Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Plaue named DNFSB site rep

    The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board announced Jonathan Plaue as a site representative at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    Plaue will join Todd Davis and Richard Verhaagen, the board’s current site reps, starting in November.
    As a site representative, Plaue will advise the board regarding overall safety conditions at LANL and will participate in technical reviews by the board and its staff related to the design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of defense nuclear facilities.
    He also will assess LANL’s stockpile stewardship activities and design agency support of nuclear weapon operations performed elsewhere in the defense nuclear complex.
    Additionally, he will act as the board’s liaison with the Department of Energy and LANL management, federal, state and local agencies, the public, and industry officials.
    Prior to this assignment, Dr. Plaue served as the site rep at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
    Before his assignment at LLNL, he served as the board’s technical staff lead for safety oversight at LANL. His earlier assignments at the board included technical reviews and safety analyses related to nuclear chemical processing, high-level waste treatment and stabilization, and nuclear materials processing and storage.

  • Moniz pays visit to LANL, Sandia

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was in town visiting the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the new algae research laboratory built by the New Mexico Consortium and he said that Los Alamos and all the DOE labs have a major role in addressing two key initiatives of the President.

    “In view of the President’s emphasis on nuclear security and climate change, the work at Los Alamos has never been more important,” Moniz said.

    Moniz also addressed Los Alamos employees and received briefings on the laboratory’s nuclear weapons and intelligence work. It was the first visit by a DOE secretary to Los Alamos since 2009.
    Moniz was accompanied by Rep. Ben Ray Luján and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology President Daniel Lopez.

    Moniz also met privately with Gov. Susana Martinez.

    Here is a statement from the governor’s office.

    “The governor was pleased to meet with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz in Los Alamos during his brief visit to New Mexico.

  • Pueblo closes access to monitoring station

    The San Ildefonso Pueblo is shutting off access to one of the monitoring stations that is part of the early notification system that the Department of Energy pledged to the Buckman Direct Diversion Project.
    In a letter dated Aug. 9 to Peter Maggiore of the Los Alamos Site Office, Governor Terry Aguilar wrote that the pueblo was terminating all agreements in relation to station E109.9 (also referred to as E11O) located within the pueblo’s boundaries.
    The station is one of three that automatically collects water samples when they detect water flowing. There are two other stations further upstream that do the same thing.
    Aguilar wrote, “As you are aware, there are several agreements that pertain to access to site installation of and use of equipment such as cameras and telemetry systems. There are also pending requests to install additional equipment. The Pueblo has become increasingly concerned about the expansion of the activities as the site and what has become an expanded footprint for what had initially started out as a limited monitoring site.
    “In addition, it appears there are several safety and environmental issues that are occurring at the site.

  • New gamma-ray observatory begins operations at Mexican volcano

    The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma Ray Observatory has begun formal operations at its site in Mexico.
    HAWC is designed to study the origin of very high-energy cosmic rays and observe the most energetic objects in the known universe. This extraordinary observatory, using a unique detection technique that differs from the classical astronomical design of mirrors, lenses, and antennae, is a significant boost to international scientific and technical knowledge.
    “The HAWC observatory will search for signals from dark matter and to study some of the most extreme objects in the universe, such as supermassive black holes and exploding stars,” said Brenda Dingus, principal investigator and a research fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dingus is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and in 2000 was a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
    HAWC is located at an altitude of 4,100 meters on the slope of the volcanoes Sierra Negra and Pico de Orizaba at the border between the states of Puebla and Veracruz.

  • Reliability Technology wins LA Award

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has honored Michael Hamada, Harry Martz and a team of LANL researchers with its first Richard Feynman Prize for Innovation Achievement for the team’s long and successful collaboration with Procter & Gamble.

    Hamada, Martz and their colleagues worked with Procter & Gamble for years developing a concept known as Reliability Technology—a statistical method that P&G has used to streamline its manufacturing processes and save more than a billion dollars a year in costs by increasing uptime in their plants worldwide.

    “Now that the Reliability Technology system has been fully developed by Procter & Gamble, they are bringing the system back to Los Alamos to help us improve our manufacturing operations related to our national security mission,” said Terry Wallace, Principal Associate Director for Global Security at Los Alamos, who awarded the Feynman Prize to Martz and Hamada. “This is an example of ‘full-cycle’ innovation: We bring mission-essential tools to bear on an important complementary problem for industry; it helps us perform our primary mission job, and the innovation comes back to help the laboratory in another area.”

  • Director challenges cuts

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan reportedly sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in July warning of dire consequences for the plutonium mission if sufficient funding is not secured.

    According to a letter obtained by the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor, McMillan cited the lack of action on a $120 million reprogramming request from the NNSA to begin work on an alternative plutonium strategy and the funding cuts included in both versions of the FY 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations bills.

    Congress has not signed off on the reprogramming request, which came about when the decision was made to defer the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.

    There have been reports the lab is considering an alternative strategy based on a modular approach to maintain the nation’s plutonium capabilities.

  • NNSA completes radiation training in Taiwan

    The NNSA this week conducted an advanced course in radiation medical (Advanced I-MED) training at the Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital in Taiwan. The course had 60 participants from hospitals mostly from southern Taiwan. The course was sponsored by the Taiwan Atomic Energy Council and Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital. Training was conducted by NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operation’s Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site (REAC/TS).

  • NNSA, Tajikstan sign MOU

    The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Tajikistan’s Nuclear and Radiation Safety Agency signed a memorandum of understanding April 29, that will strengthen efforts to deter, detect and interdict the illicit smuggling of special nuclear and other radiological materials.

    “This agreement represents the shared commitment of both the United States and Tajikistan to combat nuclear smuggling,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The deployment of advanced radiation detection technologies, which will be provided to Tajikistan under the agreement, will enhance our mutual security efforts.”

  • Safety board visits LANL

    The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is in town, conducting its annual site visit to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    According to lab spokesman Fred DeSousa, four of the five members of the board are on the visit along with several staff members. They met with lab and Site Office staff Tuesday and Wednesday.

    “We are briefing them on their topics of interest, including the status of PF-4 improvements, transuranic waste operations and emergency response,” DeSousa said. “The board will tour PF-4 and our Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility. In this case, there is no public hearing scheduled for this site visit.”

    The main topic of conversation likely will be PF-4.

    NNSA acting administrator Bruce Held sent a letter to DNFSB chairman Peter Winokur, regarding the conduct of operations and the implementation of criticality safety controls at PF-4.

    In June, lab director Charlie McMillan paused all programmatic activities at the facility and in early August some of those activities resumed.

    But not all.

    Held’s letter detailed the corrective actions the lab has taken in regards to PF-4 and by Dec. 6, Held said the NNSA will provide the DNFSB with a fully developed plan and an updated status of progress.

  • Robots to take over Bradbury

    Employees and the public can see and drive a variety of different robots at Robotics Night from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday, at the Bradbury Science Museum.
    Robots from the Laboratory’s Hazardous Devices Team, the FIRST Robotics Leagues, UNM-Los Alamos, the Los Alamos Police Department and other local enthusiasts will be at the museum.
    Demonstrations will include the laboratory’s robots each weighing in at more than 500 pounds and the Los Alamos Police Department’s Bomb Squad robot. UNM-LA’s robotics program also will have many of their student-built bots on display with information on their degree program offerings.
    In addition, attendees can operate the robotic arm on display at the museum acting out possible real-life scenarios. The arm is similar to the kind used in hot cells and glove boxes at the laboratory.
    Also featured will be Sumo Bot battles. The Sumo robots are autonomous, battery powered and controlled by an Arduino or a similar processor.
    Competitors will battle to push each other out of the ring with only their sensors and programming to guide them.
    A number of other Arduinos also will be on display for the evening in an Arduino Zoo.