Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Lab breaks scholarship fundraising mark

    This year’s Los Alamos National Laboratory Employees’ Scholarship Fund broke past fundraising records, raising a total of $563,827.
     Of that, 601 LANL employees, visiting scientists and friends of the lab contributed $313,000. Los Alamos National Security, LLC provided a $250,000 match.
    Nan Sauer, associate director for Chemistry, Life and Earth Science at the lab and chair of the campaign, said this exceeded the Scholarship Advisory Committees’ goal of $300,000 from employees.
     Laboratory employees contributed $273,300 to the campaign last year.
    Scholarship awards went to 73 students in a seven-county region. Winners received their checks, ranging from $20,000 to $1,000 at a recent ceremony at the LANL Foundation office courtyard in Española.
    Rich Marquez, executive director of the lab encouraged students to “think big and be what you want to be.”
    “There is no reason for us to recruit outside of Northern New Mexico; you are the seedbed for the lab’s future, and seeing you reminds me this country has a great future and you are it,” he said.
    Now, in its 15th year, the scholarship program has awarded more than $3.7 million to students in the Northern New Mexico counties it serves.

  • DOE work continues near condos

    The Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration will continue to do some remediation work on Los Alamos Canyon.

    And the residents who live in the Los Arboles Condominiums on Oppenheimer Drive don’t seem to mind a bit.

    “There’s no problem, none at all,” said Jim Stetzer, the board president of the condo association. This is the third time they’ve come through here.”

    Asked about the possibility of radioactive waste, Stetzer replied, “All the properties were cleared during the last check. Our requirement is that they can only have access by foot. All the test holes are hand dug.”

    According to lab spokesman Fred DeSousa, the work is a continuation of the Upper Los Alamos Canyon Aggregate Area Phase II project, which began in 2011 under a work plan approved by the New Mexico Environment Department.

    “This project is part of an on-going effort to complete sampling and cleanup within the historic footprint of the buildings, waste lines, and outfalls that were used during the Manhattan Project,” DeSousa said.

  • Oppenheimer lecture to look to heavens

    Dr. Steven Squyres, Cornell University professor and NASA project scientist, will deliver the 43rd Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture at 7:30 pm Monday, Aug. 19, at the Duane Smith Auditorium in Los Alamos.
    The talk is free and open to the public. His talk, titled “Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet,” will describe the exploits of the plucky Martian Rovers Spirit and Opportunity and what we have learned from them after more than 3,000 days on Mars. Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and have lasted for years beyond their design lifetimes.
    Squyres is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University and the principal investigator for the science payload on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers. Squyres’ research interests include the robotic exploration of planetary surfaces, the history of water on Mars, geophysics of the icy satellites of the outer planets, the tectonics of Venus, and planetary gamma-ray and x-ray spectroscopy. He is perhaps best known for his studies of the history and distribution of water on Mars and of the possible existence and habitability of a liquid water ocean on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

  • Udall Introduces Tech Transfer Bill

    SANTA FE — U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) announced legislation Monday to help create high-tech jobs and industries in New Mexico by streamlining the process for getting cutting-edge research and development from the state’s universities and national labs to the marketplace.

    Udall unveiled the bill during a half-day conference and workshop he organized at Santa Fe Community College called, “Technology Transfer: Key to New Mexico’s Future.”

    The event brought together some of New Mexico’s sharpest minds and successful entrepreneurs and investors, including educators and leaders from New Mexico’s national labs. Speakers included former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Los Alamos National Laboratory Chief Technology Officer Duncan McBranch and Sandia National Laboratory Director Paul Hommert.

    “New Mexico is home to some of the brightest minds in science and some of the most innovative entrepreneurs. From a new ultrasound technology that can be used to screen for breast cancer, to a device that tests for biotoxins, our labs and universities are already a launching pad for exciting – even revolutionary – new products,” Udall said.

    “If we can harness that potential, New Mexico can lead the nation in high-tech innovation.”

  • Algae-based fuel receives $5 million boost from DOE

    Research into the potential of algae-based fuel is getting a $5 million boost from the U.S. Department of Energy.
    New Mexico State University recently announced the funding, saying it will go to a research effort aimed at improving fuel that’s compatible with existing refineries.

    NMSU is working on the project along with Los Alamos, Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories, Washington State and Michigan State universities and four companies.

    Key goals of the project are to improve the yields and stability of algal biomass and cultivation systems while also improving oil content at harvest.

    Each of the necessary process elements, or unit operations, required to produce drop-in fuels from algal biomass are targets for improvements by various team members.

    Strain improvement work will be conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Michigan State University and Phycal; cultivation simulation and validation work will be conducted at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NMSU respectively; while bio-crude extraction methods are being developed at Washington State University.

  • LANL team lends helping hand in Fukushima

    Christopher Morris and his fellow group of Los Alamos scientists will not forget their trip to Japan anytime soon.

    The team was in Japan to lend credence to their research that muon imaging may offer the best hope of assessing damage to the reactor cores and locating the melted fuel.

    Muon imaging, which utilizes naturally occurring muons created in the atmosphere by cosmic rays to image dense objects, should solve the problem of determining the spatial distribution of the reactor fuel in the short term, the LANL team said.

    “Muons are scattered more strongly by high-Z materials such as uranium fuel in Fukushima’s reactor,” explained LANL researcher Haruo Miyadera. “By measuring the scattering angle, and understanding the physics of Coulomb multiple scattering, one can assess the locations and amount of the melted fuel.”

    While they were excited about their research, Morris said they were equally stunned by what they saw on a trip to Fukushima last summer.

    “We left from Tokyo, spent the night in the hotel and went up the coast the following day,” Morris said. “As we drove up the coast, I noticed there were a lot of concrete paths. Then I realized this is where the houses were before the tsunami.

  • Lecture to focus on Parsons

    Los Alamos National Laboratory historian emeritus Roger Meade talks about William S. “Deak” Parsons, one of wartime Los Alamos’ first division leaders and the contributions he made as an ordnance engineer to the success of the lab — including his role as the Little Boy weaponeer — at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 14, at the Bradbury Science Museum.
    The talk is part of Los Alamos’ 70th anniversary lecture series.
    Meade said Los Alamos’ first director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, described Parson’s work by saying, “I believe it is impossible to overestimate the value which Capt. Parsons has been to the project to which he is engaged, nor the loss we should have incurred without his services.”
    Parsons, the leading military ordnance expert at the beginning of World War II, came to the lab to oversee the engineering of Fat Man and Little Boy to be combat weapons. Parsons also served as one of the first two associate directors of the laboratory. Meade also will discuss Parsons’ experience arming Little Boy aboard the Enola Gay.
    Parsons also was instrumental in the first post-war atomic bomb test, as well as Operation Crossroads and the 1948 Sandstone tests. 

  • Reactor cleanup poses risks, rewards

    A team of Los Alamos scientists are helping in the recovery efforts after the devastating effects of the 2011 tsunami that heavily damaged Japan’s Fukushima reactor. They are helping assess the severity of damage within the reactor’s core.

    Damage of the reactor cores has attracted worldwide attention to the issue of the fundamental safety of atomic energy. A cold shutdown was announced by the Japanese government in December 2011, and a new phase of cleanup and decommissioning was started.

    However, it is difficult to plan the dismantling of the reactors without any realistic estimate of the extent of the damage to the cores, and knowledge of the location of the melted fuel.

    In the case of Three Mile Island, it took more than three years before a camera could be put into the reactor, and about 10 years before the actual damage to the reactor could be assessed. Since access to the reactor buildings is very limited due to high radiation fields, imaging the reactor cores from outside the buildings will be a valuable step, and can reduce the time required to dismantle the reactors significantly, resulting in cost savings and lower total worker radiation dose.

    A study in the journal AIP Advances by a team of scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) provided some clarity to the problem.

  • Litigant settles for $100K

    The case between employee Marlayne Mahar and Los Alamos National Security, LLC apparently is over.

    The Los Alamos Monitor obtained a settlement agreement between Mahar and LANS where Mahar was awarded $100,000 for alleged emotional distress.

    A jury back in March awarded Mahar $1 million in punitive damages but the Albuquerque Journal reported that district court Judge Sarah Singleton reduced the award in June.

    The lab did not comment on the case.

    According to Mahar’s attorney Timothy Butler of Santa Fe, LANS filed four post trial motions, which were briefed and argued before Singleton.

    First, LANS sought a new trial, arguing that there were problems with the jury selection process. Singleton denied LANS’ motion.

    Second, LANS filed a motion to set aside the jury verdict on the basis that there was supposedly no contract between Ms. Mahar and LANS which dealt with workplace violence. Singleton denied LANS’ motion.

    Third, LANS filed a motion to set aside the jury verdict, arguing that even if there existed a contract between Mahar and LANS dealing with workplace violence, then LANS did not breach this contract. Singleton denied this motion as well.

  • Former LANL employee picked to head NSF

    France Anne Cordova, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory Deputy Group leader, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to head the National Science Foundation.
    “As the first Latina nominated to head the NSF, Dr. Cordova brings a distinguished record of accomplishment from her work at Los Alamos National Laboratory to her many positions in academia,” Rep. Ben Ray Lujan said.
    Cordova was a member of the staff of the Space Astronomy and Astrophysics Group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1979 to 1989, where she also served as Deputy Group Leader.
    Cordova became the eleventh President of Purdue University on July 16, 2007. She was installed on January 23, 2012, to a three-year term as Chair of the Smithsonian Institution’s governing board, The Board of Regents. She had been appointed to The Board of Regents for a term of six years by a Joint Resolution of Congress in 2009.