Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Coalition presses D.C. for dollars

    The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities announced today that it is leading a 13-member delegation to Washington, D.C. to push for more cleanup funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    The group will meet with members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, as well as top officials at the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration to press for increased federal funding to continue environmental remediation across northern New Mexico.

    “This type of work is incredibly important for the Regional Coalition and our effort has already had a direct impact through the millions of additional dollars LANL received for cleanup funding this year,” said Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Chairman of the Regional Coalition. “Without this funding, we would have been even further away from the amount of cleanup dollars that we need for our communities and we could have seen a loss of up to 140 jobs.”

    The Regional Coalition is advocating for at least $255 million in FY14 to maintain ongoing environmental management efforts at LANL.

    The Regional Coalition will likely have a receptive audience when talking with the state’s Congressional delegation.

  • Novel cellulose structure requires fewer enzymes to process

    Improved methods for breaking down cellulose nanofibers are central to cost-effective biofuel production and the subject of new research from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC).
    Scientists are investigating the unique properties of crystalline cellulose nanofibers to develop chemical pretreatments and designer enzymes for biofuel production from cellulosic-or non-food-plant derived biomass.
    “Cellulose is laid out in plant cell walls as crystalline nanofibers, like steel reinforcements embedded in concrete columns,” says GLBRC’s Shishir Chundawat. “The key to cheaper biofuel production is to unravel these tightly packed nanofibers more efficiently into soluble sugars using fewer enzymes.”
    An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests-counter-intuitively-that increased binding of enzymes to cellulose polymers doesn’t always lead to faster breakdown into simple sugars. In fact, Chundawat’s research team found that using novel biomass pretreatments to convert cellulose to a unique crystalline structure called cellulose III reduced native enzyme binding while increasing sugar yields by as much as five times.

  • DOE Stockpile Report: Lab workforce to stabilize

    The Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration unveiled its 2014 Stockpile Stewardship Management Plan, and in so doing it revealed some of its plans for the Los Alamos National Laboratory and provided a forecast for the LANL workforce in the next five years.

    A big part of the NNSA plan was the issue of the aging nuclear security enterprise.

    And the report revealed the thinking behind deferring the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility for five or more years.

    The report reads, “This deferral is only possible by leveraging previous investments such as the new radiological laboratory for analytical chemistry; conducting the plutonium characterization work at LANL and possibly other available laboratories, as necessary; and accelerating plans to process, package, and ship excess special nuclear material out of the plutonium facility at LANL.

  • Laser-driven neutrons used to stop nuclear smugglers

    Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have successfully demonstrated for the first time that laser-generated neutrons can be enlisted as a useful tool in the War on Terror.
    The international research team in February used the short-pulse laser at Los Alamos’ TRIDENT facility to generate a neutron beam with novel characteristics that interrogated a closed container to confirm the presence and quantity of nuclear material inside. The successful experiment paves the way for creation of a table-top-sized or truck-mounted neutron generator that could be installed at strategic locations worldwide to thwart smugglers trafficking in nuclear materials.
    “We have demonstrated for the first time a novel approach for generating a record number of neutrons driven by a laser directed into a beam over a very small area that could provide proof positive of a large variety of nuclear items,” said Los Alamos physicist Andrea Favalli, an Italian researcher who led the February experiment.

  • House appropriators propose cuts to nuclear weapons spending

    WASHINGTON — House appropriators are looking to provide nearly $200 million less than the Obama administration has sought for nuclear weapons programs in fiscal 2014, even as fellow Republicans on other committees argue the administration is not requesting enough.

    The draft energy and water spending bill released by the House Appropriations Committee on Monday would provide $7.7 billion for nuclear weapons activities, nearly $193 million less than the $7.87 billion the White House requested. It is nearly $400 million less than the $8.08 billion that would be allowed by the annual defense authorization legislation drafted by the House Armed Services Committee and approved by the House on Friday.

    Republicans on the House Armed Service Committee have argued that the administration’s request is not enough to meet the terms of a 2010 deal made during lawmaker negotiations on ratification of the New START arms control deal with Russia, in which the president agreed to spend $85 billion over 10 years on nuclear arms complex modernization.

  • Seen @ The Scene: LANL volunteers

    Nonprofit organizations received more than $180,000 from Los Alamos National Security (LANS), LLC during a recognition event Wednesday at Fuller Lodge. LANS contributions weree determined by the number of volunteer hours logged by Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and retirees through a web-based organization called VolunteerMatch and through the Los Alamos Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP). Deputy Laboratory Director Beth Sellers was the keynote speaker and presented awards. Sellers also recognized the top volunteers and nonprofit organizations.

  • LANL eludes fine in beryllium incident

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory will not be fined after a lab machinist was exposed to higher-than-allowed levels of beryllium. That news comes from a May 29 letter addressed to LANL Director Charlie McMillan from the Department of Energy’s Office of Enforcement and Oversight.

    The letter stated that the ignored procedures for collecting and controlling personal exposure assessment air samples and didn’t keep accurate hazard assessment and exposure control records when an employee was exposed to more than 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of beryllium during an eight-hour shift, exceeding DOE’s “action” level.

    The letter from Office of Enforcement and Oversight Director John Boulden stated, “the facts and circumstances indicate weaknesses in LANS’ collection and documentation of industrial hygiene exposure assessment information and the application of that information to anticipate, identify, evaluate, and control beryllium hazards. These weaknesses may prevent LANS from establishing a definitive cause for an event and identifying appropriate corrective actions when occupational exposure limits are exceeded.

  • LANL files seen as key in Stanford's defense

    Aaron Boland, the attorney for former Los Alamos National Laboratory division leader Anthony Stanford, appeared in Los Alamos Magistrate Court Thursday on behalf of his client.

    In January, Stanford was arrested by Los Alamos Police for two counts of alleged assault and battery against a former female co-worker.

    According to the police report, Stanford, who had headed the lab’s emergency operations center, and the female employee worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory together.

    Police said one of the charges resulted from an encounter Stanford had with the employee in an elevator, where he allegedly tried to force himself on her. He allegedly made another similar attempt on Dec. 17 in his office after he gave her a Christmas gift.

    Boland was in court to give an update on the progress he was making in securing files that he said would help prove his client’s innocence.

    According to Boland, LANL persuaded Stanford to take early retirement after it conducted its own investigation into the incident. Stanford had worked at LANL for more than 20 years.

    “There was an entire investigation into these incidents that gave rise to the charges,” Boland said in court. “I have not yet had access to that file.”

  • Scholarship Winner Comes Full Circle

    Coming home to Los Alamos was an easy decision for Steven Honig, a 2002 Los Alamos National Laboratory Employees’ Scholarship winner.

    Now a Research and Development Engineer III in the Global Security Directorate at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he is senior engineer responsible for analog and digital circuits. Growing up on the Hill, he always enjoyed the small town pace and the surrounding plateaus and mountains. In fact, as a boy he considered becoming a forester so he could enjoy the outdoors all the time.

    The lab, he says, allows him the responsibility and freedom to do the type of research and problem solving that commercial engineering firms wouldn’t. And he gets the added benefit of backpacking, camping in the forests, climbing the rock faces and skiing Pajarito Ski Area. Skiing was a sport he took up at 16, rather late in life for Los Alamos residents, because his parents, natives of Texas, didn’t ski.

    “My mom would sit with a cup of tea and look out the window and wait for the snow to melt,” Honig recalls.

  • Critics blast Wilson's contract with labs


    Reaction has been swift regarding an Inspector General’s report which pointed out that former Rep. Heather Wilson failed to provide documentation in the consulting work she provided for the nation’s laboratories including Los Alamos and Sandia.

    The four management contractors at Los Alamos, Sandia, Nevada Test Site and Oak Ridge were required to repay the government $442,000 for their irregular payments to Wilson.

    Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “The question now becomes whether Wilson should personally be paying the government back. In any event, these new findings on the depth of her conflict-of-interest should bury her political future in New Mexico once and for all. Further, she should resign from the NNSA Council on the future of the nuclear weapons labs, or be replaced by congressional leadership if she doesn’t go voluntarily.”