Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Surprise lab guest to make cameo appearance

     An as-yet-undisclosed Los Alamos National Laboratory official will “revive” the 69-year-old tradition of playing a corpse on stage this weekend in the Los Alamos Little Theater’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”
    The laboratory’s first director, Robert Oppenheimer, played the corpse in the Little Theater’s production of the same play in 1944. Other scientists filled in on occasion.
    The appearances are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
    “I have always enjoyed the theater and hope to give a lively performance,” the mystery actor deadpanned. “But the lines are very difficult.”
    The production is the stage version of the classic story written by Joseph Kesselring in 1939. Its best-known version is perhaps the 1944 film starring Cary Grant and directed by Frank Capra.
    The play is a black comedy revolving around a homicidal Brooklyn, N.Y. family, including two elderly sisters who kill off lonely old men by poisoning them with homemade elderberry wine-laced with arsenic, strychnine, and “just a pinch” of cyanide.
    The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. at the Los Alamos Little Theater, 1670 Nectar St in Los Alamos.
     The play continues on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees through Sept. 28.

  • Lab lecture series continues

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s role in the development of nuclear weapons during the Cold War period of 1947 to 1991 will be discussed by Byron Ristvet of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday at the Bradbury Science Museum. The talk is part of the laboratory’s 70th anniversary lecture series.
    “Los Alamos National Laboratory’s role in conjunction with the Department of Defense in meeting this challenge with new nuclear weapon designs was an amazingly complex and intellectual endeavor,” said Ristvet.
    Ristvet also will talk about the need for development of nuclear weapons from the target design-testing-stockpile sequence, and emphasize the importance of nuclear weapons testing toward ensuring that U.S. nuclear weapons systems will be reliable and provide for the defense of the nation.
    Ristvet is a senior subject matter expert to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Research and Development Directorate in the areas of nuclear and conventional weapons effect and testing, hard and deeply-buried target characterization and defeat, counterterrorism, cooperative threat reduction, knowledge preservation and nuclear test readiness.

  • Moniz no stranger at LANL

    This week’s visit was not the first time that Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz had stepped foot in Los Alamos.

    Back in 1972, Moniz was a postdoc at the lab and in 1976 he was a limited term employee.
    Moniz returned as a lab affiliate from 2002-2005.

    Last Tuesday, Moniz returned to Los Alamos in his new capacity as DOE secretary. He later traveled to Albuquerque to visit Sandia lab.

    Moniz took a little time to weigh in on a couple of issues.

    On the subject of an advisory panel, which is looking at the relationship between the NNSA and the labs, Moniz said, “We think the NNSA governance issues do need to be addressed. We view this as an opportunity actually to help work through the issues. We want to make this a very strategic relationship with the lab leadership, helping us all work together, establishing directions going forward.”

    On the subject of President Barack Obama making national security and climate change the subject of two speeches, Moniz said, “In view of the President’s emphasis on nuclear security and climate change, the work at Los Alamos has never been more important.”

    Moniz also was asked about the cleanup funding.

  • PF-4 quake analysis continues

    The Department of Energy this week updated the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety board on its schedule for completion of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Facility (PF-4) Alternate Seismic Analysis.

    Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, in a letter to DNFSB chair Peter Winokur said the NNSA has completed two major analysis efforts, a dynamic linear analysis and a static nonlinear pushover analysis.

    “In my September 28, 2012, letter to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), I committed NNSA to conducting a modal loading analysis, the alternate analysis, of the PF-4 facility to augment the previous analyses. NNSA believes this alternate analysis will be helpful in understanding further the seismic integrity of the PF-4 facility and providing assurance that all of its structural elements that require updating are identified,” Poneman wrote.
    Poneman’s letter indicated the timetable for completion of the upgrades would be in by December although he gave some wiggle room on the schedule.

  • DOE awarded task order for LANL waste control

    The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a task order in support of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Legacy Waste Project to Waste Control Specialists (WCS) of Andrews, Texas under the Environmental Management (EM) Low-Level and Mixed Low-Level Waste Disposal Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) Master Contract.
    The award is a firm, fixed-price task order, based on pre-established rates with a $1.29 million value and has a one-year performance period.
    The work to be performed under this task order includes the receipt and disposal of 207 cubic yards of Class C Mixed Low-Level Waste generated at the DOE Los Alamos National Laboratory. The waste is from clean-up and remediation activities.
    WCS is currently the only contractor under the two EM Low-Level and Mixed Low-Level Waste Disposal ID/IQ Master Contracts that possess the proper licenses to dispose of Class C Mixed Low-Level Waste.
    The mission of the Office of Environmental Management is to complete the cleanup of the environmental legacy brought about from five decades of nuclear weapons development and government-sponsored nuclear energy research. 

  • Magnetic charge crystals imaged in artificial spin ice

    A team of scientists has reported direct visualization of magnetic charge crystallization in an artificial spin ice material, a first in the study of a relatively new class of frustrated artificial magnetic materials-by-design known as “Artificial Spin Ice.”

    These charges are analogs to electrical charges with possible applications in magnetic memories and devices; in describing this class of materials, the new work demonstrates their utility.

Los Alamos National Laboratory staff scientist Cristiano Nisoli explained, “Magnetic technology generally concerns itself with manipulation of localized dipolar degrees of freedom,” he said. “The ability of building materials containing delocalized monopolar charges is very exciting with possible technological implications in data storage and computation.”

    Honeycomb configuration helps disassemble magnetic islands

    “The emergence of magnetic monopoles in spin ice systems is a particular case of what physicists call fractionalization, or deconfinement of quasi-particles that together are seen as comprising the fundamental unit of the system, in this case the north and south poles of a nanomagnet,” Nisoli said.

  • Plaue named DNFSB site rep

    The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board announced Jonathan Plaue as a site representative at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    Plaue will join Todd Davis and Richard Verhaagen, the board’s current site reps, starting in November.
    As a site representative, Plaue will advise the board regarding overall safety conditions at LANL and will participate in technical reviews by the board and its staff related to the design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of defense nuclear facilities.
    He also will assess LANL’s stockpile stewardship activities and design agency support of nuclear weapon operations performed elsewhere in the defense nuclear complex.
    Additionally, he will act as the board’s liaison with the Department of Energy and LANL management, federal, state and local agencies, the public, and industry officials.
    Prior to this assignment, Dr. Plaue served as the site rep at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
    Before his assignment at LLNL, he served as the board’s technical staff lead for safety oversight at LANL. His earlier assignments at the board included technical reviews and safety analyses related to nuclear chemical processing, high-level waste treatment and stabilization, and nuclear materials processing and storage.

  • Moniz pays visit to LANL, Sandia

    U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was in town visiting the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the new algae research laboratory built by the New Mexico Consortium and he said that Los Alamos and all the DOE labs have a major role in addressing two key initiatives of the President.

    “In view of the President’s emphasis on nuclear security and climate change, the work at Los Alamos has never been more important,” Moniz said.

    Moniz also addressed Los Alamos employees and received briefings on the laboratory’s nuclear weapons and intelligence work. It was the first visit by a DOE secretary to Los Alamos since 2009.
    Moniz was accompanied by Rep. Ben Ray Luján and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology President Daniel Lopez.

    Moniz also met privately with Gov. Susana Martinez.

    Here is a statement from the governor’s office.

    “The governor was pleased to meet with U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz in Los Alamos during his brief visit to New Mexico.

  • Pueblo closes access to monitoring station

    The San Ildefonso Pueblo is shutting off access to one of the monitoring stations that is part of the early notification system that the Department of Energy pledged to the Buckman Direct Diversion Project.
    In a letter dated Aug. 9 to Peter Maggiore of the Los Alamos Site Office, Governor Terry Aguilar wrote that the pueblo was terminating all agreements in relation to station E109.9 (also referred to as E11O) located within the pueblo’s boundaries.
    The station is one of three that automatically collects water samples when they detect water flowing. There are two other stations further upstream that do the same thing.
    Aguilar wrote, “As you are aware, there are several agreements that pertain to access to site installation of and use of equipment such as cameras and telemetry systems. There are also pending requests to install additional equipment. The Pueblo has become increasingly concerned about the expansion of the activities as the site and what has become an expanded footprint for what had initially started out as a limited monitoring site.
    “In addition, it appears there are several safety and environmental issues that are occurring at the site.

  • New gamma-ray observatory begins operations at Mexican volcano

    The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma Ray Observatory has begun formal operations at its site in Mexico.
    HAWC is designed to study the origin of very high-energy cosmic rays and observe the most energetic objects in the known universe. This extraordinary observatory, using a unique detection technique that differs from the classical astronomical design of mirrors, lenses, and antennae, is a significant boost to international scientific and technical knowledge.
    “The HAWC observatory will search for signals from dark matter and to study some of the most extreme objects in the universe, such as supermassive black holes and exploding stars,” said Brenda Dingus, principal investigator and a research fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dingus is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and in 2000 was a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
    HAWC is located at an altitude of 4,100 meters on the slope of the volcanoes Sierra Negra and Pico de Orizaba at the border between the states of Puebla and Veracruz.