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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Cloud of secrecy lifted from Oppenheimer case

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — After more than half a century of intrigue and mystery, the U.S. Department of Energy has declassified documents related to a Cold War hearing for the man who directed the Manhattan Project and was later accused of having communist sympathies.
    The department last week released transcripts of the 1950s hearings on the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, providing more insight into the previously secret world that surrounded development of the atomic bomb and the anti-communist hysteria that gripped the nation amid the growing power of the Soviet Union.
    Oppenheimer led the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which developed the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The secretive projects involved three research and production facilities at Los Alamos, New Mexico, Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hanford, Washington.
    The once-celebrated physicist lost his security clearance following the four-week, closed-door hearing. Officials also alleged that Oppenheimer’s wife and brother had both been communists and he had contributed to communist front-organizations.

  • Lab to operate under continuing resolution

     Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan updated community leaders on various issues Tuesday at the Santa Fe Convention Center.
    McMillan said the lab will operate under a continuing resolution to begin FY15 through at least Dec. 11. The lab will operate with a $274 million increase and an overall budget of $2.37 billion.
    McMillan also said the lab will have stable staffing in FY14 and that is projected into FY15. FY14 costs were up $24 million to $2.11 billion, purchasing was at $536 million and staffing levels were at 10,000.
    McMillan also addressed the status of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. He unveiled a statement from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
    “The safe and efficient cleanup of the Los Alamos Site in New Mexico is a high priority for the DOE. The Secretary of Energy has directed the NNSA and the Office of Environmental Management (EM) to develop a plan for the transition of the Los Alamos Site legacy environmental cleanup work from NNSA to EM.

  • McMillan addresses leaders in Santa Fe

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan addresses community leaders in Santa Fe this morning. More on this event will be in Wednesday’s Los Alamos Monitor.

  • Team advances understanding of Greenland ice sheet

    An international research team’s field work, drilling and measuring melt rates and ice sheet movement in Greenland is showing that things are, in fact, more complicated than we thought.
    “Although the Greenland Ice Sheet initially speeds up each summer in its slow-motion race to the sea, the network of meltwater channels beneath the sheet is not necessarily forming the slushy racetrack that had been previously considered,” said Matthew Hoffman, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist on the project.
    A high-profile paper appearing in Nature this week notes that observations of moulins (vertical conduits connecting water on top of the glacier down to the bed of the ice sheet) and boreholes in Greenland show that subglacial channels ameliorate the speedup caused by water delivery to the base of the ice sheet in the short term. By mid summer, however, the channels stabilize and are unable to grow any larger. In a previous paper appearing in Science, researchers had posited that the undersheet channels were not even a consideration in Greenland, but as happens in the science world, more data fills in the complex mosaic of facts and clarifies the evolution of the meltwater flow rates over the seasons.

  • LAESF applications available

    Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF) is now accepting applications for 2015 awards. The largest scholarship pool in Northern New Mexico, LAESF supports students who are residents of Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos counties seeking four-year degrees in fields that serve the region.
    High school seniors enrolling in or undergraduates currently attending an accredited post-secondary educational institution are eligible to apply. Applicants must have at least a 3.25 cumulative unweighted grade point average and scores of 19 ACT or 930 SAT (combined Math plus Critical Reading only).
    Applications are submitted through an online portal at lanlfoundation.org/scholarships. Deadline to apply is January 20, 2015.
    Scholarships ranging from $20,000 to $1,000 recognize academic performance, leadership potential, extracurricular activities, community service, critical thinking skills and career goals relevant to local community needs.
    For more information, visit lanlfoundation.org/scholarships or contact Tony Fox at tony@lanlfoundtion.org or 753-8890. ext. 116.
     

  • Report details lab's weaknesses in regard to packing nuke waste

    A report issued Wednesday by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Energy squarely places blame for the shutdown of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository on failures at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The inspector general’s office identified several major weaknesses in the lab’s procedures for packing contaminated gloves, tools and other radiological wastes that were destined for permanent storage at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico.
    Not all of the lab’s procedures were properly vetted and some procedures didn’t conform with environmental requirements, according to the findings.
    The report reinforces the findings of internal reviews done by the lab and the Energy Department after a canister of waste from Los Alamos leaked in one of WIPP’s storage rooms in February, contaminating 22 workers and forcing the indefinite closure of the nuclear waste repository.
    “Our review identified several major deficiencies in LANL’s procedures for the development and approval of waste packaging and remediation techniques that may have contributed to the radiological event,” the inspector general said.

  • DOE unveils WIPP plan

    Shipments of plutonium-contaminated waste to the federal government’s troubled nuclear dump site in southeastern New Mexico may resume as early as 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy said in announcing that the agency is committed to cleaning up the facility after a shutdown in February.
    A recovery plan developed by the department over several months with help from nuclear industry experts details what needs to be done to decontaminate the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after a truck fire and an unrelated release of radiation contaminated 22 workers and forced the site’s closure.
    Mark Whitney, acting assistant secretary for the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, said Tuesday that officials estimate that 90 percent or more of the nuclear waste dump is free of radiological contamination. But the ventilation system will need to be improved and a new exhaust shaft constructed before full operations can resume, Whitney said. That could take as long as three years and as much as an additional $309 million.

  • Climate, earth system project draws on science powerhouses

    With President Obama announcing climate-support initiatives this week at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit, the U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories are teaming with academia and the private sector to develop the most advanced climate and Earth system computer model yet created. For Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers, it is a welcome advance for an already vibrant high-performance computing community.
    Accelerated Climate Modeling for Energy, or ACME, is designed to accelerate the development and application of fully coupled, state-of-the-science Earth system models for scientific and energy applications.
    “The ACME partnership will provide new capabilities that improve our ability to project future impacts of energy choices on the Earth’s climate,” said Alan Bishop, principal associate director of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Science, Technology and Engineering directorate.
    “The national laboratories’ high-performance computing capabilities will enable better regional detail, and the addition of ice sheet processes and improved ocean and sea ice components will help to better quantify future sea-level rise.”

  • New study examines cancer risk from 1st A-bomb test

    Researchers from the National Cancer Institute want to know how many past and present cancer cases in New Mexico may be related to the U.S. government’s test of the world’s first atomic bomb over a remote stretch of desert nearly 70 years ago.
    They are visiting the state this week and conducting in-depth interviews with several residents to learn more about the lifestyles and diets of people who were living in New Mexico around the time of the atomic detonation at the Trinity Site.
    The team is particularly interested in filling in gaps when it comes to Native American and Hispanic populations and any links to fallout radiation exposure and food and water contamination.
    Dr. Steven Simon, the project’s lead investigator, said Monday that the information about diet and lifestyle will help his team more accurately project radiation doses from the fallout. “Using those dose estimates, we will then project an estimate of the excess cancers related to Trinity above the number that would have occurred in the absence of the test,” Simon said.
    The study also takes into account already published data on the radioactive fallout from the blast.
    The research team has done similar work in Nevada, the Marshall Islands and Kazakhstan.

  • McMillan reacts to EM taking over cleanup

    Los Alamos National Laboratory director Charlie McMillan sent an email to employees Friday, announcing four Los Alamos National Laboratory workers have been reassigned and the Department of Energy has pulled nuclear waste cleanup operations from the contractor that runs the lab after a barrel of waste packed at Los Alamos leaked.
    The email obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor read: “the laboratory today is implementing a number of measures aimed at supporting the Department of Energy’s objectives to reopen the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) repository near Carlsbad.
    “Among the actions are changes in our leadership responsible for managing our environmental cleanup and transuranic waste operations. I have asked Deputy Associate Director Enrique (Kiki) Torres to serve as acting lead for our Environmental Programs while the Lab works with DOE to develop a path forward.
    “These actions come after a number of internal investigations and reviews since the February discovery of a leak underground at WIPP from a waste drum that originated here at Los Alamos. Although the exact causes of the leak are still under investigation, I have determined that today’s changes are necessary now as part of our continued recovery actions.