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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Order modified to include Intellus NM

    The National Nuclear Security Administration and Los Alamos National Security, LLC, submitted a modification to the March 1, 2005 Consent Order and received approval for requested modification from the New Mexico Environment Department Hazardous Waste Bureau.

    The Class 1* equivalent modification to the Consent Order was submitted to the NMED-HWB Oct. 22.

    The modification added a new section, Section III.Z, Public Environmental Database, that requires the maintenance of a publicly accessible database containing data from environmental media collected as part of environmental investigation and monitoring activities. The NMED-HWB approved the modification Oct. 29.  The name of the database is Intellus NM,

    The new Consent Order requirement replaces the Risk Analysis, Communication, Evaluation and Reduction (RACER) database which was terminated by NMED-HWB on Oct. 30.

    “Adding this enforceable requirement to the Consent Order ensures that the laboratory will continue to make its environmental data available to the public,” said Pete Maggiore, assistant manager of the Environmental Projects Office for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Site Office.

  • Lab begins tearing down TA-21 enclosures

    Demolition of the metal buildings used to shield the public from potentially hazardous materials during the excavation and cleanup of a decades old waste disposal site at the historic Technical Area 21 situated along DP Road is now underway.

    Some prep activities are beginning this week and the work should be completed by the end of March 2013, lab officials said. The project brings the laboratory closer to transferring the six-acre tract of land to Los Alamos County at some point in the future.

    The metal structures, which look like a modern interpretation of the Quonset hut, were erected in 2010 to protect workers and the public from exposure to hazardous and radiological contamination while excavating and packaging contaminated debris and soil from Material Disposal Area B.

    “Removal of the structures marks the completion of a highly successful environmental cleanup project at Material Disposal Area B,” said Ed Worth, federal project manager with the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Site Office. “We look forward to the day we officially turn the property over for the benefit of our community.”

  • Regional Coalition cracks WIPP

    The Regional Coalition of  Los Alamos National Laboratory Communities took a field trip to Southern New Mexico last week. Fourteen members toured the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and met with Carlsbad and Eddy County officials to discuss mutual concerns.

    “They really rolled out the red carpet for us. The mayor of Carlsbad, Dale Janway, was extremely appreciative. He had a dinner that recognized Los Alamos for taking the lead in putting the coalition together,” Council Chair Sharon Stover said.

    The trip was enhanced by County Administrator Harry Burgess’ close ties to Carlsbad. Burgess was city administrator of Carlsbad for six years before accepting his position here.

    “The City of Carlsbad obviously still has a great deal of confidence in Harry,” Stover said. City officials even let Burgess drive the boat for a tour down the Pecos River.

    The highlight of the trip was a very detailed tour of the WIPP facility.

    The coalition watched trucks arrive with LANL waste shipments, saw the “remote” waste area (waste handled robotically instead of with human contact), then descended 2,150 feet and took golf carts into the bowels of the salt mine to see where the waste is deposited. Stover said it was like being in an Indiana Jones movie.

  • Some wary of NMED move

    More details emerged Wednesday afternoon concerning the termination of the Chromium Agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Department of Energy.

    NMED concluded that the terms of the Chromium Settlement Agreement were met as follows:
    • Payment of a civil penalty in the amount of $251,870.00 on July 13, 2007;
    • Modification of the March 1, 2005 Order was modified on June 28, 2008 to add a section requiring notification of detections and increases in contaminant concentrations in groundwater and that this modification would be a Class 2 modification if made under the Permit;
    • Creation of a publicly accessible database containing information related to the presence and concentrations of contaminants in environmental media; “The termination of the Chromium Settlement will provide continued transparency by allowing public access to a database on reporting requirements stipulated by the Consent Order,” said NMED Secretary Dave Martin.

    “The information provided in the database is important for the public to access in the long-term.”

  • McDowell to speak at Fuller Lodge

    What are the exact physiological mechanisms that lead to tree death during prolonged drought and rising temperatures?
    These are the questions that scientists are trying to answer at a Los Alamos National Laboratory research project called SUMO. SUMO stands for SUrvival/MOrtality study; it’s a plot of land on the lab’s southern border that features 18 climate controlled tree study chambers and a large drought structure that limits rain and snowfall.
    There is a growing body of evidence suggesting vegetation mortality during drought or periods of high temperatures is rising both locally and globally.
    Resolving these questions is essential to improve global climate models and to improving our understanding and modeling of climate-terrestrial impacts and feedbacks.
    Nate McDowell, a staff scientist in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory will share his research methods and results with the community at 7 p.m. today at Fuller Lodge.  
    He was awarded a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellowship at LANL in 2003. McDowell studies the interdependency of plant and ecosystem water and carbon cycles and their response to climate and disturbance.

  • IG scrutinizes management challenges at DOE

    The Department of Energy Inspector General released a report last week illustrating the management challenges at DOE.

    Inspector General Gregory Friedman wrote that “based on the results of our body of work over the last year, we have concluded that the list of management challenges for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 should remain largely consistent with that of the previous year. While positive strides have been made in a number of areas, many of the department’s most significant management challenges are not amenable to immediate resolution.

    Those management challenges include:
    • Operational efficiency and cost savings
    • Contract and financial assistance award management
    • Cyber security
    • Energy supply
    • Environmental cleanup
    • Human capital management
    • Nuclear waste disposal
    • Safeguards and security
    • Stockpile stewardship

    Friedman said the IG’s office has also developed a “watch list,” which came up after the recent events at the Y-12 National Security Complex where three trespassers gained access to a classified area. They defaced the building and they were not interrupted by any of the security measures in place.

  • NMED agrees to end Chromium settlement

    The New Mexico Environment Department agreed Monday to terminate the Chromium Settlement Agreement that has been in place with Los Alamos National Laboratory since 2007.

    “NMED has reviewed the Agreement and concludes that the terms of the Agreement have been met,” the notification letter dated Oct. 30 from David Martin, secretary of NMED reads.

    In the notification, Martin recaps some of the benchmarks that led up to the termination, chiefly that LANL has “created a publicly accessible database containing information related to the presence and concentrations of contaminants in environmental media (Agreement Item 28).”

    Furthermore, Martin stipulates that lab officials “will maintain, and continue to update, the database in accordance with Section III.Z of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Compliance Order on Consent Dated March 1, 2005 as modified on October 29, 2012 (Agreement Item 29).”

    In conclusion, the letter from Martin said, “NMED hereby terminates the Settlement Agreement and Final Order HWB 07-27 (CO).”

    In 2007, NMED reached a settlement with LANL over the lab’s failure to report chromium contamination in a monitoring well. The department said the lab paid a $251,870 penalty as part of the settlement.

  • Lab’s community plan soldiers on

    Back in September, the Board of Governors of Los Alamos National Security, LLC unanimously approved recommendations to continue its $3 million a year contribution to support a Community Commitment Plan.

    It was not a total slam dunk and there was some uncertainty about whether the program would carry forward.

    According to Connections, the Los Alamos National Lab’s in-house magazine, LANS approved the plan even though it was not contractually obligated to continue the CCP, as it had been for the first seven years of its contract with NNSA.
    The plan provides the lab’s Community Programs Office with funding from LANS’ management fee to invest in regional education, economic development and charitable giving programs.

    “Reasons to approve a new plan were many, and I’m especially appreciative of the board’s decision because the plan is no longer a specific contractual obligation,” said the lab’s Community Programs Office director Kurt Steinhaus.

    “We listened to many Northern New Mexicans and worked diligently to demonstrate that the previous $3 million LANS spent each year since 2006 in education, economic development, and community giving had a meaningful return on investment for the community and LANL.”

  • LANL scientist to speak Monday

    Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Michael Graesser will describe the Higgs boson particle during a Frontiers in Science series talk at 7 p.m. Monday in the Duane Smith Auditorium at Los Alamos High School.
    “A new particle was discovered last summer at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. The Higgs boson gives mass to quarks and the electron but we don’t know yet if this new particle is the Higgs boson,” said Graesser, of the Laboratory’s Theoretical Division. “I will describe what we know about this new particle and speculate about discoveries that might now be on the horizon.”
    Graesser will do similar discussions at the following locations:
    • Nov. 2 in the James A. Little Theater of the New Mexico School for the Deaf, 1060 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe
    • Nov. 8 in the Nick Salazar Center for the Arts, Northern New Mexico College, 921 Paseo de Oñate, Española
    • Nov. 9 at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road N.W., Albuquerque.
    All the talks begin at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

  • LANL hosts annual LDRD day

    Los Alamos National Laboratory conducted its fourth annual Laboratory Directed Research and Development day at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino Tuesday.
    Part of the activities involved attendees voting on best posters that are designed to explain LDRD work being done at the lab. By popular vote this year, the Best Poster Award went to Jennifer Hollingsworth and her team for “The Path to Nanoparticle Cancer Drugs.”
    “In contrast with small-particle chemotherapy drugs, nanoparticle-based therapies promise fewer side effects and improved performance. Traditional therapies attack both cancerous and healthy cells indiscriminately, which can lead to drug resistance and often force physicians to back off doses. Nanoparticles promise direct delivery of therapeutic agents to the cancer tumor. However, accurate targeting demands alternate, multifunctional nanoparticles. We aim to develop and test novel “inverted” nanoshell particles to provide the required combination of functionalities: imaging, so they can be tracked to the tumor, and selective therapy,” the LDRD program stated.
    Steven Brumby’s project, “Human-Like Computer Vision Using Deep, Sparse Models,” received the Poster of Exceptional Excellence award.