Local News

  • TV scientist teaches with a German flavor

    Joachim Hecker loves science. He also loves talking about science. And since he’s from Germany, he often talks about science in his native language.

    Friday he combined his love of science with German and presented both to the combined German classes of Los Alamos High School.

    “(The presentation is) meant to be done in the German language so they learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and the language, because the language is nothing but a tool for doing other things,” Hecker said.
    Hecker is a television scientist in Germany. His May 4 visit to Los Alamos High School was financed by the German

    Embassy in Washington, D.C., and supported by the Central Agency for German Schools Abroad.

    He kept the students’ attention throughout the demonstration with not only his engaging sense of humor, but also by using everyday items to perform several experiments that produced flames, unique sounds and even what he called “real fake snow,” which students were allowed to scoop into sandwich bags and take home with them.

    And he took every opportunity to use his native language, teaching the students the German names of each item used in the experiments while bracing them for the culmination of each experiment by having them count down from 10 in German.

  • NNSA announces decision on pit production

    Los Alamos National Laboratory will share production of plutonium pits with the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the Nuclear Weapons Council and National Nuclear Security Administration announced Thursday.

    LANL will maintain production of 30 plutonium pits per year, while the Savannah River Site will produce 50 pits per year.

    “To achieve DoD’s 80 pits per year requirement by 2030, NNSA’s recommended alternative repurposes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce plutonium pits while also maximizing pit production activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico,” according to Thursday’s release.

    “This two-prong approach – with at least 50 pits per year produced at Savannah River and at least 30 pits per year at Los Alamos – is the best way to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of such a vital undertaking,” said Ellen M. Lord, the under secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and the chair of the NWC, and Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the Department of Energy under secretary for Nuclear Security and the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. She is a member of the NWC.

  • Hawaii volcano could spew boulders the size of refrigerators

    By SOPHIA YAN and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press

    PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — If Hawaii's Kilauea volcano blows its top in the coming days or weeks, as experts fear, it could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air, shutting down airline traffic and endangering lives in all directions, scientists said Thursday.

    "If it goes up, it will come down," said Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey. "You don't want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it's coming out at 120 mph."

    The volcano, which has been spitting and sputtering lava for a week, has destroyed more than two dozen homes and threatened a geothermal plant. The added threat of an explosive eruption could ground planes at one of the Big Island's two major airports and pose other dangers. The national park around the volcano announced that it would close because of the risks.

    "We know the volcano is capable of doing this," Mandeville said, citing similar explosions at Kilauea in 1925, 1790 and four other times in the last few thousand years. "We know it is a distinct possibility."

  • Results unclear as federal money flows to New Mexico schools

    SANTA FE (AP) — Federal financial support for New Mexico public schools is on the rise, but isn't necessarily boosting student academic performance, according to an evaluation released Thursday at the state Legislature's nonpartisan budget committee.

    The report from the Legislative Finance Committee provides an exhaustive catalog of more than a half-billion dollars in annual federal funding that supports about 6 percent of the state's public school teachers.

    Major channels of federal education funding have increased for the current fiscal year that runs through the end of June, including money for schools with high numbers or percentages of children from low-income families.

    Federal support varies by school district, and the evaluation found little evidence of a correlation between school performance and per-pupil federal funding. Much of the federal funding for New Mexico schools goes toward discounted or free school meals.

    "There was a weak relationship between per-student federal funding and low-income student proficiency in English and math," the evaluation stated.

  • House bill would revive mothballed Nevada nuclear waste dump

    House bill would revive mothballed Nevada nuclear waste dump

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Thursday approved an election-year bill to revive the mothballed nuclear waste dump at Nevada's Yucca Mountain despite opposition from home-state lawmakers.

    Supporters say the bill would help solve a nuclear-waste storage problem that has festered for more than three decades. More than 80,000 metric tons of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants sit idle in 121 communities across 39 states.

    The bill would direct the Energy Department to continue a licensing process for Yucca Mountain while also moving forward with a separate plan for a temporary storage site in New Mexico or Texas.

    The House approved the bill, 340-72, sending the measure to the Senate, where Nevada's two senators have vowed to block it.

    "The House can vote all they want to revive #YuccaMountain, but let's be clear - any bill that would turn Nevadans' backyards into a nuclear waste dump is dead on arrival," Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto tweeted. "Yucca will never be anything more than a hole in the ground."

  • Air Force: Use of training device started Kirtland wildfire

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The Air Force says an investigation has determined that use of a military training devise that simulates the noise and visual flash of ordnance explosions started a March wildfire on a Kirtland Air Force Base range.

    Base officials say training procedures have been changed so that ground burst simulators aren't used or are replaced by non-hazardous equipment during periods of high fire hazard.

    Also, when ground burst simulators or similar devices are used, Air Force personnel must have fire prevention and containment equipment on hand.

    The fire occurred March 4-5 it burned over 100 acres.

  • University of New Mexico announce new health system CEO

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The University of New Mexico has chosen a new CEO for its Level 1 trauma center and academic medical center.

    The university announced Tuesday that Kate Becker will serve as the new CEO for the university health system.

    The Albuquerque Journal reports Becker is a lawyer-turned-hospital administrator and currently serves as the president of SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital, an academic hospital and Level 1 trauma center serving eastern Missouri and southern Illinois.

    Becker is replacing Steve McKernan, who retired last fall after 21 years in the role.

    She will take over as CEO starting July 15.

    She will earn $620,000 annually and can make up to 25 percent more in incentive pay.

  • Council seeks letters of interest to fill vacancy

    The Los Alamos County Council is accepting letters of interest from residents to fill the unexpired term of Councilor James Chrobocinski, who resigned last week. His term will expire Dec. 31.

    Applicants must be a registered voter and resident of Los Alamos County, and cannot be employed by the county.

    Those interested need to submit a letter of interest explaining their background, experience and why they are interested in the position. Letters of interest must be received no later than May 31 at 5 p.m.

    The letter should be submitted to Harry Burgess, county manager, 1000 Central Ave., Suite 350, Los Alamos, NM 87544.

    The letter can also be e-mailed by the deadline to lacmanager@lacnm.us.

    Any person submitting a letter must attend a special council meeting at 6 p.m. June 11 in Council Chambers, and be prepared to respond to questions from councilors. The council expects to interview applicants and then make their selection that day.

  • New details emerge in April 29 brush fire

    According to a witness at the scene, a brush fire that broke out near the Ponderosa Pines Apartments April 29 could have been a lot worse.

    Though the Los Alamos County Fire Department was fast to respond, there were two people already at the scene using a garden hose, a shovel and whatever other tools they had available to put the fire out.

    The second witness to arrive was leaving the Mesa Public Library when he saw the smoke.

    “I looked down and saw a lot of smoke and thought ‘that isn’t right,’” he said.

    The second witness and another person arrived at about the same time and proceeded to try to put the fire out.

    While the other person had a shovel, the second grabbed a bucket to find some water. Finding none, he used the bucket’s bottom to help stamp out the fire.

    According to the second witness, they had it about 80 to 90 percent controlled by the time the fire department arrived.

    “If we wouldn’t have been there, that place would’ve probably went up,” he said.

    It was still tough going, though.

    “The more we would stamp, the more it would start up someplace else,” the witness said.

  • Libertarian Party targets legal pot, no state tax

    Behind their campaign for marijuana legalization, direct funding for public education and abolishment of state and federal taxes, there is a philosophy that Libertarian Party members think will appeal to the disenfranchised.

    According to A. Blair Dunn, Libertarian candidate for New Mexico attorney general, the Libertarian Party’s basic party line is to stay out of the daily lives of citizens.

    “The core beliefs all Libertarians share is that the proper role of  government is not to interfere in everybody’s daily lives,” Dunn said.

    “That means lowering the financial burden that the government places on individuals and lowering the amount of personal burden that the government places on the lives of individuals.”

    Legalization of marijuana, giving parents more control over funding for their children’s education, and abolishing the current federal and state and local tax systems in favor of a consumption-based tax system are the issues the New Mexico Libertarian Party will be campaigning for in this year’s election.