Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • GAO wants NNSA to think long-term on plutonium

    The Government Accountability Office’s latest report, which was released two weeks ago, urges the National Nuclear Security Administration to think long-term when it comes to a plutonium strategy.

    In 2012, the Los Alamos National Laboratory submitted a report, which analyzed its plutonium options after NNSA deferred the Chemistry Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility for at least five years last year.

    According to the study, these options include relocating analytical chemistry and materials characterization capabilities among facilities at LANL, moving some capabilities to facilities at other sites, or some combination of the two.

    The GAO report indicated that the lab has put the potential cost to move plutonium capabilities between $480 million and $820 million.

    “Such a move, which would involve the expanded use of the recently completed Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building and the lab’s existing Plutonium Facility, would come with several other concerns,” the GAO said.

    “Following the study, NNSA tasked the M&O contractor for LANL with assessing the space inside PF-4 to see if it could be repurposed to better support plutonium research for the nuclear weapons program and other mission areas.”

  • 50 years of space
  • WIPP honored

    The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) was recognized as one of two finalists at the New Mexico Sustainable Business Summit held in Albuquerque in August 2013.
    The second annual summit, presented by Albuquerque Business First and the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce (NMGCC), is a business expo and awards luncheon to recognize organizations that have “green” practices integral to the way they operate.
    WIPP was selected as an honoree in the category of sustainable workplace. “I’m very proud of the WIPP team,” said Carlsbad Field Office (CBFO) Manager Joe Franco. “It’s essential to protect human health and the environment, and we encourage the WIPP Team to look for ways to improve our processes.”  

  • Lab sustains ‘millions’ in flooding damage

    Last week’s storms, especially the one on Friday the 13th, caused extensive damage to county property.
    Initial estimates by the county were in excess of $5 million.

    Flooding also was rampant at Bandelier National Monument as the park was closed for a week so workers could clean up the debris in and around Frijoles Canyon and the visitor center.

    Friday, lab officials discussed what kind of damage was done on Los Alamos National Laboratory property.

    And the news was not good. And in fact, it was almost catastrophic.

    “Last week, we experienced what my surface water people call an epic event,” said Dave McInroy, program director for LANL’s environmental Corrective Actions Program.

    “We got over seven and one-half inches in a seven-day period and an inch and a half on Friday.”
    McInroy said the rain on that Friday caused catastrophic damage to the lab’s well monitoring stations and access points and past environmental characterization efforts at the lab. McInroy estimated there were “millions” of dollars in damages.

  • Klotz begins NNSA nomination hearing

    Lieutenant General Frank Klotz (USAF-Ret.) was on the hot seat Thursday morning.
    Klotz appeared before the Senate Armed Forces Committee as NNSA administrator nomination hearings got underway. Speculation in Washington centers on the fact that Klotz should not face any major pitfalls in his quest to be the next NNSA administrator.
    In prepared remarks, Klotz said the NNSA has a unique and special responsibility for pursuing two different, but complementary principles that have traditionally guided American nuclear weapons policy.
    “The first is that the United States must continue to lead international efforts to limit and reduce nuclear arsenals, combat nuclear proliferation and secure nuclear materials across the globe,” Klotz said. “The second is that appropriately-sized nuclear forces still play an essential role in protecting U.S. and allied security interests, even as we seek to reduce the overall number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security policy. As President Obama and congressional leaders have repeatedly emphasized, as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal.”

  • LANL Foundation awards 13 scholarships to returning students

    Thirteen Northern New Mexicans recently received $1,000 Returning Student/Regional College scholarships from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation.

    The awards helped students returning to a formal education for certification or a two-year degree at an accredited regional college. Many are pursuing new careers.

    Funding for the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund comes from donations by LANL employees and a matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

    Awards went to:
    • Oakley Blasdel, Rowe, who is pursuing a degree in nursing at Santa Fe Community College. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Baylor University in Waco, Texas in 1986, graduated from New England Culinary Institute in 1991 and has been a personal chef, personal assistant and caregiver for the last eight years.

    • Evan Fishbein, Los Alamos, who plans to study Electro-Mechanical Engineering at UNM-Los Alamos. He will intern as a Greenhouse Technical Assistant at the New Mexico Consortium greenhouse facility. He is a part-time teacher at Taos High School and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University in Boston.

  • NNSA, S. Korea reach accord

     The National Nuclear Security Administration today signed an agreement with the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) to continue cooperation on low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel development. This agreement will facilitate conversion of civilian research reactors in Europe so that the reactors will use non-weapons usable LEU fuel instead of highly enriched uranium (HEU), supporting President Obama’s goal to advance global nuclear security.
    The agreement was signed by NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington and MISP Director for Space & Nuclear Cooperation Kim Dae-Ki during the annual International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) General Conference in Vienna.
    “The Republic of Korea is a key partner in the international effort to develop new LEU fuels that allow for the conversion of the most challenging civilian research reactors,” said Harrington. 

  • NNSA overhaul gains momentum

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a seven-year, $213 million upgrade to the security system that protects the lab’s most sensitive nuclear bomb-making facilities doesn’t work. Those same facilities, which sit atop a fault line, remain susceptible to collapse and dangerous radiation releases, despite millions more spent on improvement plans.

    In Tennessee, the price tag for a new uranium processing facility has grown nearly sevenfold in eight years to upward of $6 billion because of problems that include a redesign to raise the roof. And the estimated cost of an ongoing effort to refurbish 400 of the country’s B61 bombs has grown from $1.5 billion to $10 billion.

    Virtually every major project under the National Nuclear Security Administration’s oversight is behind schedule and over budget — the result, watchdogs and government auditors say, of years of lax accountability and nearly automatic annual budget increases for the agency responsible for maintaining the nation’s nuclear stockpile.

  • Explosives exhibit opens at the Bradbury Museum

     For more than 70 years, Los Alamos National Laboratory has been a frontrunner in explosives research, development and applications. To highlight the lab’s work in the field of explosives, the Bradbury Science Museum is opening a new exhibit titled “The Science of Explosives” at 4 p.m. on Sept. 18.
    “The science of high explosives was born at Los Alamos on July 4, 1943 when the physicist Seth Neddermeyer conducted his first implosion experiment to test a theoretical concept,” said Cary Skidmore of Los Alamos’ Detonator Technology Group. “Since that time, theory, experiment and simulation have combined at Los Alamos to effectively lead the world in many aspects of explosives science, technology and safety.”
    “Building a scientific understanding of high explosives has been a core capability of Los Alamos National Laboratory since the Manhattan Project,” said Bradbury Science Museum Director Linda Deck.
    “Today the laboratory continues to ‘write the book’ on these energetic materials, and we’re excited to be able to present this work in our new exhibit.”

  • Report: Quality of science at labs solid

    The science and engineering capabilities that underpin the nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship and nonproliferation missions at the nation’s three national security laboratories are “healthy and vibrant,” says a new report from the National Research Council.
    The committee that wrote the report found no problems with the quality of science and engineering that would prevent certification of the stockpile. However, the report identifies several issues that, if not addressed, have the potential to erode the ability to perform high-quality work at the laboratories.
    Congress asked the Research Council to review the quality of scientific research and engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which are part of the National Nuclear Security Administration. This report is the second of the two-phase study; the first report, released in February 2012, examined management of the laboratories.
    The new report examines the laboratories’ capabilities in four areas of fundamental importance to their primary missions:
    (1) Weapons design;
    (2) System engineering and understanding of the effects of aging on system performance;
    (3) Weapons science base;