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Today's News

  • WIPP appeal filed against NMED

    Southwest Research and Information Center and Margaret Elizabeth Richards filed a Notice of Appeal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals against the New Mexico Environment Department decision of Nov. 1, to allow “hot” Remote-Handled transuranic nuclear waste in shielded containers to come to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

    The appellants and approximately 200 individuals argue that the request to modify the state’s WIPP permit be subject to a public hearing because of the dangers posed by RH waste, the technical complexity of handling RH waste at WIPP and the substantial public interest in the request.

    NMED approved the Department of Energy request although the state agency had in December 2011 and January 2012 rejected virtually the same request.

    “SRIC feels that the permit request was incomplete and did not adequately address the real reason that DOE wants shielded containers — there is not enough space for RH waste because of the way the facility has been mismanaged. State law requires a public hearing, but since NMED rubberstamped the request, we have no choice but to sue,” said Don Hancock of SRIC.

  • Coalition gets heads-up on D.C.

    Attorney Seth Kirshenberg has his finger on the pulse of Washington.

    The D.C. based attorney has helped Los Alamos County with issues regarding the Department of Energy. And he also is the director of the Energy Communities Alliance of which the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities is a member.

    Kirshenberg was in town Friday to address the coalition and offer it a glimpse in what to expect in Washington now that the election season is over.

    Kirshenberg told the coalition that there are three things it needs to be doing as the New Year approaches.

    He said the coalition needs to plan ahead, identify priorities and understand the environment in Washington.

    “And that is not always easy,” said Kirshenberg, who works at the firm Kutak Rock in Washington.

    Primary issues facing the lame-duck Congress is a possible fiscal cliff where sequestration might take effect if a budget agreement is not in place by the end of the year. Sequestration would trigger mandatory budget cuts of $1.2 trillion and would cause massive financial headaches for DOE facilities including the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  • Report traces the timeline of contamination

    This is the conclusion of a two-part series that began in Friday’s edition.

    A 116-page federal report delves into the background of how the radioactive contamination accident happened at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Neutron Center in August.

    The report traces a timeline back to 2010 at the Luján Center, which is a national facility for defense and civilian research in nuclear and condensed-matter sciences, hosting scientists from national laboratories, universities, industry and international research facilities. One type of experiment conducted there is irradiation of sample materials in a neutron beam.

    The report goes on to state that between 2010 and 2012, Luján Center personnel worked with personnel from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to irradiate samples of powdered praseodymium technetate, neodymium technetate and lutetium technetate.

    Each of the three samples contained Technetium-99 (Tc-99), an intrinsically radioactive isotope that emits low energy beta particles.

    The report concluded that it is difficult to know that a sample canister contains Tc-99 if the canister is not clearly marked and/or labeled. The lutetium technetate sample was later determined to be the source of the contamination in the August 2012 incident.

  • Crave a Twinkie? The price is going up fast online

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twinkies are being sold on the Internet like exquisite delicacies.

    Hours after Twinkie-maker Hostess announced its plans to close its doors forever, people flocked to stores to fill their shopping baskets with boxes of the cream-filled sponge cakes and their sibling snacks — Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and Zingers.

    Late Friday and Saturday, the opportunists took to eBay and Craigslist. They began marketing their hoard to whimsical collectors and junk-food lovers for hundreds — and in some cases — thousands of dollars. That's a fat profit margin, when you consider the retail price for a box of 10 Twinkies is roughly $5.

    Greg Edmonds of Sherman, Texas is among those who believe Twinkies are worth more now that Hostess Brands Inc. has closed its bakeries. He lost his job as a sales representative eight months ago, so he is hoping to make some money feeding the appetites of Twinkie fans and connoisseurs

  • Safety Questions Surround School

    At first, Mary Ann Schnedler thought someone might have hit a deer. As headmaster of the Montessori School on Canyon Road since 1978, she’s seen her share of deer strikes.

    However what happened outside her school a couple of weeks ago happened to be a little scarier than a deer strike; someone had come around the curve too fast on Canyon and crashed their car into the student pick-up and drop-off area. No one was hurt, not even the driver, but for Schnedler, that was pretty much the last straw.

    “This certainly was an eye opener,” Schnedler said. “At the time, the parents were unloading their kids. If that car came to rest just a few inches closer, one of our parents or our children would’ve been hit.”

    Compounding the problem, people weren’t even slowing down for the emergency vehicles that were parked trying to offer aid, she said.

    According to Schnedler, the issues have been building for some time. When the school was founded in 1968, the neighborhood was a lot smaller back then. Through the years, however, the neighborhoods surrounding the school have grown up around it, but the signage along the road has not.

  • Board green lights sewer rate hike

    The Los Alamos Board of Public Utilities voted unanimously to endorse a plan for increasing sewer rates at a meeting last week.

    The increase is necessary to cover the costs of repairing and replacing the 50- to 60-year-old infrastructure, including the future replacement of the White Rock Wastewater Treatment facility.

    In a statement released prior to the board meeting, Department of Public Utilities Manager John Arrowsmith said, “Los Alamos is fortunate in that our electric, gas, and water rates are much lower than other communities. However, because of Los Alamos’ extremely varied topography, the infrastructure required to provide sewer services to this small community is more expensive.

    “For instance, most communities with less than 20,000 citizens do not need to maintain and operate two wastewater treatment facilities, but this is a necessity for our gravity-fed collection system. Restructuring the sewer rate to a flat fee for our residential customers, more fairly allocates the costs across the board.”

  • Elections and emergencies

    A snowstorm hit northern Rio Arriba County and other northern New Mexico communities on Election Day, 1986, affecting voter turnout.  Rio Arriba is a Democratic stronghold. Republican Garrey Carruthers won the governorship, which was expected and probably not changed by the weather. I happened to be watching the attorney general race, and the snowstorm might have been the factor that gave Republican Hal Stratton the edge over Democrat Bob McNeill.  Those are the breaks.  
    Early voting has been instituted since then.  Voters in storm-prone mountain communities can choose to vote early, and campaigns can make extra efforts to encourage them to.  But nobody gets a do-over.
    What to do when a storm disrupts an election became a hot topic a few weeks ago as Superstorm Sandy barrelled through several eastern states.  You thought about it, didn’t you?  Would the storm pass, would the power be restored, would polling places be open and would voters be able to get to them?  If not, what would the alternatives be, and who had the power to make those decisions?

  • Rehashing the 2012 election

    At PJ Media, Ron Radosh, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, offers a cogent analysis of the Republican losses. See: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2012/11/06/why-obama-won/?singlepage=true.
    Republicans lost two presumably Republican Senate seats because of outrageous, incredible comments about rape from candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Murdock in Indiana. Had I been in either state, I would have voted for the Democrat, just to keep the lunatics from the Senate.
    Romney, Radosh said, simply said he disagreed with Akin and Murdock. A pat on the hand, in other words. Had Romney gone to the two states, held a news conference, condemned the statements and withdrawn support, that would have meant something. Romney’s response fueled the Democrats charges of a “war on women” by Republicans.
    In New Mexico, Romney’s response allowed dishonest demagoguery from Michelle Lujan Grisham, congresswoman-elect. Though Heather Wilson and Lujan Grisham’s opponent, Janice Arnold-Jones, both promptly called for Akin to drop out, weeks later Lujan Grisham ran an ad including an image of Akin. Arnold-Jones was aware of the ad, but did nothing. (I endorsed Wilson and Arnold-Jones.)

  • Teacher pushing up for LA

    Los Alamos Middle School teacher Rita Sanchez took one for the team last week, participating with the Los Alamos Hilltopper wrestling team in their annual push-up-a-thon.
    Hilltopper head coach Bob Geyer hopes to raise funds to cover expenses from cleaning supplies to warm ups and travel.
    Geyer hopes to take district again this year and, with the help of Sanchez, and others in the program, helping pay the bills will be a piece of that.
    Sanchez has contributed over $500 in the past two years doing what she says are, “old lady wall push-ups.”
    Los Alamos Public Schools superintendent Gene Schmidt has sponsored Sanchez each year she’s taken part and this year is no different.
    “The wrestlers are my surrogate children,” said Sanchez. “They fill the empty place in my heart. They treat me with respect and kindness and even concern.”
    Sanchez lost her son Bryan almost four years ago , in a car accident. Bryan wrestled in seventh grade and was hooked, continuing through the remainder of his high school career.
    “The team honored my son and my family by changing the name of our tournament to the Bryan Sánchez Memorial Wrestling Tournament,” said Sanchez. “I am tied to this team and these boys forever.”

  • LA opens year against Kirtland Central Tuesday

    Going into the 2012-2013 boys basketball season, it’s no big secret that the Los Alamos Hilltoppers will be on a very steep learning curve.
    “It’s going to be a rough year,” Los Alamos head coach Fil Dominguez said. “But if our kids buy into each other like we did last year, we’ll be alright.”
    This is a new-look Hilltoppers team heading into this season. Los Alamos will open its season Tuesday night at Kirtland Central.
    The Hilltoppers are going to have to find a way to get through the early part of their schedule, not to mention a District 2-4A schedule that could again be a tough one, and do so without any of their top six players returning from the 2011-12 squad.
    Los Alamos went 11-19 last year.
    It was the 16th and final team selected for the state 4A playoffs and bowed out in the first round against top-ranked Goddard, 54-48.
    The six players he lost, all seniors, comprised virtually all of the team’s scoring from a year ago, not the least of which was offensive and defensive leader Nick Baker.
    This season, Los Alamos head coach Fil Dominguez said he’s going to take things one game at a time. Los Alamos has been doing a lot of fundamental work in the preseason along with just getting the group acclimated to playing together.