Today's News

  • The Latest: US: More study needed on nuclear pit production

    The agency that oversees the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile says further study is needed to determine the best option for the United States as it looks to ramp up production of the plutonium cores that trigger nuclear weapons.

    The National Nuclear Security Administration said Monday that a team of external and internal engineering experts will further analyze the two options that were identified as part of an earlier review that looked at the most efficient and cost effective means of making the pits.

    Agency spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler tells The Associated Press the options include leaving the work to Los Alamos National Laboratory or moving it to the U.S. Energy Department's Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

    It's not clear how long the extra analysis will take, but the agency said new pits must be made to ensure the nation's nuclear forces are flexible and tailored to deter 21st-century threats.

    The NNSA has yet to release a report on the risks and capabilities of LANL and other U.S. Energy Department sites when it comes to producing plutonium cores for the weapons.

    The report by the NNSA was due over the summer but nothing has been made public other than a redacted summary sheet obtained by a watchdog group in the wake of recent congressional briefings.

  • Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah

    SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday took the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, declaring that "public lands will once again be for public use" in a move cheered by Republican leaders who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.

    The decision marks the first time in a half century that a president has undone these types of land protections. Tribal and environmental groups oppose the decision and are expected to go to court in a bid to stop Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

    Trump made the plan official during a speech at the State Capitol, where he signed proclamations to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Both monuments encompass millions of acres of land.

    State officials said the protections were overly broad and closed off the area to energy development and other access.

    Environmental and tribal groups say the designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources, especially the more than 1.3 million-acre (2,030-square-mile) Bears Ears site featuring thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

    Trump argued that the people of Utah know best how to care for their land.

  • New Mexico sees rebound in tax revenues, oil sector

    SANTA FE (AP) — Surging state tax revenues and a rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors are propelling a rapid turnaround in New Mexico government finances, state economists told a panel of lawmakers on Monday.

    State government income for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2018, is expected to surpass current annual spending by $199 million, economists told the state's lead budget-writing committee.

    The forecast signaled that state government is emerging from two years of austerity measures that resulted in slashed spending at state universities and colleges, while threatening funding for classrooms, courts and museums.

    "It's really good to be here today to present some really good news," Finance and Administration Secretary Duffy Rodriguez said.

    Economists at four state agencies told lawmakers to expect an additional 3.3 percent in general fund spending money over the current $6.1 billion budget.

    Much of the fiscal rebound comes from personal income taxes — an estimated $167 million increase during the current and coming fiscal years. Income from oil and natural gas was adjusted upward by $140 million for the same period.

  • UBiQD, Descartes expands operations

    History says Silicon Valley started out of a one-car garage in Palo Alto California in 1937 with the founding of the Hewlett-Packard company. Monday, Los Alamos had a Hewlett-Packard moment of its own when New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Matt Geisel visited Los Alamos tech company UBiQD headquarters to celebrate UBiQD’s and Descartes Labs’ future plans. Both companies announced at the gathering they will be bringing a combined total of 70 jobs to New Mexico.

    The CEOs of both companies thanked Geisel, the state, Los Alamos National Laboratory and their communities where they’re based (Descartes was in Los Alamos, but moved to Santa Fe) for their ongoing financial support to help grow tech in the northern New Mexico. Both companies got their start through the lab’s tech transfer initiative, the Venture Acceleration Fund and funding from Los Alamos and Santa Fe to help grow their businesses.

    The state is providing $500,000 in Local Economic Development Act funding to Descartes Labs and $125,000 to UbiQD to help with the jobs expansion.

  • LAPS discusses vacant land for community use

    With 35-plus acres of vacant land near the middle school, the Los Alamos Public Schools has property to share with a community facing a possible housing crunch.
    At the request of Board Member Steve Boerigter, the school board reviewed all of its vacant property Tuesday. The board also heard a report from Think New Mexico regarding its final report on changing the start time for students to encourage better sleep.
    Boerigter asked for the agenda item to review the property as the board approved a measure a few weeks ago to begin transfer of property near the middle school to the county for the development of new, community gymnasium.
    “I saw the 35 acres near the middle school and I thought `wow, that’s a big-sized chunk of land,” Boerigter said.
    Proposals of a new contractor to operate the area’s largest employer, Los Alamos National Laboratory, have brought on discussions about Los Alamos’ near perpetual housing shortage, he said.
    He would like the school district and the county to begin discussing the possibility of affordable housing on the property, he said.
    Board Member Andrea Cunningham said she would like to see a high-density mix of homes for teachers, first responders and other workers who would provide a benefit to the community.
    Other board members present agreed, noting that efforts should be made to keep the housing affordable, if built.

  • Whoa Ho Ho
  • Rivera to be evaluated

    A Los Alamos woman accused of stabbing and slashing her sister’s boyfriend will be examined for competency, Los Alamos Magistrate Pat Casados decided on Friday.

    Andrea Rivera, 30, will be evaluated to determine if she can assist in her own defense of three charges related to the Nov. 4 incident, which left Cory Kershner, 28, severely injured and Rivera’s sister, Sara Cooper, struggling to save him.

    Rivera appeared in Magistrate Court on Friday with her public defense attorney Kelly Golightley.

    A preliminary hearing to determine probable cause had been scheduled for Friday, but Casados agreed with Golightley’s motion to determine competency in front of a state district court judge. A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Friday in Casados’ courtroom.

    Rivera faces two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, third-degree felonies, and one count of tampering with evidence, also a third-degree felony, following the alleged attack at a Los Alamos apartment.

    Rivera allegedly attacked Kershner after the trio had been drinking alcohol. According to the account Rivera’s sister told police, Rivera became agitated and Kershner tried to calm her down after sending Cooper to a bedroom.

  • LAPS School Board approves opening negotiations with custodial contractor

    A proposal to privatize night-time custodial duties at the high school and middle school brought out several members of the Los Alamos Public Schools custodial staff Tuesday during a school board meeting.

    The board decided to give Assistant Superintendent Lisa Montoya permission to negotiate with SSC, a company headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., for a contract worth $447,000, but said they don’t want any current custodial staff to lose their jobs as a result.

    At the request of a reporter following the board’s vote, Quinn Taylor, assistant head custodian at Los Alamos High School, answered questions regarding concerns by custodial staff.

    There is at least one custodian who does not want to leave the night shift, because he or she has a day job as well, Taylor said. He’s concerned about the move, he said.

    “I’m not in favor of it – people are worried about what is going to happen,” Taylor said after the vote.

    In her presentation, Montoya said the district’s custodial staff has six to eight  vacancies, despite efforts to fill them. The current custodial staff is being asked to work overtime to cover the vacancies.

  • University leaders make case to keep managing Los Alamos lab

    SANTA FE (AP) — University of California leaders say that despite safety and operational lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the university system alone has the experience and expertise to manage the nuclear weapons lab — a role the school essentially has had since the lab's inception.

    University officials were in Santa Fe last week to meet with the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, Santa Fe Community College and a representative with the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities to plead its case to continue to oversee the lab.

    Kim Budil, the University of California's vice president for national laboratories, said the lab "has consistently been rated for their excellence in science and in support of their missions" in the 12 years since the university began co-managing the lab as part of a consortium with three private companies, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported.

    The university has managed Los Alamos since the 1940s. Then-lab Director Pete Nanos temporarily shut down operations in 2004 after a student was injured and classified disks went missing. Thousands of other issues came to light, and the Department of Energy put the lab contract out for bid in response.

  • Mysterious structures in SF National Forest pose major fire danger

    Human-built cone stick structures, some two-stories tall, are popping up throughout the Santa Fe National Forest, causing a mystery for Forest Service officials.

    A volunteer showed Española Ranger District employees this seven or eight stick structures off Tesuque Peak Road at Aspen Vista.  And at least 10 more have been reported below the Aspen Vista picnic area. The mysterious structures have also  been spotted on the Winsor Trail and in the Big Tesuque drainage, officials reported Friday.

    Officials are concerned about the significant health and safety hazards posed by these structures.

    Santa Fe National Forest staff said the structures are elaborately constructed out of 1,000 or more individual sticks or logs.

    The wood is seasoned and dry, and the design is similar to a classic kindling pyramid but on a much larger scale, according to Forest Service officials.  And to worsen the fire danger, people appear to be using fire rings inside many of the structures.