Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • McMillan to speak in ABQ

     Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan will be one of 17 speakers at this year’s TEDxABQ, event organizers announced this week. TEDxABQ, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7 at Popejoy Hall, is an independently organized event in Albuquerque affiliated with the popular TED Talks series.
    McMillan will discuss the linkage between early education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (known as STEM) and national security.
    “In national security science, we can’t afford to lose a generation of young people,” McMillan said.
     “Particularly U.S. citizens. The world is a rapidly changing place.”
    McMillan is by law one of four people in the U.S. who must send an annual letter to the President and Congress assessing the state of weapons in the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
     But because the U.S. stopped full-scale nuclear weapons testing in 1992, the assessments must depend on classified, highly sophisticated computer modeling and non-nuclear experiments.
    “It’s like proving that a 40-year old car will start, but without actually starting the engine,” McMillan said. 

  • LANL to consider logo change

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is considering a change to its logo to better reflect what it calls a diverse and evolving mission.
    LANL officials say the lab was established 70 years ago with the sole mission of designing and building an atomic bomb to end World War II.
    Today, they say, its work in national security covers a wide range of issues — including nuclear non-proliferation, energy security, climate change modeling, countermeasures to nuclear and biological terrorist threats and space.
    The lab is conducting an online survey for feedback on potential logos at https://surveymonkey.com/s/YBHQYHX

  • Global warming accelerates forest mortality, VIDEO

    Many southwestern forests in the United States will disappear or be heavily altered by 2050, according to a series of joint Los Alamos National Laboratory-University of New Mexico studies.
    In a new video produced by Los Alamos, Nathan McDowell, a Los Alamos plant physiologist, and William Pockman, a UNM biology professor, explain that their research, and more from scientists around the world, is forecasting that by 2100 most conifer forests should be heavily disturbed, if not gone, as air temperatures rise in combination with drought.
    “Everybody knows trees die when there’s a drought, if there’s bark beetles or fire, yet nobody in the world can predict it with much accuracy.” McDowell said.
    “What’s really changed is that the temperature is going up,” thus the researchers are imposing artificial drought conditions on segments of wild forest in the Southwest and pushing forests to their limit to discover the exact processes of mortality and survival.
    Wild forest analysis more effective than greenhouses
    The study is centered on drought experiments in woodlands at both Los Alamos and the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico.

  • LANL beats waste shipping goal

    Los Alamos National Laboratory, which broke its waste shipping records in 2012, has exceeded last year’s mark with three months left to go in fiscal year 2013. During the past nine months, Los Alamos shipped 1,074 cubic meters of transuranic (TRU) and mixed low-level waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and other approved waste disposal facilities, exceeding last year’s record of 920 cubic meters.

    “Los Alamos continues to exceed expectations dispositioning waste from Area G,” said Pete Maggiore, assistant manager for Environmental Operations at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos Field Office. “The success of this campaign has been made possible through the efforts of many people, including our partners at the New Mexico Environment Department.”

    The effort is part of an agreement between the New Mexico Environment Department and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management to remove 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste stored aboveground at Area G, the laboratory’s waste storage facility, by June 30, 2014. The accelerated removal campaign is in its second year, with a goal to remove 2,600 cubic meters of waste by September 30, 2013. Since the campaign began, Los Alamos has removed 1,994 cubic meters of waste.

  • LANL racks up more 'Oscars of Innovation' awards

    R&D Magazine has announced the winners of its annual “R&D 100” competition, commonly known as the “Oscars of Innovation,” and three technologies from Los Alamos National Laboratory and its partners are among the honorees.

    “The innovation and creativity shown in this year’s awards is truly inspiring. It gives me great confidence in the Laboratory’s intellectual vitality and ongoing role in national security science. Congratulations to our researchers and their partners,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charles McMillan.

    A Digital X-ray Imager for Field Use

    •  MiniMAXis a battery powered, digital x-ray imaging system that is completely self-contained, lightweight, compact and portable. Its applications include homeland security (postal inspection of suspicious packages and explosive ordnance disposal), nondestructive testing, weld inspection, disaster relief (to triage broken bones and confirm dental X-rays) and for field and veterinary medicine. (Joint entry with Los Alamos, Leica Camera AG, JDS Uniphase and JENOPTIK Optical Systems LLC.)

    Nuclear Fission for Spacecraft

  • Regional Coalition getting noticed


    Local representatives of a 13-member delegation of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities who traveled to Washington, D.C. two weeks ago believe their efforts to secure more cleanup funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory are paying off. 

    State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, councilor Steve Girrens, who serves as the county’s alternate member on the coalition, and Deputy County Administrator Brian Bosshardt represented Los Alamos County on the trip. 

    “I really want to reiterate how great it was to have this bipartisan, diverse group go and speak in support of LANL,” Garcia Richard said. “This group has really been trying to work on securing funding for the 3706 cleanup. 

  • IG pushes lab for more action

    A couple of weeks ago, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Chairman Peter Winokur sent a letter to new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

    A main topic of the letter included the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    Winokur wrote, “As you assume your duties, the Board would like to provide you with a brief summary of its views on the current challenges DOE faces in the area of safety at DOE’s defense nuclear facilities. In particular, the Board draws your attention to the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory that analysis shows may be vulnerable to collapse as a consequence of design basis seismic earthquake and the many challenges awaiting resolution regarding the storage and disposition of legacy waste at the Hanford site.”

    The main thrust of the letter, though, was PF-4.

    A May 24 Site Office Report detailed a number of incidents at PF-4.

    The report stated, “Several of these issues were self identified and conservative action was taken to respond, critique, and develop corrective actions. However, these infractions and deviations indicate potential conduct of operations and Criticality Safety Evaluation (CSE) issues that emphasize the need for LANL to continue criticality safety improvements.”

  • Senate bill has $250 million for cleanup; House bill, meanwhile, earmarks $195M

    U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined the Senate Appropriations Committee this week in approving a bill that includes significant support for important New Mexico installations and programs, including Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and New Mexico water projects.

    The bill includes record-level base funding for waste cleanup at Los Alamos (LANL), and significant funding levels for WIPP operations and maintenance. Udall also included an amendment to the bill’s report language to improve voluntary water transfers in the Middle Rio Grande Basin Endangered Species Collaborative Program.

    Key provisions for New Mexico in the Energy and Water Appropriations bill include:
    • LANL cleanup: $250 million ($35 million above the president’s budget request).
    • WIPP cleanup: $222 million ($19 million above the president’s request).
    • DOE algae biofuels: $30 million ($14.5 million above the president’s budget request).
    • WaterSMART programs: $51 million, including $20 million for grants as requested by Udall ($16 million above the president’s request).

  • LANL website gains recognition

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s safety video website, Safety Cinema, won the 2013 Communicator Award from the International Academy of Visual Arts in the education category. The website also won the International Summit Creative Award in the training category.
    Safety Cinema is a series of videos, fliers, posters, presentation slides and safety practices that support the well-being of employees at work and at home. The videos provide technical information in an informal fashion and are designed to appeal to a wide audience.
    Making Safety Cinema products available to the Department of Energy and the general public also supports best practices for DOE and the Voluntary Protection Program. “Easy access to the site supports VPP by sharing safety resources throughout the DOE complex, other government organizations, international corporations, schools and universities,” said Associate Director for Environment, Safety and Health Michael Brandt.
    “The site was created at the request of the Department of Energy and other national and international government agencies to provide easy access to the Laboratory’s safety videos,” said Robin Nicholas of Los Alamos’ Industrial Hygiene and Safety Division. 

  • Lab halts some work at plutonium facility

    In a memo to employees Thursday, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan announced that certain work operations at the Plutonium Facility would temporarily pause programmatic activities.

    McMillan’s action comes on the heels of another federal report criticizing Los Alamos for not doing enough to protect the public from dangerous releases of radiation in the event of wildfires or an earthquake.

    An audit released Thursday by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General reiterated concerns that watchdogs and a federal oversight board have long expressed about the lab’s main plutonium facility — which sits atop a fault line — being able to withstand an earthquake. And the Las Conchas Fire that burned its way to the edges of lab property two years ago highlighted the dangers of storing on-site thousands of barrels of toxic waste.

    The audit pushes the lab to move more quickly in securing the plutonium lab (PF-4). It also asks for more effective fire protection for the barrels, which are scheduled to be removed by the end of next year.

    “Because of the nature and importance of the work we do, it is important to regularly assess all aspects of our operations to ensure we are executing our procedures and operational processes appropriately,” McMillan said in the memo.