriate steps have been taken to ensure data derived from monitoring wells is reliable. Additionally, we found that responsibility for the monitoring well program had been transferred to the New Mexico Environmental Department.”

    On March 1, 2005, a consent order was agreed to by NMED, DOE and the University of California, which was the prior management company of the lab before Los Alamos National Security LLC., took over in 2006.

  • Hazmat Challenge set for July 30

    Twelve hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Missouri and Oklahoma will test their skills at the 17th annual Hazmat Challenge July 30 through Aug. 2 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    “The challenge provides hazardous materials responders the opportunity to test their skills, network with other response agencies, and learn new techniques through realistic hazardous materials release scenarios in a safe, non-hazardous environment,” said Chris Rittner of the Laboratory’s Emergency Operations Division.
    Held at Los Alamos’ Technical Area 49, the event requires participants to respond to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving a rail car, a clandestine laboratory, various modes of transportation, industrial piping scenarios, a simulated radiological release and a confined space event.
    The finale of the Hazmat Challenge is a skills-based obstacle course; teams are graded and earn points based on their ability to perform response skills through a 10-station obstacle course while using fully encapsulating personal protective equipment.
    The Laboratory began the Hazmat Challenge in 1996 as a way to hone the skills of its own hazmat team members.  

  • Lab declassifies top-secret super-secure vault--Video Extra

    Down a remote canyon near Los Alamos National Laboratory lies a facility known as the “Tunnel Vault,” once one of the most secret and secure locations in the country, it’s the original post-WWII nuclear stockpile storage area.

    Located in Los Alamos canyon at Technical Area 41, the Tunnel Vault was built between 1948 and 1949. The facility has a formidable security perimeter, a hardened guard tower — complete with gun ports and bulletproof glass — and a series of gates and doors that lead to a 230-foot long concrete tunnel that goes straight into the canyon wall.

  • Two Bradbury exhibits open as part of LANL's 70th anniversary celebration

    Two new exhibits open July 26 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Bradbury Science Museum as part of the laboratory’s 70th Anniversary celebration.

    One is a nanotechnology exhibit featuring the lab’s Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) and the other is an algae biofuel exhibit from the laboratory and the New Mexico Consortium.

    An opening reception for the two exhibits is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the downtown museum.

    “We’re pleased to open two new exhibits, on some of the Laboratory’s latest research, as part of our 70th anniversary year. I’m sure these exhibits will broaden the public’s knowledge and appreciation of Los Alamos National Laboratory,” Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck said.

    “Nanotechnology—The Science of the Small,” demonstrates the importance of understanding how nanoparticles work, while “Algae to Biofuels: Squeezing Power from Pond Scum,” gives visitors an overview of algae biofuels.

  • Princeton prof who worked on Manhattan Project dies

    Princeton University nuclear physicist Rubby Sherr, whose work on the Manhattan Project helped usher in the Atomic Age and whose academic publications span nearly 80 years, died July 8 of natural causes at the Quadrangle independent-living community in Haverford, Pa. He was 99.

    Colleagues and family describe Sherr — whose name is pronounced “Ruby” — as a tireless researcher with an engaging personality. He was a raconteur and connoisseur of jokes, fly-fishing and folk songs whose exploration of nuclear physics persisted until shortly before his death. Sherr published his first paper in 1936 while a graduate student at Princeton, and published his last six papers this year. He spent nearly 40 years at Princeton, joining the faculty in 1946 and transferring to professor of physics, emeritus, in 1982.

  • DNFSB report details safety issues at PF-4

    More details became available this week about the stand-down of activities in the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory last month that was ordered by lab director Charlie McMillan.

    The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board sent a letter and report to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, detailing some of the criticality issues surrounding the work being done at PF-4.

    “The current pause at PF-4 is aimed at addressing the concerns in the letter and others identified by lab employees and managers,” lab spokesman Fred DeSousa said. “However, the letter is addressed to Secretary Moniz and Acting Administrator (Bruce) Held, so we would respectfully ask that you direct your questions to DOE and NNSA.”

    DOE and NNSA officials did not respond to requests for comment.

    The report, meanwhile, pointed to a number of issues including a lack of safety personnel and lax control of operating procedures.

    The biggest issue is a significant shortage of Los Alamos National Security criticality safety staff has hindered the ability of LANS to address deficiencies at the facility, and the backlog of unresolved criticality safety issues continues to grow.

  • Biofuels take center stage

    Bradbury Science Museum will host an open house event, featuring the New Mexico Consortium’s Biofuel Exhibit, from 5-8 p.m. July 26.

    There will be a brief presentation by Dr. Jose Olivares, Bioscience Division Leader, from 6- 6:15 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

    “Algae to Biofuels: Squeezing Power from Pond Scum” is brainchild of Olivares of LANL and Dr. Richard Sayre of NMC and LANL.

    The exhibits highlight the work of the NMC and algae researchers at LANL, UNM and NMSU to create an informative, educational, interactive exhibit to display at the Bradbury Museum.

    The NMC plans to develop the exhibit for a broad audience to take it “on the road” as part of the NMC’s educational outreach program.

    Why algae?

    Some experts believe that algae is set to eclipse all other biofuel feedstocks as the cheapest, easiest, and most environmentally friendly way to produce liquid fuel. Come learn why it’s easy to get excited by algae, how fast they grow, how they can help humanity and the environment.

    The exhibit talks about the 8,000 kinds of algae and how we find the strains with the potential to replace fossil fuels. Learn about the latest research on algae to produce high value products and how it is harvested and processed.