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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • IG scrutinizes cyber security

    The Department of Energy Inspector General has been monitoring the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s cyber security safeguards and those costs.

    And it still has a fair amount of concerns.

    The report said, “We were unable to obtain an accurate amount due to the laboratory’s limited ability to track its IT spending.  The audit found that while additional action is needed, LANL had taken steps to address concerns regarding its cyber security program raised in prior evaluations. 

    “However, our audit identified continuing concerns related to LANL’s implementation of risk management, system security testing and vulnerability management practices.”

    The report said the issues identified occurred, in part, because of a lack of effective monitoring and oversight of LANL’s cyber security program by the Los Alamos Site Office, including approval of practices that were less rigorous than those required by Federal directives.  In response, NNSA management concurred with the findings and recommendations and agreed to take necessary corrective actions. 

    LANL, meanwhile, released the following statement concerning the cyber security audit.

  • Report details sequestration fallout

    The Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee released a report on sequestration.

    The news did not look as bad for Los Alamos as it did for other National Nuclear Security Administration sites.

    The report indicated that LANL would have to enact a furlough for more than 500 employees for about two weeks if Congress does not come up with a resolution before March 1.

    It’s worse at other sites, according to the report.

    Sequestration would require the Y-12 site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., to furlough 700-1,000 of 4,500 employees for a period of up to six months.

    The Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas will furlough up to 2,500 employees for 3 weeks. and Sandia National Labs will lay off up to 100 positions and forgo hiring staff to support the B61 bomb life extension program.

    The report stated, “the NNSA plays a critical national security role in developing and maintaining the Nation’s nuclear deterrent. In the area of our nuclear weapons stockpile, efforts to refurbish and extend the life of several weapons systems would be delayed, including the B-61, leading to increased costs and impacts to deployment and readiness in the future.

  • Funding available for N.M. businesses

    The Venture Acceleration Fund of Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the company that manages and operates Los Alamos National Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration, is accepting applications for the 2013 calendar year.

    Companies selected will receive awards that can range from $10,000 to $100,000 in order to commercialize technology and take it to market faster.

    VAF helps innovative companies reach the next level of success through business and technology development activities, such as proof-of-concept, prototyping, securing initial customers or obtaining additional funding. Companies located in the Northern New Mexico counties of Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Sandoval, Rio Arriba, Taos, San Miguel and Mora are given preference for funding, as are projects associated with Los Alamos technology or expertise.

    The application deadline is March 1.

    “The quality of applications has increased greatly over the years, so we expect the process will be competitive for 2013,” said David Pesiri, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technology Transfer Division leader. “Nevertheless, our team often assists those companies that aren’t selected by connecting them with other resources to meet their specific needs and achieve good commercialization outcomes for the most customers possible.”

  • Education conference set for Santa Fe

    Up to 300 students from middle and high schools in Northern New Mexico will explore science and math through hands-on experiments and presentations at the 34th annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. March 2 at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, Marcy Street, Santa Fe.
    LANL partners with the New Mexico Network for Women in Science and Engineering, Los Alamos Women in Science, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the LANL Foundation, Santa Fe Institute and Flow Science Inc., in Santa Fe, for EYH to increase awareness of, and interest in science, technology, engineering and math activities and careers. The Santa Fe City Council also is a co-sponsor.
    Early registration for this year’s conference ends Friday, but additional registrations will be accepted up to Feb. 25 as space is available. Walk-in registrations may be taken on the day of the event, but contact the registrar first by writing to eyh-registrar@lanl.gov by email.
    For more information, send an email to eyh13@lanl.gov by email or go to the EYH web page at nmnwse.org.

  • Manhattan Project Park still possible

    All hope was not lost as bills to create the Manhattan Project National Historic Park stalled in Congress last session.
    The legislation appears to have a new lease on life and supporters are optimistic about the chances of seeing a new national park by the end of the current session.

    The proposed park would encompass historical sites in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., and together they tell the story of the secret project to build the first atomic weapons during World War II.

    New Mexico’s recently retired Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) sponsored the bill in the Senate last session. Bingaman was chair of the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources, where bills regarding public lands receive a first hearing.

    The committee’s new chair, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), has expressed support for the proposed park in the past.

    Supporters were also excited to learn that newly elected Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who voted for the bill as a member of the House last session, was named to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

  • McMillan: Workforce reduction not viable

    Sequestration impact scenarios continue to dominate the news.

    Sequestration was enacted in the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

    The debt ceiling was raised in 2011 in exchange for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, which were to be determined by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives, known as a “super committee.”

    If no deal is reached by the committee, automatic, across the board cuts of 10 percent will go into effect.

    The next deadline is fast approaching March 1.

    Meanwhile, there has been quite a bit of speculation as to how sequestration may impact the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    In a memo to employees Wednesday, Lab Director Charlie McMillan said workforce reduction was not a viable option in dealing with sequestration impacts.

    “In the coming days and weeks you will likely see media reports about possible budget reduction scenarios and their impacts to the laboratory, McMillan wrote.

  • New process speeds conversion of biomass to fuels

    Scientists took a major step forward recently toward transforming biomass-derived molecules into fuels. The team led by Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers elucidated the chemical mechanism of the critical steps, which can be performed under relatively mild, energy-efficient conditions. The journal Catalysis Science & Technology published the research.
    “Efficient conversion of non-food biomass into fuels and chemical feedstocks could reduce society’s dependence on foreign oil and ensure the long-term availability of renewable materials for consumer products,” said John Gordon, one of the senior Los Alamos scientists on the project.
    “Also, efficient conversion could decrease the production of greenhouse gases. However, current technologies to convert biomass into fuels require extreme conditions of high temperatures and high pressures, both of which make the conversion process prohibitively expensive.”
    The study provides important insight into a critical step in biomass fuels synthesis and it may enable the design of better, non-precious-metal catalysts and processes for large-scale transformation of biomass into fuels and commodity chemicals.
    For more than a century, chemists focused on a “more is better” approach, adding functionality to molecules, not removing it.

  • Scrap metal plan draws fire

    SANTA FE (AP) — The federal government is drawing opposition from the steel industry and others for its proposal to commercially recycle scrap metal from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear sites.
    The Department of Energy recommends that scrap metal exposed on its surface to radiation be recycled if the metal is uncontaminated or if radiation levels are low enough. The department released a draft environmental assessment in December.
    According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the proposal includes about 350 metric tons of scrap metal at Los Alamos.
    The scrap would include metal from file cabinets, tools, equipment and structural steel from demolished buildings. It would be mixed with other scrap metal and melted down for use in new products.
    The head of a steel producers group said the proposal could risk contamination of food cans, building beams and car parts.
    “Scrap metal that is potentially contaminated by radiation should not be released into the general stream of commerce. Period,” Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said in a Jan. 30 statement.
    A public comment period on the draft assessment ends Monday.
    In 2000, Bill Richardson, who was U.S. energy secretary at the time, decided against allowing sales of contaminated scrap metal.

  • Lawmakers seek reformer

    Members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham, are asking President Obama to nominate a candidate to lead the Nuclear National Security Administration who will work with Congress to reform the agency and maintain the highest scientific and technical capabilities at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.
    In a letter to President Obama, the federal lawmakers who represent the two labs say, “The NNSA has recently suffered from a series of ongoing management, security and budgetary problems and effective new leadership is needed now to restore the confidence of the public and of their representatives in Congress.”
    “We believe there is an opportunity now to make substantial improvement in NNSA’s management and oversight responsibilities and we urge you to nominate someone with the leadership ability to help guide the transformation.”  
    In their request, they emphasize the need to maintain adequate budgets for LANL and SNL in light of current federal budget constraints to support and grow the missions of the labs, maintain a strong employee workforce and complete environmental cleanup.

  • LANL security remains tight

    Residents that routinely drive through the gates of the Los Alamos National Laboratory at the intersection of Diamond Drive and West Jemez Road probably have noticed one key security change: having to present a photo ID. Vehicles are now also subject to random searches.

    According to Michael Lansing, associate director for Safeguards and Security for LANL, that change started in late December, and LANL has been implementing other, less public changes based on recent information.

    “We want the community to know what we’re doing,” Lansing told attendees at a recent business breakfast hosted by the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce. “We know that does impact the community when we do things in a security space and we’re sensitive in ensuring that what we do is one, you’re informed, and two, just as importantly, we take into consideration the impacts on the community the things we’re going to do,” he said.

    As far as the vehicle searches go, Lansing said there is no rhyme or reason to the increased scrutiny.