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November 2013

Popular Science lists three of 100 best innovations from Los Alamos, Sandia

Four of Popular Science’s 100 best innovations from 2013 are from NNSA national laboratories. Los Alamos National Laboratory’s MiniMAX was recognized in the Security category as the world’s smallest, most portable X-ray machine. Sandia National Laboratories was recognized in the Engineering category for its fiber-optic network, the world’s largest high-speed LAN, and in the Security category for its non-detonable fertilizer formula. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer was used in most of the IEDs found in Afghanistan. A Sandia engineer developed a fertilizer that uses iron sulfite in the mixture, suppressing detonation. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was recognized for creating the first-ever retinal prosthesis, or bionic eye.

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A group of Pantex engineers spent their Saturday putting on an annual engineering workshop, known as S’More Engineering, for Amarillo-area Girl Scouts.

The engineers helped the Girl Scouts with several projects that demonstrated fundamental engineering concepts. One challenge was an egg drop, in which the girls built structures that would allow an egg to survive a one-story drop. Another activity, called Angry Birds, involved building catapults and other launching devices that re-created the popular mobile game app.

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Pantex engineers host Girl Scouts

NNSA Acting Administrator Bruce Held visited Pantex Thursday and during an all hands meeting he told employees that they are supported and appreciated. “It is important to me to tell you thanks for what you do, because we don’t do that enough. The work done here is profoundly important to the security and well-being of our nation,” Held said.

After the meeting, he toured plant facilities and visited with employees at the NNSA Production Office.

Bruce Held visits Pantex

After several years of collaborative work, the Kansas City Plant has implemented an innovative solution that integrates the Personal Identification Verification (PIV) badge by combining logical and physical access based on the Smart Card technology.

This work was recently honored by the Kansas City Business Journal’s 2013 KC ImpacT Award, which recognizes organizations that use technology to solve problems.

It's typically too expensive to replace existing physical access systems since they tend to be ingrained in the infrastructure. However, the move to the National Security Campus provided a unique opportunity to implement this solution. As a result, KCP is the first site within the DOE to integrate all the appropriate databases to seamlessly provide physical and logistical access in a streamlined process.

This effort has directly impacted the success of employees relocating to the National Security Campus and will ultimately result in a cost savings of $1 million.

KCP wins technology award for security integration

Securing nuclear materials takes a global effort and coordination between technical and policy experts. To support effective nuclear security worldwide, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) co-sponsored the second International Workshop on Nuclear Forensics Methodologies at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., Oct. 28 through Nov. 8, 2013. 

Nuclear forensics helps law enforcement investigations of incidents in which nuclear or other radioactive material is found outside of regulatory control. Nuclear forensics experts seek to uncover the process history and origin of nuclear and other radioactive material.

Workshop participants engaged in hands-on laboratory exercises and attended interactive demonstrations of fundamental concepts of nuclear forensic methodologies. Participants also worked in teams during a mock nuclear smuggling event and forensic investigation. As the workshop progressed, instructors covered more complex nuclear forensics concepts, such as advanced physical measurements, analysis and interpretation.

Experts from Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Pacific Northwest national laboratories collaborated with representatives from the IAEA, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the United Kingdom Atomic Weapons Establishment, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center Institute for Transuranium Elements, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop and present the workshop curriculum. This year’s 26 participants came from Algeria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

International Workshop on Nuclear Forensics Strengthens Global SecurityPhoto Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

International Workshop on Nuclear Forensics Strengthens Global SecurityPhoto Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

NNSA BlInternational Workshop on Nuclear Forensics Strengthens Global SecurityPhoto Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

Michele Smith, Deputy Director, Warhead Dismantlement Transparency Program

Reaching President Obama’s goal of a world without nuclear weapons requires overcoming technical challenges in verifying that disarmament has occurred. For more than a decade, the U.S. and U.K. have been working together to improve technical verification—an endeavor that balances the need to protect classified and sensitive information with the need to obtain enough data to inform the process.

Michele Smith, Deputy Director for the Warhead Dismantlement Transparency Program within NNSA’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security, recently shared technical verification lessons learned by the U.S. and U.K. She was joined by Mark Ruglys of the British Embassy to the United States. The presentation took place at a side event in conjunction with meetings of the UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security.

Smith and Ruglys specifically focused on the experience the two countries gained through a year-long monitored dismantlement exercise designed to test existing methodologies and identify areas where further development is needed. To be as realistic as possible, the exercise was performed in an operational nuclear facility with representative quantities of fissile material and simulated high explosives.

The full presentation (approximately 30 minutes, including Q&A) was webcast and currently is available at

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in partnership with Intel and Cray, has announced a unique high performance computing (HPC) cluster that will serve research scientists at all three institutions and provide a proving ground for new HPC and Big Data technologies and architectures.

The Catalyst resource, a Cray(R) CS300(TM) cluster supercomputer, will be shared between the three partners with access rights based on level of investment. System access will be managed through LLNL's High Performance Computing Innovation Center (HPCIC), whose mission is to work with industrial partners in the development of computing solutions for the U.S. to compete effectively in the 21st century global economy.

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About the photo:
Catalyst is a unique high performance computing (HPC) cluster that will serve research scientists and provide a proving ground for new HPC and Big Data technologies and architectures. It was recently installed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

 Livermore installs big data machine

SRTE safety engineer named safety professional of the yearSafety engineer Sonya Patton is a familiar sight around the Savannah River Tritium Enterprise (SRTE) facilities. Her hands-on approach to safety leadership keeps her out and about in the facilities, watching and guiding personnel toward safety excellence.

That approach produces results: As of this writing, SRTE has surpassed 4.4 million hours without an injury resulting in time away from work, and Sonya has been named the Safety Professional of the Year by the Augusta Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

The award recognizes her expertise, her contributions to the safety profession, and her leadership in establishing, maintaining, and improving safety programs. She has served as a safety professional at the Savannah River Site since 1990, with another 10 years’ experience in the commercial nuclear industry prior to that. She is an active member and past president of the ASSE.  

The ASSE, founded in 1911, is the nation’s oldest and largest professional safety organization. Its more than 32,000 members manage, supervise and consult on safety, health, and environmental issues in industry, insurance, government, and education.The Augusta Chapter, formed in 1983, has membership from 19 counties in Georgia and South Carolina.

Pantex process engineer Savannah Gates recently talked to Amarillo high school students about engineering at the Top of Texas Career Expo. Gates used a variety of puzzles to teach engineering principles to students who might be interested in the field. Pantex professionals from specialties such as IT, engineering, and security supported the career fair, educating more than 900 juniors and seniors about career options at Pantex.

 Pantex supports career expo

Pantex supports career expo

Department of Energy has removed all remaining highly enriched uranium from Hungary. Check out the links below to see videos and additional photos of the operation, which was successfully completed by NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

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Watch videos on NNSA's YouTube channel here and here and see a timelapse video of the operation here. Additional photos are available on NNSA's Flickr.

DOE removes all remaining HEU from Hungary