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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • LANL studying alternatives for shipping toxic waste

    With the nation’s only underground nuclear waste dump shuttered by a mysterious leak, Los Alamos National Laboratory has begun looking at alternatives for meeting a June deadline to remove toxic waste from a mesa on its northern New Mexico campus.
    Lab spokesman Matthew Nerzig confirmed Tuesday that officials are exploring other options for removing the last of nearly 4,000 gallons of plutonium-contaminated tools and protective gear from its bomb-building labs if the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad remains closed indefinitely.
    The presence of that waste — some of which was dug up from decades-old, unsealed dumps in the northern New Mexico mountains and is now stored outside with little protection — came to the public’s attention three years ago as a massive wildfire lapped at the edges of the sprawling lab property.
    The lab has since agreed to have it all removed from the mesa by the end of June. The lab was ahead of schedule for getting the nearly 4,000 barrels to WIPP when back-to-back accidents and a radiation release closed the repository last month.

  • Learn how to do business with the lab, government

    The Regional Development Corporation (RDC) is hosting the “Resource Roundtable: Opportunities Close to Home,” a free event at Buffalo Thunder Resort from 1-5 p.m. Thursday, the agency announced.
    Three topics will be covered: finance, doing business with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and doing business with the government. The small format of the event will facilitate small group discussions between entrepreneurs and knowledgeable resource providers.
    Co-sponsoring the event is the Minority Business Development Agency Business Center and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Members from these two organizations will be joined by representatives from the following organizations:
    • New Mexico Economic Development Department
    • LANL Small Business Program Office (procurement)
    • LANL Express Licensing
    • LANL Community Programs Office
    • New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program (NMSBA)
    • Small Business Administration (SBA)
    • Los Alamos Connect

  • Coalition lobbies for cleanup funding

    Members of the Regional Coalition of LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory) Communities (Regional Coalition) traveled to Washington, D.C during the week of Feb. 24 to advocate for $255 million in support of environmental remediation at LANL, and to discuss the Federal Legislative Priorities of the Coalition.
    The $255 million represents an increase in $30 million from the previous fiscal year, and is the minimum amount needed to meet the cleanup agreement requirements negotiated between the N.M. Environment Department and the U.S. Department of Energy.
    The members of the coalition who traveled to D.C. for meetings include: former Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Los Alamos County Commissioner Steve Girrens, Rio Arriba Deputy County Manager David Trujillo, coalition executive director Darien Cabral, and Jennifer Padilla of the coalition’s executive director team.
    The coalition members met with the following:
    • Senator Martin Heinrich
    • Senator Tom Udall
    • Representative Ben Ray Lujan
    • Bruce Held, the Acting Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
    • Plus other Department of Energy and Nuclear Security Administration staff and key members of pertinent Congressional Committees

  • Workers preparing to enter WIPP

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Energy and the operators of the nation’s only underground nuclear waste dump said Monday they are making plans to allow specially trained workers to enter the site for the first time in weeks after more than a dozen employees were exposed to low levels of radiation during a mysterious leak.
    Officials acknowledge they are in uncharted territory in responding to something that has never happened since the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant opened in 1999. The site is important to the nation’s efforts to clean up decades of Cold War-era waste, and administrators are eager to resume operations once they are convinced it’s safe to do so.
    WIPP has been shuttered since early February. Shipments were halted after a truck hauling salt through the repository’s tunnels caught fire, and nine days later the plant’s alarms were triggered by the radiation release.
    The first major step in finding out what caused the radiation release happened over the weekend as crews — covered from head to toe in special blue protective suits and booties — slowly lowered a bundle of air and gas monitoring machines into the repository’s air intake system and its salt shaft.

  • LAFD unveils new ladder truck

    Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County officials “pushed in” a new ladder truck during a ceremony Monday at Fire Station No. 1 on West Jemez Road across from the J. Robert Oppenheimer Study Center and Otowi Building at LANL’s Technical Area 3. Los Alamos County Fire Department provides fire protection services to the Laboratory. Driver engineer Joseph Romero of the Los Alamos County Fire Department actually backed the ladder truck into the fire bay. The 2013 custom built Smeal ladder can pump up to 2,250 gallons per minute and extends to a height of 105 feet.

  • NNSA gets $11.7B from FY15 budget -- updated

    President Barack Obama’s FY15 budget had a little something for everybody in the Department of Energy.
    The DOE requests $27.9 billion in discretionary funds and of that total, $11.7 billion was earmarked for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
    The NNSA budget has $8.3 billion for weapons acivities, $1.6 billion for nonproliferation activities and $1.4 billion for naval reactors programs.
    The totals for the Los Alamos National Laboratory have not been released but in the past, LANL has operated on a budget of around $2.2 billion.
    In addition, the budget request provides $5.6 billion for environmental management.

  • 'Manhattan' to begin shooting in Santa Fe

    A new television series set against the backdrop of the U.S. government’s top-secret effort to develop the world’s first atomic bomb in Los Alamos will begin production in New Mexico later this month, state officials announced Wednesday.
    The drama “Manhattan” will follow a group of scientists and their families as they attempt to navigate a world of secrets and lies. The cast includes John Benjamin Hickey as the professor charged with leading the Manhattan Project and Daniel Stern as a mentor to young scientists who knows how to wade through politics.
    “I’m excited that this series will highlight New Mexico’s celebrated history and our amazing, picturesque landscapes. I can’t wait to watch it,” Gov. Susana Martinez said in a statement.
    The U.S. government’s $2.2 billion Manhattan Project operated from December 1942 until September 1945 at a remote installation in northern New Mexico, which later became home to Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    At its peak, the project employed 130,000 workers, but it was kept largely secret and out of public view. It resulted in scientific and technological advancements that ushered in the atomic age.

  • Union awaits info on WIPP leak

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A union representing some 200 workers at the nation’s only underground nuclear waste dump said Tuesday its wants to be sure employees are safe when the repository reopens after a radiation leak that exposed at least 13 people.
    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad has been off-limits to most workers for nearly three weeks. Only essential workers have been called to duty and others have been using the down time to keep current with regular training requirements at an off-site training center, said officials from United Steelworkers of America.
    Union officials said they’re waiting for more information from the U.S. Department of Energy and Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC, the contractor that runs the repository.
    “What we’re trying to understand is what happened, where this contamination came from and then understand how to correct this problem and make certain that something similar is not going to happen again,” said Jim Frederick, assistant director of the union’s health, safety and environment department.
    Some of the 13 workers who were exposed during the Feb. 14 night shift were union members. Another 140 employees showed up for work the following day, and union officials say if there’s any doubt about whether they were exposed, more tests should be done.

  • Wide use of flexible metallic glass coming your way

    What do some high-end golf clubs and your living room window have in common? The answer is glass, but in the golf clubs’ case it’s a specialized glass product, called metallic glass, with the ability to be bent considerably and spring back into its original form. Your windows, as you know, aren’t quite as forgiving of a sudden impact, and they shatter ­— they are brittle, as opposed to ductile, or more flexible products.
    For the golf clubs, however, a new generation of flexible metallic glass puts more bounce back into a golf ball, from the metallic glass’ high elasticity. They’re not unbreakable, but close. And scientists are working toward even stronger and more elastic glass types which would fail in a ductile fashion instead of shattering.
    “In glass, localized plastic deformation usually leads to immediate failure,” said Seth Imhoff, a Los Alamos National Laboratory materials scientist.
     “Normally, metal alloys freeze into a collection of crystals in which the atoms line up into very specific patterns. In specially designed metal alloys an amorphous, or random atom arrangement, can be retained in the solid, which can allow us to tailor a wide range of properties such as the ability to be bent severely and spring back into place.”

  • State sets deadline for handling nuke waste

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The federal government’s only underground nuclear waste dump remained shuttered Monday and state environment officials said they have set deadlines for the U.S. Department of Energy and its contractor to deal with radioactive waste left above ground at the repository.
    Dozens of drums and other special containers that have been shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant from federal facilities around the country are being stored in a parking area at the plant and inside the facility’s waste handling building.
    From there, the waste is usually taken to its final resting place deep in underground salt beds. However, the repository has been closed since early February due to back-to-back accidents, including a radiation release that exposed at least 13 workers and set off air monitoring devices around the plant.
    Under its permit with the state, the dump can keep waste stored in the parking area for only 30 days and up to 60 days in the handling building. Due to the closure, the state is extending those deadlines to 60 days and 105 days, respectively. The federal government would have to develop an alternative storage plan if the underground dump remains off-limits for more than three months.