Friday, January 15, 2021

Los Alamos National Laboratory 2020 year in review


Looking back over 2020, Director Thom Mason said it is the 13,000 Laboratory employees that he is most proud of … how they have stepped up and met the challenges of a global pandemic.


“We have a lot of important work to do … we got through 2020 and made good progress, Mason said, and that is great news for the region and Northern New Mexico.”


While COVID-19 dominated headlines in the science world, LANL made its mark on 2020 with successes across the board. From innovation in education to nonreactive nuclear energy, COVID-19 forecasts to jet fuel produced from corn, the Laboratory spent the year impacting the nation — and New Mexico. (Full Story)


Los Alamos National Laboratory part of team working to help wildfire management


QUIC-Fire model on KRQE.


The Los Alamos National Laboratory is part of a team working to combat wildfires. They’re developing a tool, called QUIC-Fire, to help make prescribed burns more efficient, which can help prevent more serious wildfires down the line.


“By helping decision-makers and prescribed fire managers decide when, where, and how to, to burn safely and effectively, we expect or hope that we’re allowing them to more efficiently put fire on the landscape in a good way and thus reduce the chance of catastrophic fire on the landscape at a later time,” said Rod Linn, Senior Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the lead developers of QUIC-Fire. (Full Story)


Science can help ease local wildfire threats


Cerro Grande fire in 2000, image from the Taos News.


As drought and wildfires continue to devastate forests in Northern New Mexico and across the Western United States, it's natural to wonder if we're doing enough to keep our communities and lands safe. Smoky summer skies over Los Alamos and other surrounding communities provide yet another reminder that danger is just a spark away.


With that in mind, Los Alamos National Laboratory is taking measures to prevent wildfires and the dangers they present by carrying out unique firefighting strategies across its 42 remote square miles. The laboratory has a long history of using advanced science to analyze wildfires and expose hidden risks associated with fire-related air quality issues resulting from smoke and soot. (Full Story)


NM identifies first case of new variant


Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, from the ABQ Journal.


Bette Korber, a theoretical biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said Wednesday that it isn’t surprising to see the variant surface in New Mexico. It was first detected in the United Kingdom but has been identified in the United States, too.


The presence of the variant, she said, is all the more reason for New Mexicans to wear face coverings, continue social distancing and take other steps to prevent transmission of the disease. “The appropriate response,” Korber said, “is to be extra careful and be sure to wear your masks.”


Korber said New Mexicans should not panic at news of the new variant. Scientists are studying the variant and other mutations carefully, she said, to determine the impact. (Full Story)



Gene Team: Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Bette Korber leads a team tracking the virus that causes COVID-19


Bette Korber, LANL photo.


Jan. 6 New York Times story reported US scientists' call for a national surveillance program to monitor the coronavirus genomes for new mutations, particularly in light of a new variant.


One of the scientists studying those genomes is Bette Korber, a Los Alamos National Laboratory fellow in the Theoretical Biology and Biophysics Group. Korber leads an interdisciplinary team that provides bioinformatics, theoretical and statistical support in collaborative efforts with experimental researchers, focusing on the areas of HIV-1 viral diversity, the human immune response to infection and vaccine design. Korber's own mosaic HIV vaccine concept is currently being evaluated in human clinical trials. (Full Story)


Los Alamos National Laboratory approved by state to provide employees with COVID-19 vaccines


Los Alamos National Laboratory has announced to employees that the Laboratory has been approved by the state of New Mexico to provide COVID-19 vaccines to employees on-site and has tested the process with vaccinations of frontline medical staff while the general rollout plan is being finalized.


The Laboratory has been developing the plan since last summer and the process will be similar to one used for the flue vaccination on-site last fall. State guidelines for distribution which include prioritization of healthcare providers, first responders and emergency response teams are in place. (Full Story)


Experts: STEM workers to drive NM’s future


LANL Director Thom Mason, LANL photo.


The need for STEM employees increasingly is being filled from within the state, thanks to new educational partnerships. Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason said that although 40% of current staff members were recruited from out of state, 75% of last year’s hires came from New Mexico.


“Part of the reason for that is because we’ve been able to work with the educational institutions to kind of set up pipelines that meet those needs,” Mason said. “And we’re going to need to do more of it.” Mason said many LANL employees got their start as interns during their time as graduate or undergraduate students. (Full Story)


What did the U.S. Department of Energy achieve at New Mexico nuclear sites in 2020?


Aerial view of the LANSCE facility, from the Current-Argus


Soil remediation at Los Alamos was completed in multiple areas contaminated with radiation that posed risk to local groundwater.


The facility also improved its ability to characterize and process waste destined or WIPP, installing two glovebag process lines in Technical Area 54 dedicated to the storage and remediation of waste.


The new process lines allowed for the processing of about 1,500 containers of waste for disposal, and by the end of fiscal year 2020, 553 containers in about 25 shipments were ready to be shipped to WIPP. (Full Story)


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