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June 2012

Six people digging

A multi-federal agency effort is now underway to build a permanent Interagency Fire Center in the heart of northern New Mexico’s fire country as the one-year anniversary of New Mexico’s second largest wildfire on record approaches. 

Building upon the success of last year’s multi-agency coordination during the Las Conchas fire, NNSA, Bandelier National Monument and Santa Fe National Forest have again partnered to enhance northern New Mexico fire protection efforts by building a 6,400 square foot facility to serve as a joint coordination and response center for fire events. The new building will cost more than $3 million, and will significantly enhance the current fire-fighting capacities of all the agencies.

Kevin Smith, site office manager for the NNSA’s Los Alamos Site Office said having a permanent facility dedicated to fighting wildland fires is a huge asset for the entire region, where response time matters.

The site where the new building is planned currently houses the Interagency Fire Center (TA 49) at LANL. The facility near Bandelier National Monument accommodates up to three helicopters and other equipment used for firefighting activities.

The new single-story multipurpose facility will include space for offices, training and conference rooms, and for storage of fire protection/suppression equipment. The new facility is designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) criteria. The LEED design standard reduces energy and water needs, which are important resource considerations for northern New Mexico.

 1000th TRU Waste Shipment

Los Alamos National Laboratory yesterday celebrated the 1000th shipment of transuranic waste from the Laboratory to a permanent repository at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

Since October 2011 (the beginning of the current federal fiscal year), LANL has sent 147 shipments to WIPP. LANL began shipping transuranic waste to WIPP in 1999, and reached the 1000th shipment milestone on June 6, 2012. LANL has sent record breaking numbers of shipments to WIPP each of the past three years and is on track to further surpass its record in 2012.

Although the TRU waste is stored safely, a decision was made by the Department of Energy, the New Mexico Environment Department and the Laboratory to accelerate the disposal of the 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste stored above ground at Area G. The new deadline for disposal of this waste is June 30, 2014.

TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive material, mostly plutonium. Transuranic elements such as plutonium have an atomic number greater than uranium, so they are labeled transuranic, for “beyond uranium” on the periodic table of elements.

Click here to read more.

About the photo:

LANL’s 1000th shipment of transuranic waste leaves the laboratory on its way to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has now de-inventoried 97 percent of special nuclear material requiring the highest level of security protection.

The removal is part of NNSA's efforts to consolidate Category I and II special nuclear material, requiring the highest level of security by Oct. 1, 2012. This initiative will further improve security and reduce costs as part of NNSA's overall effort to transform the Cold War era nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise. 

All shipments have been completed in full compliance with safety and environmental laws and procedures.  All federal and receiver site requirements were met for these shipments. The de-inventory project was initiated in October 2006.

NNSA had originally planned to remove high-security material from Livermore by 2014. However, NNSA developed an accelerated timeline to remove the material safely by Oct.1, 2012.


NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) was recently commended by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) for its efforts to find solutions to the issue of disused and unwanted radioactive sealed sources. Specifically, Abby Cuthbertson of GTRI was recognized for the work she has done, along with the Utah Division of Radiation Control and EnergySolutions, to develop a pathway for secure disposition of certain Class A sealed sources at the Clive low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Tooele County, Utah.

At the spring meeting of the LLW Forum, a resolution was passed that acknowledged the benefits of sealed sources to society as a whole, the significant national security threat posed by disused sources, and the importance of developing disposal options as a permanent solution to the associated threat. The resolution also expresses appreciation for the coordination and cooperation by GTRI, the State of Utah, and EnergySolutions towards meeting that challenge and contributing to our national security.

For more information on GTRI’s efforts to secure radiological sources, click here.

VFW Award

B&W Pantex has been named the 2012 Employer of the Year by the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars for its exemplary efforts to hire and support veterans. Pantex representatives were presented the award last Thursday at the VFW state convention in Addison.

Anthony Acklin, center, B&W Pantex Human Resources Generalist, holds the 2012 Employer of the Year Award with officials from the Texas chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Read more about the award here:


Sequoia, a supercomputer built for NNSA, has been named the fastest in the world by Top500. Operating at 16.32 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second), Sequoia helps monitor the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile by simulating weapons performance in high detail. Simulating weapons performances permits NNSA to ensure the safety, reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear weapons without the use of nuclear explosive testing. The IBM BlueGene/Q system is housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The semi-annual Top500 is an industry standard list that was released June 18 at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC12) in Hamburg, Germany. The last time a supercomputer from the United States placed number one on the list was November 2009.

Sandia hardware

Sandia recently upgraded the critical assembly (a small nuclear reactor) in Tech Area 5 to permit a new class of experiments as part of the development of a reactor experiments training course for NNSA. Hardware was designed and installed that allows experiments to safely approach critical conditions by varying the amount of water in the assembly. This provides the capability to simulate a critically accident caused by flooding, something that is at the heart of many safety analyses for the storage of nuclear material across the DOE enterprise.

About the photo:
The upgraded hardware (the large black cylinder to the right) that permits criticality experiments by varying the amount of water in the reactor is shown installed on the Sandia critical assembly in Tech Area 5.

Pantex volunteers

Pantex engineers Mitchell Jefferis, from left, and Halianne Crawford help camper Peter Keller with a project at the West Texas A&M University Summer Engineering Camp. Engineers from Pantex are volunteering this week to help out at the camp, which is in its fourth year and hosts students as young as 14 who are interested in engineering.


LANL’s newest facility, the Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB), is the first to achieve both the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status and LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

At more than 200,000 square feet, this building is the only radiological facility within the Department of Energy to have attained LEED Gold, which contributes to NNSA's achievement towards the high performance sustainable building goals.

The facility contains laboratories for analytical chemistry and materials characterization of special nuclear material, along with space for offices, training and emergency operations. Its multi-functional purpose makes RLUOB a unique project for which LEED certification was sought.

Click here to read more.

Y-12 Photo vintage

Y-12 Photo today

Work by 90-year-old photographer Ed Westcott, the federal government’s photographer for Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project, can be seen throughout the walls of Y-12 National Security Complex buildings and in other locations in Oak Ridge. His work is also featured in A Nuclear Family: Y-12 National Security Complex miniseries which aired on East Tennessee PBS.

During the 1940s, Westcott was charged not only with capturing images of government work under way but also with documenting the daily lives of Oak Ridge’s residents. A 20-ft-high by 50-ft-wide mural of a photograph commonly called “Shift Change” covers part of the north wall of Y-12’s cafeteria in Jack Case Center.

The A Nuclear Family miniseries can be viewed online at

To read more click here.