Friday, January 16, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Jan. 10 – 16

A search for new science opportunities

Some 5,600 Ph.D. scientists work in the Department of Energy's three main weapons labs, says Victor H. Reis, a senior adviser in the Office of the Energy Secretary.

The total for the three is almost half that of the other 14 DOE labs combined, he adds. A few years back, Reis watched the labs develop a design for a new warhead, and he'd like to see lab scientists do the same thing for nuclear power.

The labs set up a sort of competition to develop the so-called reliable replacement warhead in which each of the two physics labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), developed their own design and critiqued each others' work. (Searching for more information? it's right here!)

Also from C&EN this week:

DOE weapons labs at a crossroad

When President-Elect Barack Obama takes office next week, scientists at the U.S. weapons complex, military officials, members of Congress, and arms control experts will watch anxiously to see what he will do about nuclear weapons. His presidency comes at a time when the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex is undergoing a difficult reexamination.

Decision makers are split over what exactly the future of the weapons complex should be, but they all see a tipping point ahead. They are gearing up for a major debate on nuclear weapons and what shape a modernized nuclear weapons science and manufacturing complex should take. Much is at stake, including the future of some 37,000 weapons staff, 15,000 of them employed at three national labs. (It's all here!)

Sen. Udall predicts bright future for LANL

Newly sworn-in Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., met Thursday with Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio in Washington, D.C. In discussing the laboratory's budget, Udall described Anastasio as “upbeat.”

He felt good about this budget year," said Udall during an interview from Washington Thursday evening. The laboratory's future looks bright, too, he said, explaining that strong science is needed in all of the challenges facing the world. (Want to know more?)

Guest column: Four Corners should plug into electrical energy storage

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have used computer simulations to model optimum ways to integrate new, additional renewable electric resources (solar and wind farms) along with energy storage - into the existing power system.

G. Loren Toole and colleagues at the lab have found that efficiently using the power generated from a large, anticipated increase of wind or solar farms is helped by locating massive energy storage facilities in proximity to the transmission mega-hub. (Plug into the full story here!)

State of mind

Leading researchers in the bewildering field of cognitive studies met this week to share new thoughts and assess progress.

A three-day conference sponsored by Sandia National Laboratory, with cosponsors including Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Santa Fe Institute and the Mind Research Network of Albuquerque, advanced an initiative for boosting a national program of neuroscience and cognition studies. (The whole story is here.)

Decade of the Mind Jan. 14-15

A product of the [Decade of the Mind] symposium will be a white paper that will explain why brain science is critical to national security, looking at brain injury and brain maladies, human-machine systems, training, and nonkinetic conflict.

Decade of the Mind cosponsors include the Krasnow Institute at George Mason University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Santa Fe Institute, the University of New Mexico, MIND Research Network and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. (Wrap your mind around this!)

Chu may push labs to evolve

Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate physicist and national laboratory director chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to lead the Department of Energy, told Congress on Tuesday that he would combat climate change and aggressively promote clean energy and conservation if confirmed for the Cabinet post.

Bingaman said the nominee's experience as a national laboratory director is a good sign for Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, with more than 20,000 employees in New Mexico. (Read the full story.)

Large-scale nuclear materials study shapes national collaborations

In Kumar Sridharan's laboratory on the University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering campus, just one ill-timed sneeze might have catapulted his next three years' worth of nuclear reactor materials research into oblivion.

A distinguished research professor of engineering physics, Sridharan and colleagues Yong Yang, Lizhen Tan and Kjetil Hildal spent summer 2008 preparing 500 smaller-than-a-sesame-seed samples for a unique study of how several traditional and cutting-edge materials fare in the harsh environment of a nuclear reactor.

Collaborators on the UW-Madison project also include the University of Michigan, Penn State University, University of California, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Westinghouse, Gamma Engineering, and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. (Read the large-scale version of the story here.)

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