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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Van Allen probes pinpoint driver of speeding electrons

    Researchers believe they have solved a lingering mystery about how electrons within Earth’s radiation belt can suddenly become energetic enough to kill orbiting satellites. Thanks to data gathered from an intrepid pair of NASA probes roaming the harsh space environment within the Van Allen radiation belts, scientists have identified an internal electron accelerator operating within the belts.
    “For years we thought the Van Allen belts were pretty well behaved and changed slowly,” said Geoffrey Reeves of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Intelligence and Space Research Division. “With more measurements, however, we realized how quickly and unpredictably the radiation belts change, and now we have real evidence that the changes originate from within the belts themselves.”
    In a paper released today in Science Express, Reeves and colleagues from the University of New Hampshire, University of Colorado at Boulder, NASA Goddard Flight Center, Aerospace Corporation, University of California-Los Angeles, and University of Iowa, describe a mechanism by which electrons suddenly accelerate to fantastic speeds within the Van Allen belts— a pair of donut shaped zones of charged particles that surround Earth and occupy the inner region of our planet’s Magnetosphere.

  • India honors Raju

    The government of India honored former Los Alamos scientist and Laboratory Fellow Mudundi Raju with a Padma Shri award this year for his distinguished service in science and engineering, providing cancer radiation treatment to the poor of rural India.

    “The aim of science is to improve the human condition,” said Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine, and Raju has taken this statement to heart. Raju works “with a hope to build a small bridge between rapid developments in medical advances and the life of a common man,” he said, and he is an internationally known scientist in the field of radiation treatments for cancer. He retired from the laboratory in 1994 to devote himself to providing appropriate cancer radiation treatment to residents of rural India.

    The Padma Shri is the fourth highest civilian award after the Bharat Ratna, the Padma Vibhushan and the Padma Bhushan, given by the Indian government at the Rashtrapati Bhavra in New Delhi.

    The scientist now serves as managing trustee of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical Trust, dedicated to serving the needs of the rural poor in the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India.

    In the cancer radiation treatment center, 2,788 patients, 65 percent of them women, have been registered between 2004 and 2012.

  • McMillan talks of lab's past, present, future

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan offered a bit of a history lesson this week when the lab hosted a series of lectures and tours to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

    McMillan cited the first Los Alamos Primer, which came out in 1943 and made up a second primer, which came out this week.

    The first primer, though, relived what it was like for those recruited that made their way to Los Alamos to take part in the Manhattan Project.

    “The U.S. entry into the Atomic Age had been slow and cautious. But when the United States entered World War II and faced the carnage of the war, fighting and genocide had already claimed millions of lives,” McMillan wrote.

    “Obtaining the bomb before Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan was imperative. The brightest students (their average age was 24) were recruited from the nation’s best colleges and universities.

  • Hurricane season: Predicting in advance what could happen

    A Sandia National Laboratories team with the help of the Los Alamos National Laboratory is gearing up for hurricane season, readying analyses to help people in the eye of a storm.
    The Department of Homeland Security’s National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), jointly housed at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, studies how hurricanes and other disasters disrupt critical infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and water systems.
    Hurricane season began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. It generally peaks in August and September, notwithstanding Superstorm Sandy’s appearance late last October.
    With the onset of hurricane season, NISAC has two jobs: conducting annual “hurricane swath” analyses of probable impacts on the Gulf Coast and East Coast and providing quick analyses of crisis response in the face of an imminent hurricane threat to the United States.
    A swath analysis looks at how a hurricane might interrupt critical services and at impacts to infrastructure specific to an area, such as petroleum and petrochemical industries in Houston or financial services in New York City. It also looks at such things as the economic impact of the storm or how it could upset food deliveries.

  • Two new exhibits to open at Bradbury

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bradbury Science Museum is opening two new exhibits Friday as part of the laboratory’s 70th Anniversary celebration.
    One is a nanotechnology exhibit featuring the laboratory’s Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) and the other is an algae biofuel exhibit from the laboratory and the New Mexico Consortium.
    An opening reception for the two exhibits is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the downtown museum.
    “We’re pleased to open two new exhibits, on some of the Laboratory’s latest research, as part of our 70th anniversary year. I’m sure these exhibits will broaden the public’s knowledge and appreciation of Los Alamos National Laboratory,” Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck said.
    “Nanotechnology—The Science of the Small,” demonstrates the importance of understanding how nanoparticles work, while “Algae to Biofuels: Squeezing Power from Pond Scum,” gives visitors an overview of algae biofuels.

  • Citizens board schedules next meeting

    The Northern New Mexico Citizens’ Advisory Board (NNMCAB) will have its next meeting from 1-7 p.m. July 31 at Fuller Lodge.
    The New Mexico Environment Department, Los Alamos National Security, Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency will be attending to provide status updates.
     At 2:45 p.m. DOE/LANS will be presenting on Regional Monitoring and the Consent Order.
    At 3:30, Kurt Steinhaus and Michael Brandt will present the results of the Community Survey on Environment.
    The board will consider action on Draft Recommendations 2013-08 “Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Storage Space for LANL”. The public will have opportunity to address the board and voice their questions and concerns during the two scheduled public comment periods, at 1:15 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    The meeting concludes with comments from the board members. 

  • Wildfires may contribute more to global warming

    Wildfires produce a witch’s brew of carbon-containing particles, as anyone downwind of a forest fire can attest. A range of fine carbonaceous particles rising high into the air significantly degrade air quality, damaging human and wildlife health, and interacting with sunlight to affect climate.

    Measurements taken during the 2011 Las Conchas fire near Los Alamos National Laboratory show that the actual carbon-containing particles emitted by fires are very different than those used in current computer models, providing the potential for inaccuracy in current climate-modeling results.

    “We’ve found that substances resembling tar balls dominate, and even the soot is coated by organics that focus sunlight,” said senior laboratory scientist Manvedra Dubey, “Both components can potentially increase climate warming by increased light absorption.”

    The Las Conchas fire emissions findings underscore the need to provide a framework to include realistic representation of carbonaceous aerosols in climate models, the researchers say. They suggest that fire emissions could contribute a lot more to the observed climate warming than current estimates indicate.

  • Community leaders breakfast

    LANL Director Charlie McMillan spoke with Meralys Stephens and Lucretia Jenkins of the Santa Claran Hotel and Casino, and at Wednesday’s Community Leaders Breakfast at LANL. McMillan then updated the crowd on what has been happening at the lab, which is holding a variety of activities to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

  • IG views groundwater data more favorably

    The Department of Energy Inspector General gave the Los Alamos National Laboratory a passing grade when it comes to its characterization wells.

    It was the second time in eight years that the DOE IG has examined LANL’s characterization report.

    In that 2005 report, the IG said “we noted that the use of mud rotary drilling methods during well construction was contrary to specific constraints established in Resource Conservation and Recovery Act guidance. We also noted that muds and other drilling fluids that remained in certain wells after construction created a chemical environment that could mask the presence of radionuclide contamination and compromise the reliability of groundwater contamination data.

    The report, that was released July 9, said, “specifically, we noted that Los Alamos no longer uses mud rotary drilling methods during well construction, and appropriate steps have been taken to ensure data derived from monitoring wells is reliable. Additionally, we found that responsibility for the monitoring well program had been transferred to the New Mexico Environmental Department.”

    On March 1, 2005, a consent order was agreed to by NMED, DOE and the University of California, which was the prior management company of the lab before Los Alamos National Security LLC., took over in 2006.

  • Hazmat Challenge set for July 30

    Twelve hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Missouri and Oklahoma will test their skills at the 17th annual Hazmat Challenge July 30 through Aug. 2 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    “The challenge provides hazardous materials responders the opportunity to test their skills, network with other response agencies, and learn new techniques through realistic hazardous materials release scenarios in a safe, non-hazardous environment,” said Chris Rittner of the Laboratory’s Emergency Operations Division.
    Held at Los Alamos’ Technical Area 49, the event requires participants to respond to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving a rail car, a clandestine laboratory, various modes of transportation, industrial piping scenarios, a simulated radiological release and a confined space event.
    The finale of the Hazmat Challenge is a skills-based obstacle course; teams are graded and earn points based on their ability to perform response skills through a 10-station obstacle course while using fully encapsulating personal protective equipment.
    The Laboratory began the Hazmat Challenge in 1996 as a way to hone the skills of its own hazmat team members.