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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • LANL and WIPP get fined for violations

    SANTA FE — Saturday, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) notified the U.S. Department of Energy of violations of state hazardous waste permits for both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Los Alamos National Laboratory relating to DOE’s handling of transuranic (TRU) waste that contributed to two significant incidents at WIPP earlier this year.
    “New Mexico is proud of our national labs and cutting-edge scientific facilities, and we have important rules in place to protect those facilities, the people who work there, and all New Mexicans,” said Gov. Susana Martinez. “The health and safety of New Mexicans will always be our priority and we have to hold federal agencies accountable for safe operations in the state of New Mexico. The federal Department of Energy is a strong partner with us, and we will continue to work with them closely to ensure their success in our state.”
    Following a comprehensive and intense investigation through more than nine months, NMED found multiple violations at both WIPP and LANL and has issued two Administrative Compliance Orders (ACO).
    The ACO identified 24 violations at LANL, resulting in civil penalties of approximately $36.6 million, along 13 violations at WIPP, resulting in penalties in excess of $17.7 million.

  • Feds detail cleanup changes at LANL

    Federal officials said Wednesday that they plan to issue a temporary contract for the removal of nuclear waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory to the same contractor that failed to meet previous cleanup goals.
    The officials said they made the decision to avoid any disruption while oversight of the cleanup work is shifted from the National Nuclear Security Administration to the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management.
    Earlier this year, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz ordered the cleanup program moved from the National Nuclear Security Administration to the Energy Department division after a barrel of waste packed at Los Alamos leaked and forced the closure of the government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.
    On Wednesday, agency officials said they plan to award the short-term contract to lab manager Los Alamos National Security to maintain stability during the interim.
    Watchdog groups quickly criticized the proposal, saying the Energy Department would essentially be rewarding the contractor for its previous failures to meet cleanup goals and for lapses that led to the leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

  • NNSA honors LA in 2014 Sustainability Awards

    The National Nuclear Security Administration this week awarded 15 Sustainability Awards for innovation and excellence to its national laboratories and sites, and Los Alamos National Laboratory is among the winners, with honorees in both the Best in Class and Environmental Stewardship categories.
    “Los Alamos has worked hard to increase efficiency and protect natural resources across our site,” said Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan. “Innovative approaches to sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction are just two areas where we seek to be the best possible stewards of the environment and we share with the communities of northern New Mexico. It is through the cumulative effect of these efforts over time that we can accomplish our mission in a sustainable manner.”
    The awards recognize exemplary individual and team performance in advancing sustainability objectives through innovative and effective programs and projects that increase energy, water and fleet efficiency and reduce greenhouse gases, pollution and waste.

  • Lab to hold full-scale homeland security drill

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Emergency response personnel, Protective Force guards, federal officials, the Los Alamos Police Department and the FBI will participate in an extensive, full scale homeland security emergency exercise for two full days Saturday and Sunday.
    The exercise will take place within a small section of Technical Area 3, the laboratory’s main administrative area. All other parts of the laboratory will be unaffected.
    On Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. vehicle access to the laboratory through the east and west Jemez Road access control points will be limited to DOE badge holders only.
    Vehicles can bypass the TA-3 exercise area by using West Road. There will be no access restrictions on Sunday.
    There will be limited period of time on Saturday when there will be no access through the Vehicle Access Portals on East and West Jemez Roads. During that period of time, which could be up to two hours, all vehicles will asked to use West Road to bypass the TA-3 area of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The field simulation of the exercise will last a short period of time on Saturday, and will imitate a real-life scenario involving a hostile event.
    Loud noises from simulated explosives and the sound of weapons using blank ammunition may be heard in the surrounding area.

  • LANL employees pledge $217M

    The work of more than 250 community and social service organizations will benefit from the more than $2.17 million pledged by Los Alamos National Laboratory employees to United Way and other nonprofits during the laboratory’s 2015 Employee Giving Campaign.
    “We are proud to help the many community focused non-profit organizations working hard to improve the lives of so many people in Northern New Mexico,” said Alan Bishop, Los Alamos’ principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering and this year’s campaign champion. “The list of organizations receiving support from the Lab’s giving campaign runs the gamut from after-school services to elder care, and from job training to providing safe havens to victims of domestic violence.”
    The amount pledged is a record for a giving campaign by Los Alamos employees. Los Alamos National Security, LLC plans to prorate its $1 million match among the selected nonprofit organizations, bringing the total donation to nearly $3.2 million.

  • BPU draws solar supporters

    A special Board of Public Utilities meeting held Friday to discuss proposed changes to the electric rate structure drew approximately 15 members of the public.
    Most of the public comment centered on a proposal to charge customers with home photovoltaic systems a $10 distributed generation fee beginning in January, increasing to $12 in July, in order to recover infrastructure costs.

    Solar supporters asked BPU to take a broader look before agreeing to that rate structure, such as analyzing cost/benefits and looking at alternatives such as selling Renewable Energy Credits from home PV generation to recover costs.

    "I think it's important that the board realize that this is not simply a simple economic calculation that you can use to calculate a rate structure. What you are really facing is a matter of public policy in this county as to how we're going to treat distributed power production, green energy, etc," Mike Wheeler said.
    So while I understand your concerns and dilemmas on the rate structure, it's most important that this board consider the public policy that comes about because of your decision."
    Several citizens asked the board to delay implementation until options were thoroughly evaluated, since the number of home solar households just recently increased from 36 users to 44.

  • DOE IG report: Sandia misused federal funds

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Managers at one of the nation’s premier federal laboratories improperly used taxpayer funds to influence members of Congress and other officials as part of an effort to extend the lab’s $2.4 billion management contract, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General said in a report Wednesday.
    A review of documents determined that Sandia National Laboratories formed a team and worked with consultants beginning in 2009 to develop a plan for securing a contract extension without having to go through a competitive process.
    That plan called for lobbying Congress, trying to influence key advisers to then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu and reaching out to a former director of the National Nuclear Security Administration and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who led the Energy Department under the Clinton administration.
    One consultant suggested the lab’s message to decision-makers should be that competition was not in the best interest of the government.
    “We believe that the use of federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition was inexplicable and unjustified,” the inspector general said in its report.

  • LANL celebrates 100 supercomputers — VIDEO added

    From the 1952 MANIAC to Bonanza deployed just this month, Los Alamos National Laboratory has deployed 100 supercomputers in the last 60 years — a showcase of high-performance computing history.
    “The computing capability in our data centers in any given year dwarfs what was there 10 years before,” said Randal Rheinheimer of the High Performance Computing division, “and Los Alamos has been on that curve for 60 years.”
    The Los Alamos computers deployed along the way include the MANIAC II, which started its nearly 20-year service life with over 5000 vacuum tubes, all of which were replaced over time with circuit boards. Any computing device today would have to be purpose-built to compute as slowly as the MANIAC computers. But compared to a room full of people with mechanical calculators, those early computing tools were significant advances, Rheinheimer notes. “It was the first and only triumph of serial over parallel computing.”

  • Lab scientist to discuss earthquakes

    Earthquakes and their possible causes is the topic of the next series of Frontiers in Science lectures by Paul Johnson of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Geophysics group. The first lecture is at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW in Albuquerque.
    “What is it that makes the Earth move under our feet?” Johnson asks. “How is it that earthquakes can cause other earthquakes? Can human activities also trigger earthquakes?”
    Additional Frontiers in Science lectures at 7 p.m. are scheduled for:
    Nov. 17 at Crossroads Bible Church, 97 East Road, Los Alamos
    Nov. 18 in the James A. Little Theater New Mexico School for the Deaf, 1060 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe.
    About the Speaker
    Johnson is a Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow and in 2011 was selected as an American Geophysical Union Fellow. He earned a doctoral degree in physical acoustics from the Université Pierre et Marie Curie at the Sorbonne, Paris. He also is a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and a Fulbright Scholar to France. He has worked at the Laboratory more than 35 years.

  • Explosives performance key to stockpile stewardship

    As the U.S. Nuclear Deterrent ages, one essential factor in making sure that the weapons will continue to perform as designed is understanding the fundamental properties of the high explosives that are part of a nuclear weapons system.
    “As we move forward with our stockpile and as it’s aging and as we’re replacing components, we want to make sure that we have confidence that those materials perform as intended,” said Dana Dattelbaum, a chemist in the laboratory’s Shock and Detonation Physics group. “And that we are also continuing to improve on safety.”
    As nuclear weapons go through life extension programs, some changes may be advantageous, particularly through the addition of what are known as “insensitive” high explosives that are much less likely to accidentally detonate than the already very safe “conventional” high explosives that are used in most weapons.
    “We’re very interested in understanding chemical dynamics in extreme conditions,” said Dattelbaum. “Chemical reactions are occurring in very extreme environments with very fast reaction rates, and we really don’t fully understand the first bond-breaking steps and the subsequent bond-breaking steps as an explosive detonates.”