Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • DHS: Breach may affect all agencies

    China-based hackers are suspected once again of breaking into U.S. government computer networks, and the entire federal workforce could be at risk this time.
    The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that data from the Office of Personnel Management — the human resources department for the federal government — and the Interior Department had been compromised.
    “The FBI is conducting an investigation to identify how and why this occurred,” the statement Thursday said.
    This morning, the Los Alamos Monitor contacted both the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos Field Office to see if any local employees or local offices had been affected by the breach.
    Spokespersons from both LANL and LAFO said questions about the breach should be referred to the National Nuclear Security Administration headquarters in Washington, D.C.
    A NNSA spokesperson said this afternoon that DOE employees were notified of the breach by Secretary Ernest Moniz late Thursday after the breach was announced, but had no other information.
    According to national reports, hackers were believed to be based in China, said Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.

  • Scholarship winner shares experience

    Each May, employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) pledge contributions to help create the leaders of tomorrow through the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF).
    In 2008, Alicia Salazar-Crockett was the Platinum Award Winner, receiving $30,000 toward her education.
    A new LANL Community Connections Podcast features Salazar-Crockett relaying the impact the LAESF award has had on her life.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Community Programs Office Deputy Director Carole Rutten interviews Salazar-Crockett in the episode.
    “Alicia is the perfect example of the scholarship fund,” said Rutten. “At 18 years of age, she received the top scholarship from LAESF for her undergraduate studies. She went on to receive her graduate degree in nuclear engineering. Now she is a full-time laboratory employee.”
    This year, 78 scholars received more than $400,000. Since 1999, more than $4.9 million has been awarded through 1,000 scholarships. Los Alamos National Security, LLC matches each employee’s pledge — up to $250,000 annually — to LAESF, which is co-managed by the LANL Foundation and LANL Community Programs Office.

  • Nitrate waste stream isolated at WIPP

    The Department of Energy announced today that all waste containers from Los Alamos National Laboratory containing nitrate salt bearing waste have been isolated.
    The DOE put out the statement along with the New Mexico Environment Department.
    “This milestone illustrates DOE’s commitment to safely recover WIPP in a manner that increases worker safety and protects the public and the environment,” said Joe Franco, DOE’s Carlsbad Field Office Manager, in today’s statement. “The DOE and its contractors at WIPP will continue to safely implement the recovery plan as we work toward resuming operations at WIPP."
    The waste containers with nitrate salt were determined to be responsible for the 2014 radiological release.
    Shortly after the February 14, 2014, radiological release, NMED issued an Administrative Order that required the expedited closure of Panel 7, Room 7, as well as the initial closure of Panel 6 at WIPP.
    A DOE Accident Investigation Board report issued in April concluded that the release was caused by an exothermic reaction involving a mixture of organic materials and nitrate salts in one of the waste drums.

  • May was a wet, cool month in LA

    It’s been awhile since Los Alamos County has experienced May weather as wet as it did last month. It’s been 23 years, to be exact.
    The last time the county has seen that kind of rain was in 1992. Los Alamos County got nearly 3 inches of rain in some spots, that according to Los Alamos National Laboratory weather reports.
    May 2015 ranks as the ninth wettest on record, according to the lab.
    According to LANL meteorologist Jean Dewart, the meter at Technical Area 6’s weather station recorded 2.80 inches, which was a little more than double the long-term average of 1.39 inches in May.
    The biggest totals, however, were recorded at TA-49 and TA-53, as well as in White Rock. At TA-49, near Bandelier, the total was 3.11 inches and at TA-53, near the Los Alamos Airport, the measurement was 3.30 inches.
    The TA-54 gauge near White Rock received 2.92 inches last month, which was nearly triple that of a typical May.
    Dewart said since last month and May 1992 there have been eight Mays that have seen a quarter-inch of rain or less.
    Since January, Los Alamos has received 6.61 inches, 20 percent higher than the townsite’s long-term average and White Rock has received 6.06 inches, nearly double that of what is typical year-to-date.

  • Mascheroni appeal falls flat

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist convicted of offering to help develop nuclear weapons for Venezuela cannot appeal his five-year sentence because he gave up that right, a federal court said.

    In an opinion issued Monday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni had no grounds to fighting his sentencing because his plea deal called for no appeals.

    Mascheroni, 79, argued in court papers that he had ineffective attorneys and he didn't fully understand his plea agreement. He wanted his sentencing tossed out.

    But the court said Mascheroni was well aware of the agreement and a U.S. district judge made sure he understood all that was presented.

    "Dr. Mascheroni, who has a Ph.D. and is a former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear weapons division, signed the plea agreement, which stated that he freely and voluntarily entered his plea and that he had reviewed it with counsel," the federal appeals court wrote.

    In January, Mascheroni was sentenced to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty.

  • NPS/DOE team explores every angle of MPNHP

    The National Park Service/Department of Energy field team’s visit this week will help determine the scope of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.
    NPS and DOE are currently working on a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) concerning the administration of facilities under the jurisdiction of DOE, including those “behind the fence” at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The MOA will determine and include provisions for enhanced public access, management, interpretation and historic preservation of the sites.
    The team will tour 17 historic sites located at eight technical areas, including V-site (Fat Man research and development and Trinity Gadget assembly) and Gun Site (Little Boy research and development) and meet with LANL officials to discuss the MOA.
    The field team will also tour both the Bradbury Science Museum and the Los Alamos Historical Museum, including the Hans Bethe House. They will take the Historic District Walking Tour and visit the Historical Society Archives.
    Other Los Alamos site visits include the municipal building, the nature center and Tsirege Indian Ruins in White Rock.
    The visit includes meetings with representatives from the Eight Northern Pueblos and Cochiti and Jemez Pueblos, the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities and with the MPNHP Advisory Committee.

  • Public encouraged to meet team

    Although the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (MPNHP) is projected to launch early in 2016, the park’s creation may seem like a dream to many Los Alamos residents.
    That could change next week when a field team comprised of National Park Service (NPS) and Department of Energy (DOE) officials visits the county as part of their preliminary work in developing the park.
    Los Alamos is putting its best foot forward for the visit. Not only could it determine the structure for the park, Los Alamos is competing with Oakridge, Tenn., and Hanford, Wash., to be headquarters for the tri-state park.
    “As they say, you never have a second chance to make a first impression,” said David Izraelevitz, vice chair of the Los Alamos County Council. “We want to show decision-makers that we are eager to help them build a new park and that we have ways to help them. “We plan to show them that Los Alamos commemorates and celebrates its history, that we are ready to put resources from the county and community toward this park, and that our community already is building a vision of what we want this park to be and do.”
    The public will have a chance to meet with the field team from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday at Fuller Lodge.

  • Scientists track flu virus on Wikipedia

    Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have the ability to forecast the upcoming flu season and other infectious diseases by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles.
    “The ability to more accurately forecast the flu season and other infectious diseases will transform the way health departments prepare for and respond to epidemics, ultimately saving lives,” scientist Sara Del Valle said.
    Del Valle and her team recently published  “Forecasting the 2013-2014 Influenza Season using Wikipedia,” in the Public Library of Science.
    “Infectious diseases are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality around the world. Because of this, forecasting their impact is crucial for planning an effective response strategy,” Del Valle said.
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seasonal influenza effects up to 20 percent of people in the United States and causes major economic impacts resulting from hospitalization and absenteeism.

  • DOE will report on LANS LLC

    Following a series of electrical accidents, the U.S. Department of Energy has ordered two separate investigations of the contractor that manages the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the Energy Department will review potential violations by the Los Alamos National Security LLC.
    A federal Accident Investigation Board will also examine several incidents at the nuclear weapons research facility, including a May 3 accident. One of those workers, Julian Trujillo, remains in the hospital in stable condition but severely burned.
    LANL spokesman Kevin Roark says the lab is working to strengthen its safety culture and will cooperate with the investigation.
    Since 2003, the lab has had at least 11 electrical incidents, some with injuries.

  • LANL hosts DNA meeting

    This week in Santa Fe, Los Alamos National Laboratory is hosting a DNA sequence analysis and bioinformatics event, the 10th annual Sequencing, Finishing and Analysis in the Future (SFAF) workshop.
    More than 300 participants from the international scientific community will gather at La Fonda to hear about everything from keynote addresses on the research applications of sequencing data — such as “Evolution and Epidemiology of Anthrax through the Lens of Genome Analysis” — to technical talks that highlight specific strategies such as a comparison of using sequence data from one commercial machine versus another.
    “This meeting is more than just a science meeting where scientists share their discoveries and accomplishments,” said Chris Detter, who founded the conference with a committee of researchers from around the world. “From day one it was meant to be a super workshop that has evolved over the past 10 years to bring leaders in the genomics field together with vendors, applications specialists and especially young scientists to discuss how genome sequencing and analysis plays a pivotal role in health, environment and security. The primary focus is to foster communication and collaborations to better enable use of these rapidly evolving technologies.”