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January 2013


For the third consecutive year, NNSA leadership hosted mayors from cities across the country while they were in Washington, D.C., for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors.  

Former NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino, acting NNSA Administrator Neile Miller and Associate Principal Deputy Administrator Michael Lempke met with the mayors representing major metropolitan cities and local communities, including Livermore, Danville, Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Calif.; Albuquerque, Santa Fe, N.M.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Knoxville, Tenn.

NNSA leaders appreciated the opportunity to strengthen relationships with the leadership representing the communities where NNSA laboratories, plants, and sites are located and look forward to continuing to advance the nation’s nuclear security agenda with their partnership.

For the second year in a row, Pantex has been nominated by the Department of Energy and NNSA for an award in recognition of its efforts to research and protect migratory birds.

Pantex will represent the DOE/NNSA in the competition for the 2013 Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award, which has been administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2011. Each federal agency is eligible to nominate one project or action conducted by or in partnership with a federal agency.

Read about the recognition.

About the photo:
Jim Ray, Pantex wildlife biologist, releases a Swainson’s Hawk after fitting it with a tracking device. The Swainson’s Hawk study is only one of several initiatives that led to Pantex being nominated to represent DOE/NNSA in the Presidential Migratory Bird Federal Stewardship Award.


Thanks to a Y-12 National Security Complex aluminum beverage can recycling program, more than 400 local organizations each received a $200 donation from the company since the program’s inception in 1994. Since then, more than $81,600 from recycling revenue has been donated to various community organizations.

The most recent recipients are Tabitha’s Table, an ecumenical Oak Ridge food ministry that provides a hot meal weekly; Family Promise of Knoxville, a program for individuals facing homelessness for the first time in their lives; Sunshine Industries, a therapeutic recreation program for handicapped adults who live in Knox County; and People Promoting Animal Welfare (PPAW), an organization that operates a feline/canine adoption center and spay/neuter clinic in Greenback and offers low-income families affordable sterilization of cats and dogs.

Read more about Y-12’s recycling.

About the photo:
PPAW Clinic assistant LeeAnn Burgett with recently adopted Oglethorpe, left, and director Deborah Searfoss, center, accept a Y-12 donation from Jan Jackson, Y-12 pollution prevention program coordinator.


Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the French Space Agency have tracked a trail of minerals that point to the prior presence of water at the Curiosity rover site on Mars.

Researchers from the Mars Science Laboratory’s ChemCam team today described how the laser instrument aboard the Curiosity rover—an SUV-sized vehicle studying the surface of the Red Planet—has detected veins of gypsum running through an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located some 700 meters away from where the rover landed five months ago.

Gypsum and some related minerals can be formed when water reacts with other rocks and minerals. The presence of gypsum and its cousin, bassinite, along with physical evidence of alluvial flow patterns previously seen during the Mars Science Laboratory mission, could indicate that the Yellowknife Bay area once was home to ponds created by runoff or subsurface water that had percolated to the surface.

Read about the Yellowknife Road.

About the photo:
The Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity Rover recently took this photo of the Martian landscape looking toward Mount Sharp while on its way toward Yellowknife Bay—an area where researchers have found minerals indicating the past presence of water. (NASA Photo)


Don’t tell the young women engineers at Pantex that engineering is a career for men only. They just spent their Saturday making sure that old-fashioned notion winds up in the dustbin of history.

The half-dozen young Pantexans, all around their mid-20s, put on a workshop called “Smart Cookies” to show more than 40 Girl Scouts that engineering is a great career for everyone, especially young women.

Savannah Gates, a process engineer at Pantex, says there is no doubt that engineering has traditionally been viewed as a man’s career field, but that is changing. Gates was joined by her fellow engineers Ashley Latta, Brandy Ramirez, Sarah Cox, Jessie Phifer, Raquel Barrera and Halianne Crawford in organizing the workshop. The Pantex engineers demonstrated the principles of a variety of types of engineering, including electrical, mechanical, civil and chemical.

The activities ranged from making a homemade battery from foil, pennies and paper towels soaked in a vinegar-salt solution to building cars powered by the kinetic energy of a mousetrap. The mousetrap cars proved so entertaining for the Girl Scouts, and took up so much of the day, that the women engineers were forced to postpone several other engineering activities that will be used as the basis of a second workshop later this year.

About cover photo:
A group of Pantex engineers hoist a B61 training unit at Pantex recently. The women joined together to put on a workshop this weekend to show Girl Scouts that engineering is an attractive field for women. Pictured clockwise from left are: Ashley Latta, Brandy Ramirez, Sarah Cox, Jessie Phifer, Savannah Gates and Raquel Barrera.

NNSA BlogNNSA has awarded a contract to Siemens Government Technologies, Inc. (Siemens) to construct and operate the federal government’s largest wind farm. The Pantex wind farm, a first in the NNSA enterprise, will consist of five 2.3 megawatt turbines located on 1,500 acres of government-owned property east of the Pantex Plant.  

Energy savings from the wind farm average $2.9 million annually over a 20-year contract term and the project will enable Pantex to meet the President’s energy initiatives for green energy. The wind farm at Pantex will allow NNSA to meet almost all of its renewable energy goals while also offering unique research opportunities to longtime partner in education Texas Tech University and its research collaborators.

The farm will generate approximately 45 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually - greater than 60 percent of Pantex's annual electricity needs.

Photo courtesy of Siemens.

With help from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, a team of international researchers have discovered that the Earth's core formed under more oxidizing conditions than previously proposed.

Through a series of laser-heated diamond anvil cell experiments at high pressure and extremely high temperatures, the team demonstrated that the depletion of siderophile (also known as "iron loving") elements can be produced by core formation under more oxidizing conditions than earlier predictions.

Read more about work. Below, an artist's conception of Earth's inner and outer core.



Scrap lumber from construction of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility will be reused as classroom materials for students in carpentry training programs at area schools in South Carolina and Georgia.

Shaw AREVA MOX Services, which is building the 600,000-square-foot MOX facility at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., is donating the scrap lumber and transporting it to several education centers weekly. The scrap lumber and wood products generated from the MOX construction site include temporary stairways and walkways that are no longer needed, dismantled forms from concrete pours and wooden crates used to ship equipment and components to the project.

By recycling the wood, the MOX project could save as much as $50,000 annually in disposal costs and more than 136,000 cubic feet of space in a landfill.

About the photo:
Wood products such as temporary stairways and walkways are used during construction of the MOX facility. When they are no longer needed, these items are being donated to area schools as classroom materials for carpentry training programs.

NNSA BlogSteve Rottler has been named vice president of Sandia’s California laboratory on Feb. 1. He replaces Rick Stulen, who is retiring after 36 years at Sandia National Laboratories.

In his new role, Rottler will lead Sandia’s Energy, Climate, and Infrastructure Security Strategic Management Unit. Rottler also is currently vice president of Sandia’s Science and Technology Research Foundations Division.

Read more about Rottler.

If a nuclear device were to unexpectedly detonate anywhere on Earth, unmanned aircraft could be used to find out who made the weapon by rapidly collecting airborne radioactive particles for analysis. Relatively inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicles could fly right down the throat of telltale radiation over a broad range of altitudes without exposing a human crew to hazards.

The Sandia National Laboratories-developed airborne particulate collection system recently demonstrated those kinds of capabilities. Dubbed “Harvester,” the system “tasted” the atmosphere with two particulate sampling pods. A third pod would provide directional guidance for a real event by following the trail of gamma radiation.

Read more about the pods.