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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Uncertainty goes on at Los Alamos lab

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan kept coming back to one word when describing the year that was to a group of community leaders at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino Tuesday.

    Uncertainty.

    McMillan said the lab finished 2012 with $383 million less in funding than 2011. The 2011 reductions include $183 million for operations and maintenance and $200 million for construction.

    In addition, McMillan said the lab finished 2012 with 1,295 fewer employees than in the previous year.

    “We are now at our lowest numbers since 2001,” McMillan said in reference to headcount at the lab.

    Of the 1,295 employees that left the lab, 557 departed under the voluntary separation program in the spring. McMillan said other the other numbers could be attributed to contactor cuts, normal attrition and slightly fewer students.

    In total, there are 10,400 employees at the lab with 7,000 of them classified as regular LANS employees.

    McMillan said procurements are down by close to $200 million from FY 11. In September of last year, the lab racked up $894 million in procurements compared to $696 million this year.

    “2012 was very challenging for us financially,” McMillan said.

    But he said the efforts to control costs have been successful.

  • State of the lab

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan addresses a group of community business leaders at the Buffalo Thunder Casino and Resort Tuesday morning. McMillan talked about the state of LANL and more details will be available in Wednesday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

  • PRObE computer center opens

    According to high school student and PRObE Center volunteer Samuel Wang, this is kind of what a “supercomputer” is.

    “Imagine a supercomputer as a bunch of personal computers hooked up with several miles of cable to a massive server that’s fueled by a large power source,” he said.

    In other words, good luck in beating it at chess. Just like how the average computer used to take up several large rooms in the 1950s, those rooms are now reserved for the supercomputers, devices with so much memory and processing power behind them they are reserved for only the really big tasks, such as figuring out how to stop global warming, predicting the outcome of a world war and whatever else programmers may ask them to do.

    However, these machines do have a couple of weaknesses.

    Because of the way supercomputers are engineered, (miles of cable, made up of a lot of smaller computers, special cooling systems, etc.) they are sometimes very temperamental and can’t easily be made to switch tasks quickly like your personal computer can. Plus, once they are incorporated into a certain environment, these computers are usually relegated to doing whatever job it’s originally tasked with for rest of its working life.

  • HASC wants CMRR decision reassessed

    The deferred Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement project at LANL still has some fans in Washington.

    And most of them are on the House Armed Services Committee in addition to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    According to the trade publication Nuclear Materials Monitor, the HASC is not ready to approve the National Nuclear Security Administration’s request to reprogram $120 million for an alternate plutonium strategy.

    In fact, the HASC is insistent that there should be widespread changes in management across the weapons complex.

    The trade publication and the Los Alamos Study Group obtained a letter from HASC Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) to DOE Deputy Chief Financial Officer Joanne Choi, which took offense with the decision to defer construction of the CMRR-NF. That decision prompted DOE to ask the government to reprogram funds to pursue an alternative plutonium strategy.

    In his letter, McKeon called the deferral “hasty” with “poorly understood” impacts that are based on “only the most rudimentary and preliminary analysis,” McKeon urged the Administration — “at the highest levels ”— to reassess the decision to defer the CMRR-NF and consider broader management reforms.

  • Probe dedication

    Gary Grider, LANL HPC Division, talks about the new PRObE (Parallel Reconfigurable Observational Environment) Center, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is a unique collaboration between LANL, the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Technical Institute, the University of Utah and Carnegie Mellon University. Look for a story on the project in Sunday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

  • NNSA awards $4M for STEM education

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that it has awarded $4 million in grants to 22 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and six Department of Energy sites in key science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas.
    The funding launches NNSA’s new Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program, a consortium program organized to build a sustainable STEM pipeline between DOE plants and laboratories and HBCUs
    The MSIPP is designed to enrich the STEM capabilities of HBCUs in a sustainable manner that aligns with the broad interests of DOE sites and emphasizes the entire career pipeline.
    The partnership also provides STEM students with the cutting edge resources and technology housed at DOE facilities, ultimately increasing STEM student retention.  
    “Hands-on participation in research is imperative for students in the STEM field,” said Dimitri Kusnezov, NNSA’s chief scientist. “The MSIPP will provide an opportunity for students to be exposed to state-of-the-art facilities and research, creating an opportunity to expand their knowledge and further prepare them for a career in STEM fields.”
    To achieve MSIPP’s goal, teams consisting of participants from select HBCUs and DOE plants and laboratories were developed.

  • Curiosity Power Source wins DOE award

    A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory has received the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award for their contributions on the thermoelectric generator that provides electrical power and heat to the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover.
    The award was presented by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Craig Van Pelt, Alejandro Enriquez, Diane Spengler, John Matonic and David Armstrong Oct. 4, in Washington D.C. The Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award is typically given to recognize a group or team of employees who together accomplished significant achievements on behalf of DOE.
    Powering a rover as sophisticated as Curiosity is made possible through the Plutonium-238 fueled Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, which was successful in part due to the Los Alamos National Laboratory employees who worked on this project.
    The MMRTG keeps the rover’s battery charged night and day, giving Curiosity the potential of being the longest-operating, farthest-traveling, most-productive Mars surface mission in history.

  • Curiosity Power Source Wins DOE Award

    A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory has received the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award for their contributions on the thermoelectric generator that provides electrical power and heat to the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover.

    The award was presented by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Craig Van Pelt, Alejandro Enriquez, Diane Spengler, John Matonic, and David Armstrong Oct. 4, in Washington D.C. The Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award is typically given to recognize a group or team of employees who together accomplished significant achievements on behalf of DOE.

    Powering a rover as sophisticated as Curiosity is made possible through the Plutonium-238 fueled Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), which was successful in part due to the Los Alamos National Laboratory employees who worked on this project.

    The MMRTG keeps the rover's battery charged night and day, giving Curiosity the potential of being the longest-operating, farthest-traveling, most-productive Mars surface mission in history.

  • Space travelers could assist in healing nuclear scar

    Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have devised a method to use cosmic rays to gather detailed information from inside the damaged cores of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, which were heavily damaged in March 2011 by a tsunami that followed a great earthquake.

    In a paper in Physical Review Letters, researchers compared two methods for using cosmic-ray radiography to gather images of nuclear material within the core of a reactor similar to Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No. 1. The team found that Los Alamos’ scattering method for cosmic ray radiography was far superior to the traditional transmission method for capturing high-resolution image data of potentially damaged nuclear material.

    “Within weeks of the disastrous 2011 tsunami, Los Alamos’ Muon Radiography Team began investigating use of Los Alamos’ muon scattering method to determine whether it could be used to image the location of nuclear materials within the damaged reactors,” said Konstantin Borozdin of Los Alamos’ Subatomic Physics Group and lead author of the paper.

  • NMCF report digs deep on settlement

    The Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Association, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the New Mexico Environment Department are in the midst of negotiating the termination of the 2007 Settlement Agreement and Stipulated Final Order (Chromium Settlement).

    Officials, however, have refused comment on the progress of the negotiations.

    Here is a little background:

    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.

    “This enforcement action should remind the operators of LANL that they have a duty to report significant environmental contamination to the state and residents promptly,” Environment Secretary Ron Curry said at the time. “Chromium contamination is a serious issue.”

    The department had accused the lab’s operators, Los Alamos National Security LLC and the U.S. Department of Energy, of violating LANL’s hazardous waste permit and a 2005 consent order that governs environmental cleanup activities by failing to report increases of chromium in a groundwater monitoring well in 2004.