Friday, June 10, 2011

U.S. and Russian laboratory directors meet, plan future collaboration

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation (Rosatom) announced the successful completion of the first meeting of the U.S. and Russian laboratory directors since 2004, an important step toward improving nuclear security and scientific collaboration.

The two-day meeting provided an opportunity for U.S. and Russian laboratory directors, and representatives of Rosatom and NNSA to craft the next set of steps toward scientific and technical cooperation in areas that include non-proliferation, fundamental and applied research, energy and the environment, and nuclear medicine.

The meeting was held near NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and included a series of site visits to NNSA’s national laboratories, including LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories (full story).

‘Produced water’ used to grow algae for biofuels

Scientists recently conducted the first pilot-scale test of algae growth using water from an oil-production well in Jal, New Mexico. This impure water, called "produced water," is pumped to the surface concurrently with the extraction of oil, gas, and coal bed methane from underground formations.

Water is the largest quantity resource other than land that will be required for algal biofuel production. LANL’s biofuels research aims to show that algae cultivation need not impinge upon limited fresh-water resources, particularly in arid regions. Alternate resources, such as produced water, which has more salinity than fresh water, can be used (full story).

Experts Call For Guidelines On Use Of “HIV Fingerprinting” In Criminal Cases

In a letter to Nature, several experts in “HIV fingerprinting,” also called HIV phylogenetic analysis, have called for guidelines on how the technique should be used in criminal HIV investigations. According to the authors, scientific experts should make it clear to juries that the technique has limitations and cannot prove direct transmission of HIV from one person to another.

“We stress that there are limitations to what can be done, and that it is important that this type of analysis is done properly, and that the court is made aware of what can and cannot be inferred,” said Thomas Leitner, a scientist in HIV phylogenetics at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of the letter, in correspondence with The AIDS Beacon (full story).

Meet the new lab director

Los Alamos resident Charlie McMillan took the LANL reins June 1

Twenty years ago, Charlie McMillan never envisioned being a laboratory director.

McMillan remembers telling his family when they were in California how much fun it was just being a scientist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

“I took the kids to the lab site and we were going home at the end of the day,” McMillan said. “My son said to me, you have the perfect job. Why would you give it up? (full story)

Behr-Andres named science advisor to Gov. Martinez

Christina B. Behr-Andres of Los Alamos National Laboratory will serve as science advisor to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Behr-Andres will help develop and promote science and technology policies aimed at creating economic and educational opportunities in New Mexico, said Charles McMillan, who became LANL director on June 1, in a news release (full story).

Lab says it’s ready in case of fires

As Northern New Mexico communities experience the impacts from Arizona and New Mexico fires blowing smoke into the region, they can take some comfort in actions taken at Los Alamos to prevent and fight fires.

For the past three years, the Los Alamos Site Office and Los Alamos National Security have worked closely to establish a wildland fire management program to improve readiness and reduce risk exposure at Los Alamos National Laboratory. . . .

At the DOE facilities in Los Alamos, establishing a fire-fighting center, conducting frequent emergency exercises, using fire-prediction technologies, and thinning dry foliage are among the activities undertaken locally to address the threat of fire (full story—subscription required).

Robots tackle tornado-damaged nuclear reactor

Sandia National Lab held the fifth annual Western National Robot Rodeo on two weeks ago. The Robot Rodeo is a four-day, 10-event technical competition for bomb squads and other public safety organizations that use hazardous duty robots.

This year, teams competed in a simulation of a tornado-damaged nuclear reactor. Tasks included quickly locating and moving simulated fuel rods, stopping the flow of radioactive water from running into the storm drain system, and minimizing radioactive contamination on the robot.

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