Friday, June 25, 2010

Regulators failed to address risks
in oil rig fail-safe device

The Q4000 drilling rig operates in the Gulf of Mexico at the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster Wednesday, June 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Without any way to see into the blowout preventer, engineers had essentially been operating blind, using the rate of oil flow, for example, to deduce the conditions inside. Help came from Scott Watson, an expert in gamma ray imaging at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Gamma rays, a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to X-rays but higher in energy, might at least penetrate a few inches into the blowout preventer’s thick steel walls. (Full Story -- the Los Alamos passage appears on page 8 of 9)

Research from Los Alamos National Laboratory
has provided new data on viral hepatitis

Hepatitis at 20x Magnification. From MicroscopyU.

Researchers detail in 'Designing a low-cost drug resistance database for viral hepatitis,' new data in viral hepatitis. According to a study from the United States.

"Self-maintaining and self-updating sequence databases already exist for several viruses. The resistance mutation database would be annotated by authorized users, recruited from among clinicians and researchers familiar with each virus," wrote C. Kuiken and colleagues, Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Sterile neutrino back from the dead

Artist's concept of an oscillating neutrino. LANL illustration.

In the 1990s, results from the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND) at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico suggested there might be a fourth flavour: a "sterile" neutrino that is even less inclined to interact with ordinary matter than the others. (Full Story)

NASA prepares for potentially damaging
2011 meteor shower

Leonid meteors seen from 39,000 feet aboard an aircraft. (NASA)

Meteoroids 2010 - an international conference on minor bodies in the solar system held May 24-28 in Breckenridge, Colo. The conference was sponsored in part by NorthWest Research Associates/CoRADivision, NASA, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research. (Full Story)

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Friday, June 18, 2010

LANL officials outline construction plans,
job possibilities

Associate Director for Project Management and Site Services Tom McKinney speaking at Wednesday's meeting in EspaƱola. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory could get a dramatic and expensive face-lift in the next decade, including a new plutonium research facility, if Congress approves. A 10- to 12-year construction plan unveiled Wednesday includes the last phase of the plutonium facility known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility, as well as plans to replace several other buildings, build waste-treatment facilities and close two material disposal areas. The work would mean about 1,000 new jobs. (Full Story)

Lab has big plans for corridor

Audience members posed a variety of questions about the plans for construction along Pajarito Road at Los Alamos National Laboratory. LANL photo by Tanner Johnson.

Los Alamos National Laboratory officials unveiled ambitious plans Wednesday for construction projects, including a new nuclear facility whose cost could push $4 billion and which could create 1,000 construction jobs. The Pajarito Corridor's crown jewel would be its new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement building. The building would house 22,500 square feet of lab space, much of it for analyzing plutonium and other radioactive materials. (Full Story - If you’re not a subscriber, Web site may require you to view an ad.)

LANL machine gets a reprieve

The quarter-mile-long LANSCE accelerator creates a stream of high-energy protons, one of the fundamental building blocks of all matter. LANL photo.

A year after the Obama administration said Los Alamos National Lab's big neutron accelerator's days were numbered, federal officials now say they want to keep the aging machine running for at least another 10 years. The machine, known as the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, provides "unique" capabilities needed to maintain nuclear weapons, a pair of senior Energy Department officials concluded in a report sent last month to Congress. (Full Story - If you’re not a subscriber, Web site may require you to view an ad)

Also this week in the Albuquerque Journal

19 Japanese companies will participate in smart grid projects in N.M.

ineteen Japanese companies have been selected to work in Albuquerque and Los Alamos on two Japan-U.S. Smart Grid Collaborative Demonstration projects, Gov. Bill Richardson announced Wednesday. (
Full Story - If you’re not a subscriber, Web site may require you to view an ad)

Experiments find "weird" differences
between neutrinos and anti-neutrinos

Data collected from 1993 to
1998 by the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector at LANL’s LANSCE facility was the first evidence for neu- trino mass. LANL photo.

The MiniBooNE results in particular, however, could come as a delayed vindication for LSND, an anti-neutrino experiment at Los Alamos National Laboratory that in the mid-1990s found a strange anomaly. In that experiment, a type of neutrino appeared at a level that suggested the neutrino family as whole might have to grow to include "sterile neutrinos" -- which would have been a radical new member of the particle zoo, beyond physicists' Standard Model. (Full Story)

New LANL video on YouTube

A summary of recent Lab highlights includes a new supercomputer, a laser system for the next space mission to Mars, a new HIV vaccination strategy, and computer modeling and simulation tied to the volcanic eruption in Iceland and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, among other accomplishments. (See the video here)

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Friday, June 11, 2010

An unending mission to contain the stuff of nuclear nightmares

he task at the core of nonproliferation efforts remains what it has been for decades: keeping track of nuclear materials and sites to ensure that countries do not make bombs, either in secret or under the pretext of developing nuclear power. It's a daunting scientific and technological challenge.

Since the 1960s, Los Alamos National Laboratory has spearheaded the development of safeguards aimed at preventing another Hiroshima. "It is an enduring mission that has become increasingly important," says William Rees, principal associate director for global security at LANL. "With commercial reactors making a comeback, it's vital that we have foolproof systems in place to insure that the nuclear materials don't fall into the wrong hands." (
Full Story)

LANL scientists working on Venus mission

Computer enhanced image of the planet Venus. Credit: NASA/JPL

esearchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are developing a laser tool that could be used on an exploratory mission to Venus. Lab scientists are making instruments that would quickly measure areas of the planet's surface — and below the surface. Because the Venus environment is so hostile, scientists say any lander likely would be destroyed within a few hours of arrival. (
Full Story)

Copper, Heal Thyself
Nanocrystalline structures help materials self-repair radiation damage

When exposed to radiation, a conventional material (left) slowly deteriorates. But the same material made of nanocrystals (right) behaves differently. American Scientist Illustration.

fter irradiation the size can increase up to 10 percent because of the atoms moving to the surface," says Blas Uberuaga, a materials scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "And that's bad because if you make parts that all fit together, and then they swell, nothing fits together like it's designed to." (
Full Story)

Science Podcast Interview

rom the Science Podcast: an interview with Science's Yudhijit Bhattacharjee on the new tools and analyses that scientists and inspectors are using to detect clandestine nuclear-weapons research. (
Listen to Podcast here)

LANL helps create ‘virtual’ nuclear reactor

This diagram shows components of a nuclear reactor that will be modeled as part of the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL

Los Alamos National Laboratory is participating in a five-year, $122 million project to create a virtual nuclear reactor that could lead to a new generation of safer, longer-lasting and less-expensive nuclear power plants. (Full Story)

LANL and nation need new research facility

In the last month, we have seen dramatic steps toward the emergence of a national consensus on our nation's nuclear-security strategy and the investments needed to support it. That is good for our nation, and for New Mexico.

Los Alamos has a proud history of working on both of these issues. Today, we are home to the nation's only plutonium-processing capability. Unfortunately, the facilities where our scientists, researchers and engineers conduct this critical work date as far back as the Manhattan Project, and the signs of age and decay are becoming more apparent every day. (
Full Story)

Tauscher: Quick U.S. Senate Nod for START Unlikely

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama would like the new nuclear arms reduction treaty to be ratified by the Senate this summer, but a senior State Department official conceded June 9 that seems increasingly unlikely.

Rounding up the 60 votes needed to pass anything has proven extremely difficult in the polarized Senate. And the treaty needs 67 votes for ratification, said Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

In remarks to a gathering of scientists from three U.S. nuclear laboratories, she touted progress that Obama's administration has made on nuclear matters so far this year: the START treaty signed by the United States and Russia in April; release of a new nuclear posture review that emphasizes reducing the number of nuclear weapons; and a nuclear summit in which 47 nations agreed to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. "It has been quite a nuclear spring," Tauscher said, but "we may run out of days for a summer ratification." (Full Story)

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Model suggests slick could zoom up East Coast

New supercomputer studies suggest it is "very likely" ocean currents will carry oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico around the tip of Florida and thousands of miles up the U.S. East Coast this summer, researchers announced Thursday. "It is truly a simulation, not a prediction," said Terry Wallace, principal associate director for science, technology and engineering at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, which collaborated on the project. "But it shows that when you inject something into the Gulf, it is likely to have much larger consequences." (full story)

Oil could reach Atlantic coasts
or weeks there have been discussions about the potential for the spreading Gulf of Mexico oil slick to slip around Florida and flow up the East Coast. Now a suite of simulations, run by an international team of ocean and climate scientists, including Mat Maltrud at Los Alamos National Laboratory, shows this is a likely outcome should the flow remain unabated this summer.

The researchers stress there are caveats and uncertainties, most notably related to the state of the gulf’s highly variable loop current in coming weeks. (The Department of Energy put out its own fact sheet stressing that the simulations are highly uncertain.) (full story)

Also in The New York Times:

Nuclear option on Gulf oil spill? No way, U.S. says

Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said. Along with the kibbitzers, the government has also brought in experts from around the world - including scores of scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and other government labs - to assist in the effort to cap the well. (full story)

LANL works on oil computer simulations
Researchers say spill could spread across Atlantic Ocean within months

Oil from the gushing Deep Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico could travel around Florida and up the U.S. eastern seaboard, spreading across the Atlantic within months, according to simulations by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

The team's maps, generated this week using the state of New Mexico's Encanto supercomputer, show the possibility of oil getting caught up in a current that swirls around the Gulf of Mexico, then moving rapidly through the gap between Florida and Cuba and into the Atlantic.

The simulations show oil hugging the East Coast as far north as North Carolina before heading out into the Atlantic as it follows the path of the warm Gulf Stream waters.

Scientists cautioned that the simulations are not forecasts, but rather a series of "what if" scenarios useful in exploring the risks as the damaged well continues spewing oil, said Terry Wallace, head of science programs at Los Alamos.
(full story)

First images of heavy electrons in action

Using a microscope designed to image the arrangement and interactions of electrons in crystals, scientists have captured the first images of electrons that appear to take on extraordinary mass under certain extreme conditions. The technique opens the door to further explorations of the properties and functions of so-called heavy fermions. Scientists from the Brookhaven National Laboratory, McMaster University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory describe the results in the June 3, 2010, issue of Nature. (full story)

Zeroing in on quantum effects

he aim of the research is to better understand the processes that lead to high-temperature superconductivity. High-temperature superconductors could revolutionize electric generators, MRI scanners, high-speed trains and other devices. Co-author of the study is Jian-Xin Zhu, of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (
full story)

Bomb squads sharpen skills in robot rodeo

Bomb squads from around New Mexico got a chance to sharpen their skills by using a remote-controlled robot — not to blow things up, but to make pancakes. The Robot Rodeo was held last week at a tech site at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The three-day event offered hours of hands-on training at the controls of $225,000 robots used for bomb and hazardous waste detection and disposal. (full story)

Wrangling in the robots

Six teams included The Albuquerque Police Department, the Santa Fe Police Department, the New Mexico State Police, the Farmington Police Department, LANL and the New Jersey State Police competed in 10 different events. Other challenges included an obstacle course performed in the dark, using explosive tools and power tools. "The main purpose of the rodeo," said Robert Clark, a LANL hazardous devices technician, "is we come up with scenarios that are a challenge to both robot and to the operator." (full story)

Scientists creating advanced computer simulation of nuclear reactor

team of four Energy Department national laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, three universities and three energy companies will receive up to $122 million over the next five years to develop a highly accurate computer simulation of a light water nuclear reactor.
To simulate the complex physics and chemistry of the reactor core, the consortium will have access to three of the most powerful supercomputers in the world including Roadrunner at Los Alamos. (full story)

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