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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • 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.

  • 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.