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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • DOE letter raises questions

    The Department of Energy’s Daniel Poneman recently sent Gov. Susana Martinez a letter regarding how the state would be affected by the sequestration order.

    Was it just a bunch of hype? Or are their dire consequences ahead?

    It’s hard to tell.

    Poneman estimated that reductions to contractors are estimated at $67 million and contractors may be forced to furlough or lay off more than 8,200 employees in New Mexico.

    As far as Los Alamos National Laboratory is concerned, Poneman wrote that DOE would decrease funding to the lab by approximately $61 million. He also said that could result in the furlough or layoffs of another 8,200 employees.

    Poneman also said there would be decreased funding to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, which would decrease the number of radioactive waste shipments.

    The Governor’s office, meanwhile, responded to the DOE letter Saturday.

    “Governor (Susana) Martinez believes we, as New Mexicans, must put aside partisan differences and fight to protect ourselves from indiscriminate federal cuts,” the statement said.

  • Lab promotes Sarrao

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has named John Sarrao as the new Associate Director for Theory, Simulation and Computation. Sarrao joined the laboratory in 1997 as a technical staff member in experimental condensed matter physics.
    He has held a variety of management positions including Materials Physics and Applications division leader. His most current position was LANL’s DOE Office of Science program director and director of the Material Radiation Interactions in Extremes (MaRIE) program.
    The ADTSC is part of the Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology and Engineering organization at Los Alamos. Sarrao will have responsibility for the Advanced Computing Solutions office and Computer, Computational and Statistical Sciences, High Performance Computing and Theoretical divisions.
    “John is a world-class scientist with a distinguished record of discoveries and international recognition,” said Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan. “His track record as a research scientist and his experience leading and managing a large, complex multi-disciplinary technical organization give me full confidence in his abilities.”

  • Lab adds another facility to process nuclear waste

    Los Alamos National Laboratory has brought a third waste repackaging facility online to increase its capability to process nuclear waste for permanent disposal.

    The “375 box line facility” enables Los Alamos to repackage transuranic waste stored in large boxes.

    Built inside a dome once used to house containers of waste at the laboratory, the facility is the largest Perma-Con structure ever constructed. A Perma-Con is a modular structure typically used for radiological or hazardous containment.

    Contaminated items such as equipment and protective clothing, used during past operations at Los Alamos, are removed from their containers inside the structure and then are repackaged for shipment to licensed, permanent disposal facilities.

    The record-setting structure is 110-feet long by 48-feet wide.

    “We needed to build a structure big enough to accommodate these waste boxes, some of which are 40 feet long,” said Jeff Mousseau, associate director of environmental programs at LANL. “These are the largest, most contaminated boxes of waste at Los Alamos, and this facility will give us the capability to repackage them safely.”

    The Perma-Con structure was provided by Radiation Protection Systems, Inc.

  • Manhattan Project agent Safferstein dies at age 92

    NEW YORK (AP) — Nathan Safferstein was barely 21 when circumstances suddenly propelled him from his job as a supermarket manager into the stealth world of a counterintelligence agent on the project that produced the atomic bomb.

    A customer at the Connecticut market had told her brother — an Army intelligence commander — about a bright young prospect. Soon, paperwork was filled out, recommendations made.

    Wartime security being paramount, Safferstein eavesdropped on phone calls of scientists and engineers in Los Alamos to make sure no Manhattan Project secrets were leaked, and delivered bomb-making uranium and top-secret messages.

    He also scrawled his signature on the first A-bomb, called “Little Boy,” dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945. A second bomb leveled Nagasaki on Aug. 9, and Japan surrendered six days later.

    Safferstein died Tuesday night at his home in the Bronx after a long illness, his family said. He was 92.

  • LANL rolls out strategy for environmental sustainability

    The Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Laboratory have rolled out a long-term strategy for environmental stewardship and sustainability that provides a blueprint for safeguarding the environment while accomplishing the laboratory’s national security missions.

    “This plan represents a significant amount of effort on the part of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office to set the standard for Environmental Stewardship in New Mexico,” said Juan Griego, acting manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office. “It is intended to ensure that all actions undertaken by our office to support the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s mission have first taken environmental protection and stewardship into full consideration.”

    The Long-Term Strategy for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability document presents the long-term environmental goals for the laboratory and gives managers a range of decision support tools to help them conduct their work in a way that protects the environment.

  • LANS fund boosts businesses

    Six Native American businesses received grants through a new Native American Venture Acceleration Fund created by Los Alamos National Security, LLC and the Regional Development Corporation.
    The grants are designed to help the recipients create jobs, increase their revenue base and help diversify the area economy.
    Funding comes from LANS, which manages Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department. The Native American Venture Acceleration Fund is managed by the Regional Development Corporation.
    Grant recipients are:
     • San Ildefonso Development Corporation, $20,500, for upgrades to existing account software and training.
     • Three Eagles Development Corporation, Picuris Pueblo, $10,800, update computer and accounting systems, software and hardware.
     • Cochiti Pueblo Development Corporation, $20,000, restructuring of the corporation to include establishing an environmental services firm.
     • Avanyu Construction Services, LLC, San Ildefonso and Ohkay Owingeh pueblos, $25,000, new accounting software to fulfill federal contracting requirements and begin 8A (small disadvantaged business) certification process.
     • Sunbeam Indian Art, San Ildefonso Pueblo, $3,400, develop website capabilities to increase online sales.

  • Regional leaders speak out on sequestration

    The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities announced this morning the endorsement and unanimous support of State Representative Stephanie Garcia Richard’s House Memorial 71 that recognizes the critical importance of New Mexico’s National Laboratories and DOE facilities to the state’s economic welfare and the negative effects that sequestration will have on New Mexico’s economy.
     Los Alamos National Laboratory alone has close to a $3 billion impact on the state’s economy each year and supports more than 24,000 jobs in Northern New Mexico.
    “Sequestration would have a devastating effect on our local communities,” said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, chair of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. “We fully understand the tremendous impact that LANL has on the economy of Northern New Mexico and the continued instability in our federal budget has a ripple effect that is felt from Taos to Espanola to Santa Fe.”
    The Regional Coalition recognizes that Northern New Mexico is highly dependent on federal spending in the area of nuclear technology and sequestration may cause tens of thousands of New Mexicans to lose their jobs through direct and indirect job losses at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • After 23 years, NNSA still on 'the list'

    The U.S. Government Accountability Office has once again targeted the National Nuclear Security Administration and placed it on its “high risk” list.

    The GAO cites the NNSA’s inability to bring in a Los Alamos plutonium factory at a reasonable rate and on schedule.

    The list is put together every two years and it highlights agencies that are “most in need of transformation” because of management and other problems.

    According to the report, this is why NNSA is on the high-risk list.

    “The Department of Energy, the largest civilian contracting agency in the federal government, and relies primarily on contractors to carry out its diverse missions and operate its laboratories and other facilities.

    “Approximately 90 percent of DOE’s budget is spent on contracts and large capital asset projects. GAO designated contract management — which includes both contract administration and project management — as a high-risk area in 1990 because DOE’s record of inadequate management and oversight of contractors has left the department vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.

  • Employee gets $1M from jury

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s operator said it will challenge a jury’s award of $1 million to a lab employee whose lawsuit said an angry supervisor twice made comments about using a gun to resolve on-the-job disputes.

    A jury made the award to Marlayne Mahar earlier this week following a 3 1/2-day trial in District Court in Santa Fe, the Albuquerque Journal reported this morning.

    Mahar’s lawsuit against Los Alamos National Security LLC, the partnership that runs the lab, alleged breach of the lab’s workplace violence policy, breach of contract and acting in bad faith.

    The lab disputed the allegations and said it will challenge the trial’s results.

    The newspaper also reported that Mahar’s lawyer, Tim Butler of Santa Fe, said the jurors listened to evidence from both sides, made the award in Mahar’s favor and that he and Mahar “respect their decision.”

    The suit said a newly hired supervisor in the plutonium processing facility told Mahar in 2009 that a boss could shoot a worker who says the wrong thing. Another female employee days later reported that the same supervisor got angry with her and told her he was going to “bring in a gun and take care of it himself,” according to the suit.

  • No fine for LANL after contamination incident

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory will not be fined by the Department of Energy’s Office of Enforcement after a contamination incident at the Neutron Science Center last year.

    According to a federal report, 30 workers were contaminated with radioactive Technetium-99 in an incident last August.

    According to a letter sent to Lab Director Charlie McMillan from the DOE Office of Enforcement, LANS identified beta contamination at the LANSCE Luján Center and adjoining building 622. The highest contamination levels were found at the Luján Center, inside experimental area room ER-1, with levels exceeding 240 million disintegrations per minute (dpm) per I00 cm 2 (i.e., the maximum reading for the measurement device used).

    Offsite, at least nine homes were found with beta contamination, at levels up to 64,000 dpm. Five employees were identified with skin contamination at levels up to 16,800 dpm, and 25 employees had contaminated personal clothing and items with levels up to 980,000 dpm.

    The federal accident investigation called the contamination completely preventable and described a culture of lax adherence to typical safety procedures at the lab’s Neutron Science Center, where a technician unknowingly reused a canister that had contained radioactive Technetium-99, triggering the contamination.