Friday, May 28, 2010

Los Alamos lab's new golden age:
Federal stimulus money fuels jobs for cleanup, research

Visitors check out a remote excavating machine at the TA-21 clean up open house. LANL photo.

More than 60 years after the development of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos National Laboratory officials are using $212 million in federal stimulus funding for environmental cleanup that will provide hundreds of jobs for demolition and excavation workers.

The lab is also receiving $65.7 million in stimulus money for renewable energy research as well as studies of tree mortality, transuranic waste and superconducting radio frequency cavities. (Full Story)

LANL shows off cleanup efforts

A robotic excavator is used in conjunction with an environmental cleanup at LANL. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory held a public open house Saturday to show off their numerous cleanup projects including their first ever hazardous waste landfill. The landfill was used during World War II and the Manhattan Project. (Full Story)

Recovery Act at LANL provides jobs, environmental cleanup

Three workers hired for Recovery Act projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory share their stories

See the
YouTube movie here!

Robot Rodeo: Bomb squads sharpen skills
via remote pancake-making contest

Sgt. Troy Baker, left, head of the Santa Fe Police Department's bomb squad, watches the monitor as technician Scott Waite maneuvers the robot during Wednesday's competition. Santa Fe New Mexican photo.

Six bomb squads - from Santa Fe police, Albuquerque police, New Mexico State Police, Farmington police, the Los Alamos lab and the New Jersey State Police - are taking part in the training, which is scheduled to run through Friday.

The teams guide their robots through 10 different challenges, including an obstacle course, simulated attacks, cooperation exercises and activities designed to test abilities to minutely control the robot, said Chris Ory, a member of the LANL hazardous devices team. (
Full Story)


Los Alamos National Laboratory is hosting its fourth annual Robot Rodeo this week, where bomb squads converge in the forest to compete against each other in events meant to demonstrate dexterity in operating remote-controlled robots used to help disarm explosives.

The Santa Fe Police Department's bomb squad is one of six teams competing for trophies in the three-day event. Tasks include navigating a darkened obstacle course and splitting a wire with a 12-gauge shotgun mounted on each robot. (Full Story)

Bingaman visits Gulf of Mexico, applauds
N.M. National Labs

"After spending time in the Gulf, it's clear to me that there is an aggressive effort underway to solve this problem. I have hopes that the attempt later this week to stop the leak will be successful," Bingaman said. "I am also glad to know that both Sandia and Los Alamos has some of their best and brightest people working with BP and the federal government." (Full Story)

Swift survey finds smoking gun of
black hole activation

The optical counterparts of many active galactic nuclei (circled) detected by the Swift BAT Hard X-ray Survey. NASA Image.

ata from an ongoing survey by NASA's Swift satellite have helped astronomers solve a decades-long mystery about why a small percentage of black holes emit vast amounts of energy. Swift was built and is being operated in collaboration with Penn State, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and others. (
Full Story)

Scientists gain new "core" understanding of nanoparticles

hile attempting to solve one mystery about iron oxide-based nanoparticles, a research team working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) stumbled upon another one. But once its implications are understood, their discovery* may give nanotechnologists a new and useful tool.
…The research team, includes scientists from Oberlin College and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

There’s just one hurdle left in the quest to build an artificial cell, but . . .

Is this Life?

ordes of green, sub-microscopic balloons float in a watery mixture in Jack Szostak's laboratory at Harvard Medical School. They come in a variety of shapes: spheres, blimps, worms. And as Szostak examines magnified images of them, he can't help but notice a striking resemblance to bacterial ecosystems, pulsing with that fetid, yet undeniable quality that has eluded definition for generations--life. (
Full Story)

Autonomous robots could be used for
homeland security, spying

Nick Morozovsky works on a robot at the University of California San Diego. Union-Tribune photo.

"These projects, where we can coordinate with gifted university students and staff, can potentially become important lifesavers in devastating situations," said Nancy Ambrosiano, a spokesperson at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full Story)

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Friday, May 21, 2010

N.M. labs may see $40 million

The Obama administration wants to spend an extra $40 million this year at Los Alamos and Sandia to get a head start refurbishing the B61, a 1960s- and '70s-era nuclear weapon that is the most common bomb type in the U.S. arsenal.

The money, if approved by Congress, would allow the labs to expand a study aimed at determining what upgrades the aging bomb might need. Administration officials say the money is needed now to meet a Pentagon deadline to deliver the first refurbished B61 to the military by 2017. (full story)

Also from the Albuquerque Journal this week:

N.M. labs work to plug oil leak

Scientists from Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories are helping with efforts to plug the gushing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Department of Energy's Sandia labs, Livermore and Los Alamos have been on the scene helping ... so when the trigger is pulled for the ultimate kill we will have the maximum chance of success," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "It's something we very much appreciate." (full story)

Small nuclear power module receives Federal Lab Consortium 2010 Award

The annual awards recognize successful efforts by federal laboratory employees to transfer government-developed technology to commercial industry. A panel of experts from industry, state and local government, academia, and the federal laboratory system judge the nominations. (full story)

Small nuclear reactors are becoming big business

When most people think of nuclear power plants, visions of huge complexes like Three Mile Island come to mind. Now companies are rushing to develop a new generation of refrigerator-size nuclear reactors to help meet the world’s growing demand for electricity. (full story)

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Sun expert to illuminate public in lecture

NASA image shows a "solar superstorm" from 2003.

hen Joyce Ann Guzik considers the sun, the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist thinks about what is unseen. Like the big orb's oscillations she studies to glean clues about its life and future death.

Guzik, 49, is a member of the Navy Systems Group in the lab's Theoretical Design Division. She studies the internal structure of the sun and other stars by measuring their oscillations — scientific fields known as helioseismology and astroseismology. She uses the data to analyze the sun's life from 4.5 billion years ago to the present. (
Full Story)

Spinning pure batches of nanotubes species

Basic carbon nanotube structure. From Wikipedia.

ice Univ. researchers report using ultracentrifugation (UCF) to create highly purified samples of carbon nanotube species. One team, led by Rice Professor Junichiro Kono has made a small but significant step toward the dream of an efficient nationwide electrical grid that depends on highly conductive quantum nanowire. Co-authors of the paper include Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher Stephen Doorn. (
Full Story)

Mysterious quantum forces unraveled

Complex quantum effects known as Casimir forces cause tiny objects with the shapes shown here to repel each other rather than attract. Image courtesy of Alejandro Rodriguez.

or objects with odd shapes, calculating electromagnetic-field strength in a conducting fluid is still fairly complicated. But it’s eminently feasible using off-the-shelf engineering software.

“Analytically,” says Diego Dalvit, a specialist in Casimir forces at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, “it’s almost impossible to do exact calculations of the Casimir force, unless you have some very special geometries.” With the MIT researchers’ technique, however, “in principle, you can tackle any geometry. And this is useful. Very useful.” (
Full Story)

Study: “Buckyballs” pack a comatose bounce

"Buckyballs" could help halt the spread of cancer cells. They could help treat Alzheimer’s. They could also potentially cause human cells to lapse into a comatose state. All that from a "nanoparticle" far too small to see.

New research from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory has found that a slight modification to the nanoparticle can cause human cells to lapse into a comatose state—a toxic condition, but one that might also provide opportunities to treat degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or halt the spread of cancer cells. (
Full Story)

Winners Announced for LANL's
New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

A trio of students from Melrose High School captured the top prize in the 20th New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge hosted by the Los Alamos National Laboratory . "Control and Spread of Wildfires II" by brothers Richard and Randall Rush and Kyle Jacobs garnered each student a check for $1,000. (Full Story)

Nature's Promise for the Future

Cerro Grande Fire. LANL image.

os Alamos National Laboratory has made efforts to clear underbrush and small trees from its perimeter, partly in hope of preventing another fiery incursion into areas that house hazardous materials.

But overgrown northern New Mexico's forests were — and overgrown they largely still are.

Research — conducted at LANL, incidentally — says the problem began almost a century-and-a-half ago with the arrival of massive numbers of livestock, which ate the grasses and brush that had fueled the periodic low-intensity "housekeeping" fires that kept ponderosa forests down to historical densities of 80 trees per acre. (
Full Story)

Cerro Grande fire, 10 years ago today

Cerro Grande fire burn area in Los Alamos canyon. LANL photo.

y the end of the day on May 10, the fire had burned 18,000 acres, destroyed 235 homes, and damaged many other structures. The fire also spread towards the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and although fires spotted onto the facility's lands, all major structures were secured and no releases of radiation occurred. (
Full Story)

WIPP trucks log 10 million loaded miles

A WIPP transport leaves Los Alamos bound for Carlsbad. LANL photo.

It's taken 11 years, but the trucks that haul defense-related transuranic (TRU) waste to the WIPP site near Carlsbad recently logged 10 million loaded miles. Since WIPP began accepting waste from Los Alamos National Lab in northern New Mexico, more than 8,400 shipments have arrived by truck. (
Full Story)

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Hepatitis C resists Vertex drug, needs cocktails

In patients infected by a common strain of the hepatitis C virus, as many as 20 percent of viral particles became resistant to Vertex's telaprevir within two days of taking it, according to researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. "That’s the most rapid drug resistance for any agent that’s ever been observed," said Alan Perelson, a Los Alamos scientist and the senior author of the study. (full story)

Stimulus money helps LANL cleanup project

Crews are preparing a massive cleanup effort at Los Alamos National Laboratory's first hazardous waste landfill, a six-acre site used from 1944 to 1948. The project gets under way in June and is being paid for with $212 million in federal stimulus money.

"This is one of those kinds of jobs that you can visually see because there's such a large area, buildings demolished, dirt being moved," said former New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya, who is in charge of overseeing the state's stimulus funds. (full story)

Scholarships inch students closer to goals

Los Alamos High School students Miles Carlsten, Kathy Lin, Katherine Rooney, Sandra Zerkle, Bryn Smith, Patricia Stan, Jenny Tumas, John Sarracino and Matt Whicker are other recipients of the LAESF for 2010. In total, 53 students from across New Mexico received a scholarship from LAESF.

Susan Herrera, CEO of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, said, "These young New Mexicans show so much promise in their academics and their future careers in science, medicine and engineering. The LAESF Board is proud to be able to recognize them and offer scholarships." (full story)

A safer forest

Quick-growing seed mixtures of more than 20 types of plants (mainly grass) were laid down by hand on 950 acres of LANL property, yielding growth within seven days - imperative to holding back potential flood waters. Planes dropped green hydromulch composed of seeds and wood fiber on 650 acres. (full story)

Also from the Albuquerque Journal this week:

Los Alamos has rebuilt, but memories linger of what was lost

By the time the fire was extinguished, 43,000 acres had burned, 39 structures at Los Alamos National Laboratories were damaged and nearly 400 families had lost their homes. In the decade since, residents have been able to rebuild - but it hasn't been easy. (full story)

Clean Energy Economy Forum with Secretary Vilsack

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will discuss the progress achieved on the one year anniversary of President Obama's Biofuels Directive and moderate a panel on bio-energy with Dr. Jose Olivares of the Bioscience Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and others. (full story)

Feds plan to sign monitoring deal for Buckman project
Agency that oversees LANL would fund water-quality oversight

The federal government has promised to pay for water-quality monitoring to detect any signs of contamination from Los Alamos National Laboratory heading toward Santa Fe's new water-supply project. (full story)

$3M contract awarded to perform demolition in Los Alamos, NM

The $6 million contract was awarded to ARSEC Environmental, LLC, which is a Joint Venture between American Radiation Services, Inc and SEC. Under this contract, the team will abate hazardous materials, demolish and dispose of the 316,500-foot main Administration Building (SM-43) as well as three connecting walkways. (full story)

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