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Today's News

  • ‘Nobody does science without code’

    The new chief of Los Alamos National Laboratory brought along something incredibly old Friday to demonstrate the usefulness of learning something new to a sixth-grade class Friday in Los Alamos.

    A chunk of black quartz crystal collected on the 14,000-foot Pikes Peak is a billion years old, and only in the age of calculations from computers could he know that, Terry Wallace told Brett Hawkins’ class at Mountain Elementary.

    Wallace, with a Ph.D in geophysics from California Institute of Technology and the recently named director of the national laboratory, told students participating in a global event this week called an Hour of Code – where students at all grade levels focus on computer coding – that determining the age of his shiny rock wasn’t possible without computer coding.

    “I don’t know how to do that problem on paper…Nobody does science without code,” Wallace told the students.
    He was introduced to mathematics as a student growing up in Los Alamos, and learned to “think in equations,” he said.
    An introduction to coding – through games such as Minecraft and one based on the characters in “Star Wars” – will help them, Wallace said.

  • Mining to resume at nuke waste dump for 1st time since leak

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials at the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository are flipping the switch on an interim ventilation system this week, allowing mining to resume for the first time since a 2014 radiation release contaminated part of the facility.

    Still, they caution it will take a few years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars before the flow of air is enough to meet the pace of operations before the leak.

    Bruce Covert, president of the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for the federal government, said testing was done and the U.S. Energy Department approved starting up the air handling system.

    He called it a big step for the facility, which disposes of waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research. The waste is placed in rooms mined out of an ancient salt bed some 2,000 feet (610 meters) below the desert surface.

    "We have not done mining in over three years, so the good news is we're going to walk before we run," Covert said at a recent public meeting. "We're going to work real steady, methodical, to get the teams back at it."

    The repository restarted operations earlier this year with a couple of weekly shipments of waste from federal sites across the U.S. That has now that has been ramped up to about six a week.

  • N.M. Supreme Court rejects sheriff’s office petition

    The New Mexico Supreme Court has rejected a petition from Los Alamos County sheriff candidate Greg White.

    In October, White petitioned the court to settle an 18-month legal standoff between the Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office and the county.

    Council wants the First Judicial Court of Santa Fe to decide if Los Alamos County’s charter permits them to abolish the office. The Los Alamos County Sheriff’s Office, headed by Marco Lucero, believes the county needs to follow state statutes, which do not permit such an action. Lucero and his attorney A. Blair Dunn believe state statutes protects the office from local officials seeking to abolish it.

    On Nov. 13, the court entered the denial without an explanation.

    “Basically, all the Supreme Court decision did was, they punted the ball back to me,” White said. “They said, start in district court and basically we’re going to hope everyone’s happy and lives with the district court decision and doesn’t appeal it.”

    White plans to do that, and thanked the court for taking a month to consider his request. According to White, the supreme court is usually quicker. 

  • Human remains discovered in undeveloped area of Las Cruces

    LAS CRUCES (AP) — Police in Las Cruces are investigating the discovery of human remains in an undeveloped area of the city.

    They say the remains were found by a hiker walking his dog about 10 a.m. Sunday.

    The remains haven't been identified yet and will be sent to the New Mexico medical investigator's office for an autopsy.

    Investigators have yet to determine the gender or approximate age of the individual.

    Police say it's not immediately known if foul play is involved or how long the remains may have been in the undeveloped area west of the intersection of Rinconada and Sonoma Ranch Boulevard.

    Investigators combed through the surrounding area throughout Sunday evening and returned to the area Monday morning to search for evidence relevant to the case.
     

  • New Mexico AG, others support proposed wind farms

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, consumer advocates and others have reached a settlement with Xcel Energy over the utility's plans to add more wind power for customers in New Mexico and parts of Texas.

    The proposed agreement was filed Monday with New Mexico utility regulators for approval. The Public Utility Commission of Texas also will have to sign off, but officials said some work remains before a final agreement can be presented to regulators there.

    The Sagamore Wind Project is planned for Roosevelt County. It would be the largest wind farm in New Mexico, providing more than 520 megawatts of power.

    The other — with a capacity of nearly 480 megawatts — would be located in Hale County, Texas.

    As part of the agreement, the attorney general's office, staff at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and others sought certain assurances that the wind farms would benefit customers.

    "I'm committed to ensuring energy affordability and security, protecting our natural environment and growing New Mexico's fragile economy," Balderas said Monday in voicing his support for the agreement.

  • Some glitches seen in deadline week for 'Obamacare' sign-ups

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer advocates reported some glitches Monday in the final days for "Obamacare" sign-ups, although the Trump administration largely seemed to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience.

    In Illinois, some consumers who successfully completed an application for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov got a message saying they would likely be eligible to buy a health plan, "but none are available to you in your area."

    That information was incorrect because every county in the nation currently has at least one health insurer offering plans under the Affordable Care Act for next year.

    Friday is the last day to enroll for subsidized private coverage in 39 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website.

    Consumer interest has remained brisk, even as the Trump administration cut the sign-up season in half, reducing it from roughly from 90 days to 45 days.

    Former President Barack Obama offered encouragement Monday for the closing push, posting on social media and joining a conference call with enrollment counselors.

  • Worker in Roswell reports finding human skull at public park

    ROSWELL (AP) — Police in Roswell say a city worker has found what is believed to be a human skull.

    They say the skull is being sent to the state medical investigator in Albuquerque for confirmation of its authenticity.

    Police say the skull was found last Friday afternoon next to a water pump station at Cahoon Park near Union Avenue and Riverside Drive.

    They say the skull appears to be fairly old and not related to any recent incidents or reports made to Roswell police.
     

  • First Snow
  • LANL contractor nets $8.5M fee for legacy cleanup

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s contractor in charge of cleaning up legacy (pre 1999) waste at sites on the lab’s 40-square-miles of property, received incentive pay this year.

    Los Alamos National Security, which works under the Los Alamos Environmental Management Field office, collected $8,458,736 of the $10,083,579 fee that was available.

    EM-LA gave the contractor high marks for regulatory performance and management and successfully completing a test on a network of extraction and injection wells put in place to try and stop the spread of a cancerous chemical into a regional aquifer 1,000 feet below Mortandad Canyon.

    The chemical, chromium-6, is a known cancer causing chemical. From the 1950s through the 1970s, it was used as a corrosion inhibitor in cooling towers at a LANL power plant, and along with the water in the cooling towers, it was regularly flushed out into the canyons.

    The chromium plume was discovered in 2005. The contractor was also rewarded for completing soil clean up in Upper Los Alamos Canyon. In 2017, the contractor also processed 60 drums of remediated nitrate salts.

  • School start time debate set for Tuesday

    Changing the start times for students in Los Alamos Public Schools will be debated Tuesday at a meeting of the school board.

    Students, parents, staff and community members have been talking about whether starting later – to help students get more and better sleep – should be put in place next school year.

    The board is scheduled to take action on Tuesday at its 5:30 p.m. meeting at the Administrative Board Room, 2075 Trinity Drive.

    New Mexico First, a public policy think tank, was hired by the district to study the issue. A white paper, a myriad of community discussions, alternative proposals, and a final position paper have been produced to look at the issue. The final paper is available on the school district’s website.

    A few school districts in New Mexico and others throughout the country have adopted later start times to address a lack of sleep on the part of students, according to the study.

    Recent research has shown that older teenagers have a different sleep cycle than younger children and older adults. The “deep” part of older teenagers’ sleep cycle, needed for regenerative rest, starts later, according to the studies.

    Representatives of New Mexico First told the board at its work session Nov. 30 that the community was equally split on the issue.