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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Regional Coalition getting noticed

     

    Local representatives of a 13-member delegation of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities who traveled to Washington, D.C. two weeks ago believe their efforts to secure more cleanup funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory are paying off. 

    State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, councilor Steve Girrens, who serves as the county’s alternate member on the coalition, and Deputy County Administrator Brian Bosshardt represented Los Alamos County on the trip. 

    “I really want to reiterate how great it was to have this bipartisan, diverse group go and speak in support of LANL,” Garcia Richard said. “This group has really been trying to work on securing funding for the 3706 cleanup. 

  • IG pushes lab for more action

    A couple of weeks ago, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Chairman Peter Winokur sent a letter to new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

    A main topic of the letter included the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    Winokur wrote, “As you assume your duties, the Board would like to provide you with a brief summary of its views on the current challenges DOE faces in the area of safety at DOE’s defense nuclear facilities. In particular, the Board draws your attention to the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory that analysis shows may be vulnerable to collapse as a consequence of design basis seismic earthquake and the many challenges awaiting resolution regarding the storage and disposition of legacy waste at the Hanford site.”

    The main thrust of the letter, though, was PF-4.

    A May 24 Site Office Report detailed a number of incidents at PF-4.

    The report stated, “Several of these issues were self identified and conservative action was taken to respond, critique, and develop corrective actions. However, these infractions and deviations indicate potential conduct of operations and Criticality Safety Evaluation (CSE) issues that emphasize the need for LANL to continue criticality safety improvements.”

  • Senate bill has $250 million for cleanup; House bill, meanwhile, earmarks $195M

    U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined the Senate Appropriations Committee this week in approving a bill that includes significant support for important New Mexico installations and programs, including Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and New Mexico water projects.

    The bill includes record-level base funding for waste cleanup at Los Alamos (LANL), and significant funding levels for WIPP operations and maintenance. Udall also included an amendment to the bill’s report language to improve voluntary water transfers in the Middle Rio Grande Basin Endangered Species Collaborative Program.

    Key provisions for New Mexico in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill include:
    • LANL cleanup: $250 million ($35 million above the president’s budget request).
    • WIPP cleanup: $222 million ($19 million above the president’s request).
    • DOE algae biofuels: $30 million ($14.5 million above the president’s budget request).
    • WaterSMART programs: $51 million, including $20 million for grants as requested by Udall ($16 million above the president’s request).

  • LANL website gains recognition

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s safety video website, Safety Cinema, won the 2013 Communicator Award from the International Academy of Visual Arts in the education category. The website also won the International Summit Creative Award in the training category.
    Safety Cinema is a series of videos, fliers, posters, presentation slides and safety practices that support the well-being of employees at work and at home. The videos provide technical information in an informal fashion and are designed to appeal to a wide audience.
    Making Safety Cinema products available to the Department of Energy and the general public also supports best practices for DOE and the Voluntary Protection Program. “Easy access to the site supports VPP by sharing safety resources throughout the DOE complex, other government organizations, international corporations, schools and universities,” said Associate Director for Environment, Safety and Health Michael Brandt.
    “The site was created at the request of the Department of Energy and other national and international government agencies to provide easy access to the Laboratory’s safety videos,” said Robin Nicholas of Los Alamos’ Industrial Hygiene and Safety Division. 

  • Lab halts some work at plutonium facility

    In a memo to employees Thursday, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan announced that certain work operations at the Plutonium Facility would temporarily pause programmatic activities.

    McMillan’s action comes on the heels of another federal report criticizing Los Alamos for not doing enough to protect the public from dangerous releases of radiation in the event of wildfires or an earthquake.

    An audit released Thursday by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General reiterated concerns that watchdogs and a federal oversight board have long expressed about the lab’s main plutonium facility — which sits atop a fault line — being able to withstand an earthquake. And the Las Conchas Fire that burned its way to the edges of lab property two years ago highlighted the dangers of storing on-site thousands of barrels of toxic waste.

    The audit pushes the lab to move more quickly in securing the plutonium lab (PF-4). It also asks for more effective fire protection for the barrels, which are scheduled to be removed by the end of next year.

    “Because of the nature and importance of the work we do, it is important to regularly assess all aspects of our operations to ensure we are executing our procedures and operational processes appropriately,” McMillan said in the memo.

  • U.S., Russia reach nuke fuel pact

    The National Nuclear Security Administration earlier this week announced that it has monitored the elimination of more than 475 metric tons (MT) of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) under a landmark nuclear nonproliferation program, commonly known as Megatons to Megawatts. With today’s 475 MT HEU milestone, deliveries under the U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement of low enriched uranium (LEU) produced from Russian HEU are 95 percent complete, and HEU roughly equivalent to 19,000 nuclear weapons has been permanently eliminated.
    “The HEU Purchase Agreement has reached yet another important milestone on the path towards blending down and eliminating 500 metric tons of Russian weapons HEU. The HEU Program has been one of the most successful nonproliferation and material disposition programs in U.S. history and is a success we share with our Russian partners,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The President’s nonproliferation goals have been advanced by the hard work and dedication of both U.S. and Russian personnel under the landmark 1993 agreement.”

  • LANL taking steps to remediate chromium plume

    Los Alamos National Laboratory environmental program experts are one step closer to determining the best way to remediate a chromium plume in groundwater beneath Mortandad Canyon. Members of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and laboratory environmental cleanup offices began pumping tests last week at the well known as R-42. The well is east of the lab’s Technical Area 55. These tests are the first key steps directed at addressing the chromium contamination.

    Juan Griego, deputy manager of NNSA’s Los Alamos Field Office, congratulated the employees working on the project.

    “It’s an honor to be here today to represent the NNSA in this important endeavor,” he said as employees opened the valve from which treated water spilled into a fenced-off reservoir. “Congratulations for taking on the challenge and getting us to where we are today.”

    “This is a critical step in our move from investigation to remediation,” said Jeff Mousseau, associate director of the laboratory’s environmental programs directorate, pointing out R-42 is one of several wells that will contribute to the effort.

  • Portable imaging system created

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and Tribogenics, the pioneer of innovative X-ray solutions, have partnered to create a lightweight, compact, low-cost X-ray system that uses the MiniMAX (Miniature, Mobile, Agile, X-ray) camera to provide real-time inspection of sealed containers and facilities.

    The technology will be featured at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Nuclear Security: Enhancing Global Efforts, July 1-5, in Vienna, Austria.

    “Cost and portability are the major barriers to expanding the use of X-ray imaging,” said Scott Watson of Los Alamos’s Nuclear Engineering and Nonproliferation Division. “We designed MiniMAX to demonstrate that such a system will open up new applications in security inspection, field medicine, specimen radiography and industrial inspection.”

    Los Alamos has developed MiniMAX as an alternative to the large, expensive and fixed facilities presently required for security inspections using X-ray imaging.

    The complete MiniMAX portable radiography system weighs less than five pounds, compared to much larger and heavier systems currently available.

    Los Alamos Physicists demonstrated MiniMAX using a conventional X-ray source, a radioisotopic source, and a prototype source from Tribogenics operating at 90 keV.

  • Society names LANL's Porterfield ASTM fellow

    The American Society for Testing Materials presented Donivan Porterfield of LANL’s Actinide Analytical Chemistry group the 2013 Award of Merit, which confers the rank of ASTM Fellow.
    ASTM’s Award of Merit was established in 1949 and is the highest award granted by the Society to an individual member for distinguished service and outstanding participation in ASTM International committee activities.
    The award recognizes Porterfield for his extensive knowledge and commitment to excellence in standards development. Porterfield serves on both the ASTM Nuclear Fuel Cycle International Committee and the ASTM Water International Committee. He has led or contributed to the development of dozens of ASTM standards, methods and practices. Porterfield has received Standards Development Awards, Awards of Appreciation, and Awards of Achievement from the ASTM.
    He won the Harlon J. Anderson Award, the highest award the Nuclear Fuel Cycle International Committee may bestow on an individual, and the Max Hecht Award, the highest award the Water International Committee can bestow on an individual.
    Porterfield has held Membership Chair, Subcommittee Chair, and Task Group Chair positions for both committees.
    Porterfield received a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas – Austin.

  • Coalition presses D.C. for dollars

    The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities announced today that it is leading a 13-member delegation to Washington, D.C. to push for more cleanup funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    The group will meet with members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, as well as top officials at the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration to press for increased federal funding to continue environmental remediation across northern New Mexico.

    “This type of work is incredibly important for the Regional Coalition and our effort has already had a direct impact through the millions of additional dollars LANL received for cleanup funding this year,” said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Chairman of the Regional Coalition. “Without this funding, we would have been even further away from the amount of cleanup dollars that we need for our communities and we could have seen a loss of up to 140 jobs.”

    The Regional Coalition is advocating for at least $255 million in FY14 to maintain ongoing environmental management efforts at LANL.

    The Regional Coalition will likely have a receptive audience when talking with the state’s Congressional delegation.