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July 2012

Senior leaders from various agencies are meeting in Kansas City, Mo., this week to take part in Amber Waves 2012, a radiological dispersal device (RDD) exercise series sponsored by DOE and NNSA. Leaders from various counties and federal agencies representing Missouri, Kansas and Iowa are taking part in the incident management table-top exercise. The goal of the exercise is to foster interagency collaboration among federal, state and local organizations. The Federal Radiological Management and Assessment Center, coordinated by DOE/NNSA, is a major player in the exercise.

Amber Waves 2012 emergency exercise

About the photo:

Dave Bowman, NNSA's director or Office of Emergency Response, (fourth from left) takes part in a session of the Amber Waves 2012 emergency exercise.

Photo credit:  Los Alamos National Laboratory

Photo credit:  Los Alamos National Laboratory

In 2007, the Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS) launched the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI) to develop the policies, concepts, technologies, expertise, and infrastructure necessary to sustain the international safeguards system as its mission evolves over the next 25 years. One of the major goals of this initiative is to develop the next generation of safeguards professionals who have the qualifications and experience necessary to tackle the emerging challenges facing the nuclear safeguards regime. To meet this goal, the NGSI Human Capital Development subprogram recruits, educates, and trains students from U.S. universities for safeguards positions at the national laboratories, encourages U.S. experts to seek employment at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and supports young and mid-career professionals new to the safeguards field.  To date, the program has sponsored more than 350 undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral students in internship and research positions, and provided further safeguards education across the DOE/NNSA National Laboratory complex.

A key focus for the NGSI program is to ensure that incoming staff have the technical and policy expertise necessary to contribute effectively to the international safeguards system. One former intern, Amanda Rynes, spent a summer at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) developing a metric to assess proliferation risk using political, economic, and social factors in addition to technical capability. Through NGSI, she was able to participate in intensive training sessions, tour nuclear facilities, and gain hands-on experience with many of the tools and devices used in safeguards implementation today. She commented that “the NGSI internship program gave me a solid understanding of basic safeguards issues and technologies that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else.” Amanda, who was hired by INL following her internship, is currently on detail to the State Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Safety, and Security. She will begin graduate studies at the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations in the fall.

NGSI’s unique challenges require the cultivation of professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Evan Wyse, a former intern at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), used his background in economics to research alternative funding strategies available to the IAEA. He will present his findings on possible funding models to supplement the IAEA’s budget at the 2012 Institute for Nuclear Materials Management Annual Meeting. Evan’s background in Arabic has also allowed him to participate in NIS’s international engagement efforts, particularly in the Middle East. After earning his Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Economics from the University of Washington, he was hired full-time at PNNL, where he conducts economic analyses in a nonproliferation context and continues to support NIS’s international engagement work.

Interested in participating in the NGSI internship program? Contact Melissa Scholz at

Directors of ROSATOM and DOE institutes and laboratories

The Russian Federal Nuclear Center recently hosted a meeting of directors of ROSATOM and DOE institute and laboratory directors. Representatives at the meeting discussed cooperation in the areas of nuclear- and energy related scientific research and development. During the past year, there have been multiple technical workshops and meetings to pursue specific ideas for joint work in a broad range of areas that will benefit the U.S. and Russia.

About the photo:

Don Cook, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (second from bottom left) and Anne Harrington, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, (third from bottom left) participated in the meeting that brought together directors of ROSATOM and DOE institutes and laboratories.

NMSBA logoThe New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) Program has received the 2012 Manufacturing Advocate of the Year award from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) under the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The MEP award recognized the program’s “commitment to the business growth and transformation of U.S.-based manufacturing through work in the manufacturing sector.” Specifically, the NMSBA was honored for its significant impact in helping drive new product innovation among New Mexico small businesses and contributing to state economic growth.

NMSBA is a public-private partnership among Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories and the state of New Mexico that connects small business owners with scientists and engineers who give the companies technical assistance. The program provided $4.6 million worth of help last year.

Read the full press release for more information.

NIF preamplifier beam transport system

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) made an historic record-breaking laser shot on July 5. The NIF laser system of 192 beams delivered more than 500 trillion watts (terawatts or TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to its target. Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time, and 1.85 megajoules of energy is about 100 times what any other laser regularly produces today.

The shot validated NIF’s most challenging laser performance specifications set in the late 1990s when scientists were planning the world’s most energetic laser facility. Combining extreme levels of energy and peak power on a target in the NIF is a critical requirement for achieving one of physics’ grand challenges — igniting hydrogen fusion fuel in the laboratory and producing more energy than that supplied to the target.

In the historic test, NIF's 192 lasers fired within a few trillionths of a second of each other onto a 2-millimeter-diameter target. The total energy matched the amount requested by shot managers to within better than 1 percent. Additionally, the beam-to-beam uniformity was within 1 percent, making NIF not only the highest energy laser of its kind but the most precise and reproducible.

Read more about NIF's record-breaking laser shot.

About the photo:
A portion of the NIF preamplifier beam transport system. This system transports and resizes the laser beam prior to injection in the main laser. The system precisely controls the energy of each beamline as required for ignition experiments.

Peter Hanlon, Associate Deputy Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s office of Fissile Material Disposition, attended a ribbon cutting ceremony at the MOX Technical Support Building at the Savannah River Site yesterday. The technical support building will house security, operations and maintenance staff for the MFFF, and personnel will begin moving into the building next week.

“The completion of the technical support building is another milestone in the progress of the MOX project which will remove surplus weapon-grade plutonium from the U.S. nuclear stockpile,” Hanlon said during the ceremony.

MOX Technical Support Building ribbon cutting ceremony

The Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and its prime contractor National Security Technologies (NSTec) have been selected to demonstrate plug-in electric vehicle technology that could help federal vehicle fleets become more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly.

Eleven Chevy Volts were recently delivered to NSTec for use in the demonstration project at the NNSS and the Nevada Site Office in North Las Vegas.

The NNSS is one of only five locations across the nation to be selected to participate in the Plug-in Electric Vehicle (PEV) Pilot Program, the first of its kind sponsored by General Services Administration and vehicle manufacturers. Its purpose is to demonstrate plug-in electric vehicle technology for possible wider use in federal fleets nationwide. 

Steven A. Mellington, manager of the NNSA Nevada Site Office, said NNSS is an ideal testing location because it will challenge the vehicles in a wide variety of driving conditions: hot and cold, flat and mountainous, rural and city. Drivers at the site experience temperatures of 100 degrees or more in the summer, and freezing and snowy conditions in the upper elevations in winter. The vehicles will also be tested in city conditions as employees drive them to and from the NNSA Nevada Site Office in North Las Vegas for their daily work activities.

To read more about this project click here.

Rick Tindall plugs in a new Chevy Volt at NSTec’s recharging station.

Rick Tindall, superintendent of Light Fleet for NSTec, plugs in a new Chevy Volt at the company’s recharging station at its North Las Vegas facility. The new Volt is one of 11 being introduced into the NSTec fleet as part of the pilot program by the General Services Administration to demonstrate plug-in electric vehicle technology for possible wider use in federal fleets.


Stephen A. Mellington (center) listens to a briefing on PEV technology.

Stephen A. Mellington (center), Nevada Site Office Manager for NNSA, listens to a briefing from Rick Medina (right), manager of Fleet, Fuel and Equipment Services for NSTec, and Rick Tindall, superintendent of Light Fleet for NSTec, regarding the plug-in electric vehicle technology being deployed at the Nevada National Security Site. The technology is being tested by the General Services Administration for possible wider use in Federal fleets.

More than two thousand Pantexans enjoyed a barbecue lunch this week to celebrate working more than five million hours without a lost time injury. All employees on shift Tuesday were offered a lunch, with meals to be provided to workers on other shifts in the coming days.

The safety culture that has developed at Pantex starts at the worker level, where every employee is empowered to stop work immediately if they spot a safety issue. Safety considerations are integrated into all procedures and are propagated throughout the plant by a variety of employee-driven safety committees and organizations on which Pantexans volunteer to serve. More than 100 members of those safety committees served lunch.

B&W Pantex General Manager John Woolery says safety is integrated into every action taken at Pantex. “This achievement validates what we know about Pantexans – that they are dedicated to performing their duties in a safe, secure and high-quality environment,” he said.

The Pantex safety program has been recognized with numerous awards, most notably Superior Star Status in the Department of Energy Voluntary Protection Program.

Tom Hurry adjusts the target positioner and particle beam diagnostics.

Using a one-of-a-kind laser system, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have created the largest neutron beam ever made by a short-pulse laser breaking a world record. Neutron beams are usually made with particle accelerators or nuclear reactors and are commonly used in a wide variety of scientific research, particularly in advanced materials science.

Using the TRIDENT laser, a unique and powerful 200 trillion-watt short-pulse laser, scientists from Los Alamos, the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, and Sandia National Laboratories focus high-intensity light on an ultra-thin plastic sheet infused with an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium.

The laser light — 200 quintillion watts per square centimeter, equivalent to focusing all of the light coming from the sun to the earth (120,000 terawatts) onto the tip of a pencil — interacts with the plastic sheet, creating a plasma, an electrically charged gas.  A quintillion is a one with 18 zeros after it. The plasma then accelerates large numbers of deuterons — the nucleus of the deuterium atom — into a sealed beryllium target, converting the deuterons into a neutron beam.

To read more click here.

About the photo:
Tom Hurry of LANL’s Plasma Physics adjusts the target positioner and particle beam diagnostics prior to an experiment at Trident.

PNNL DiagramDiagram: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

One of the many nonproliferation challenges is the development of new safeguards technologies that can detect and deter illicit efforts to produce fissile material by countries that have committed to forgo nuclear weapons. Meeting this technology challenge is a key mission for NNSA which cooperates with its international partners to develop and implement safeguards technologies to support the International Atomic Energy Agency as it monitors countries’ compliance with their international safeguards agreements. One of the more difficult safeguards challenges is Gas Centrifuge Enrichment Plants (GCEPs), which can produce both HEU for weapons and LEU for civilian nuclear energy and other peaceful uses.

Conventional safeguards at GCEP facilities rely heavily on a combination of non-destructive and destructive analytical techniques. Non-destructive techniques can evaluate without damaging the material assessed, but the results are not always conclusive. A destructive analysis technique exists for GCEPs that is very accurate, but also less timely and cost effective.

Norm Anheier, a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), is developing a unique destructive analytical capability­­­—funded by NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security and the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative—to provide timely detection of undeclared HEU production. In addition to its scientific novelty, this technique—called Laser Ablation Absorbance Ratio Spectroscopy Environmental Sampling (LAARS-ES)—has many practical advantages. Most notably, sample collection and analysis can be performed much more quickly and inexpensively than the conventional techniques mentioned above. The figure below lays out the measurement process.

The technique has already been successfully demonstrated at PNNL. The laboratory has started to seek engagement opportunities to conduct technology demonstrations at domestic and international GCEPs. This innovative technology is one of many funded by the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative that is applying research funding to advance U.S. and global nonproliferation efforts.