DOE evaluates wearable robotic devices to aid cleanup workforce

November 4, 2022, 7:09AMRadwaste Solutions
Nicholas Spivey, left, an SRNL mechanical engineer, and Kurt Gerdes, director of EM’s Office of Technology Development, use virtual reality simulation of an EM worksite during meetings held at the IHMC in Pensacola, Fla. (Photo: DOE)

For the first time since forming in 2020, more than 40 members of a Department of Energy team met in person to evaluate technologies, including exoskeletons and wearable robotic devices, that could be adapted to the cleanup mission of department’s Office of Environmental Management (EM), helping improve the safety and well-being of its workers.

NNSA to prepare Los Alamos’s fourth site-wide environmental analysis

August 23, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
A view of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Photo: LANL)

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced that, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it intends to prepare a site-wide environmental impact statement (SWEIS) to analyze the potential environmental impacts for continuing operations of the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the next 15 years. The SWEIS will also analyze the environmental impacts of legacy waste remediation being done by the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management at the site.

DOE tags Los Alamos to lead $9.25 million molten salt computational research program

August 10, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy has chosen Los Alamos National Laboratory to lead a $9.25 million collaborative project to model the behavior and properties of structural materials in molten salt through the Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program and announced the news August 9. The team working on the five-year project includes experts from LANL; Carnegie Mellon University; and Idaho, Lawrence Berkeley, and Sandia national laboratories.

DOE releases updated cleanup strategy

March 10, 2022, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management (EM) has issued EM Strategic Vision 2022-2032, a blueprint for planned nuclear-related cleanup efforts over the next decade. The document outlines environmental cleanup priorities for 2022–2032, focusing on safety, innovation, and improved performance.

According to a March 8 statement, the DOE is working to fulfill “the moral and ecological responsibility of safely dealing with contamination and delivering on environmental justice goals in communities that were vital to the development of nuclear weapons and advances in government-sponsored nuclear energy research.”

EM Strategic Vision 2022–2032, which is available here, is an update of previous iterations and was developed with feedback from regulators, tribal nations, local communities, and other partners.

DOE expands minority partnership program for post-doctoral researchers

March 1, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management recently announced the expansion of its Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program for post-doctoral researchers.

The program will offer the opportunity for recent graduates with Ph.D. degrees to perform scientific research that furthers technology development, enhances the global scientific knowledge base, and results in publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Biden picks ANS Fellow to lead NNSA defense programs

December 16, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Adams

President Biden yesterday announced his intent to nominate Marvin Adams, an ANS Fellow, for the position of deputy administrator for defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The announcement drew the following response from energy secretary Jennifer Granholm: “Marvin is a unique success story, having started his career at a DOE lab and now regarded as the nation’s foremost academic expert on safeguarding our nuclear stockpile. If confirmed, Marvin will work to keep our nation—and our world—safe from nuclear threats. I am deeply grateful for Marvin’s willingness to serve and look forward to his speedy confirmation.”

Texas A&M to lead isotope R&D traineeship program

December 9, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is dedicating $2 million to the establishment of a first-of-its-kind program to train undergraduate and graduate students in isotope research and development, production, and processing. Texas A&M University will serve as the Isotope Traineeship Coordination (ITC) site, collaborating with a team of 14 colleges and universities and three national laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Nuclear Technology publishes special issue on the Manhattan Project

December 7, 2021, 12:01PMANS News

A special issue of the ANS journal Nuclear Technology, published last month, observes the 75th anniversary of the Trinity experiment, the world’s first nuclear explosion, on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, N.M. The experiment was a first step toward the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the end of World War II. The special issue, The Manhattan Project Nuclear Science and Technology Development at Los Alamos: A Special Issue of Nuclear Technology, was sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory and curated by Mark Chadwick.

Thanks to LANL, the 23 papers published in the issue are open access, which means that a subscription is not required to read this contribution to the history of science. The issue can be accessed on the journal’s platform, hosted by Taylor & Francis, publisher of ANS’s technical journals.

An inventive solution speeds up production of actinium-225

August 5, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Chemist Kevin Gaddis has adapted components of a high-pressure ion chromatography system to withstand the extreme conditions of a hot cell. (Photo: ORNL/Carlos Jones)

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher has built a device that can speed up the separation of the medical radioisotope actinium-225 from irradiated thorium targets and withstand the high-radiation environment of a hot cell. In July, ORNL announced that Kevin Gaddis, a chemistry technician at the lab, had built and tested a prototype and was working to secure a patent for a device that cut separations time by 75 percent.

University students explore nuclear nonproliferation with LANL experts

August 2, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News
Left: The University of Texas at Austin SBD Challenge team: from left, Michael Butero, Matthew Frangos, Daniel Gutierrez, and John (Jack) Whelan. Right: The University of Rhode Island team: from left, Jay Macchia, Sean Babin, and Peter Tillinghast. (Photo: NNSA)

The National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control has been partnering with national laboratories and universities to introduce engineering students to the field of international safeguards. Safeguards ensure that nuclear material and facilities are not used to illicitly manufacture nuclear weapons, the NNSA noted in a July 27 article.

Mapping the scattered family tree of fission neutrons

July 20, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
Nicholas Thompson of LANL helps set up the neutron clustering measurements at the Walthousen Reactor Critical Facility at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Schenectady, NY. (Photo: LANL)

A statistically predicted tendency for neutrons produced inside fission reactors to form in clusters can cause asymmetrical energy production that is counterbalanced, at least in part, by the spontaneous fission of radioactive material in the reactor.

Waste management at Los Alamos’s PF-4 a continuing challenge

July 12, 2021, 9:30AMRadwaste Solutions
The Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Photo: LANL)

The Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board, which provides independent federal oversight of Department of Energy weapons facilities, has reported that low-level radioactive and other combustible waste is accumulating in the basement of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility (PF-4), and that housekeeping and waste management in the PF-4 basement have been a continuing challenge.

NNSA to host virtual job fair

June 17, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

A virtual job fair for the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Security Enterprise (NSE) is being held on Wednesday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT). The job fair will be hosted by the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration.

The NSE is looking for the next generation of nuclear security professionals and is planning to hire more than 2,500 new employees in 2021.

Interested candidates are encouraged to register online for the event.

Sparks from Los Alamos waste drum prompt WIPP evacuation

April 2, 2021, 6:56AMRadwaste Solutions

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's underground repository in New Mexico was evacuated for 13 days in March following an incident at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where a drum being packed with transuranic waste began emitting sparks.

As reported on March 31 by the Carlsbad Current Argus, an evacuation order was given on March 5 after WIPP was informed by the National Nuclear Security Administration that similar at-risk drums from LANL were emplaced for disposal in the repository. The order was lifted on March 18 after it was determined that the drums were compliant with WIPP’s waste acceptance criteria and did not pose a risk.

LANL cleanup modifies fieldwork to protect threatened species

March 31, 2021, 3:01PMRadwaste Solutions
The Mexican spotted owl, which finds a home in northern New Mexico’s canyons and forests, is a threatened species that the DOE strives to protect. Photo: Don Ulrich, taken in Flagstaff, Ariz.

To protect a treasured ecological species of northern New Mexico, the Los Alamos Field Office (EM-LA) of the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management and its contractor N3B this month began their annual task of modifying legacy waste cleanup activities at Los Alamos National Laboratory ahead of the Mexican spotted owl breeding season.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the owl as a threatened species in 1993, when population numbers were decreasing drastically due to the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of their habitat.

Texas A&M researchers develop new resilient alloy

March 17, 2021, 7:05AMANS Nuclear CafeLaura Simmons

Researchers at Texas A&M University have recently demonstrated the superior performance of a new oxide-dispersion-strengthened (ODS) alloy developed for use in both fission and fusion reactors.

Shao

Lin Shao, a professor in the university’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and an ANS member, worked alongside research scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Hokkaido University to create the next generation of high-performance ODS alloys. So far, the researchers reported, the alloys are some of the strongest and best-developed metals in the field.

Details of the project were published in the February 2021 issue of the Journal of Nuclear Materials.

NASA’s radioisotope-powered science will persevere on Mars

February 19, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Members of the Perseverance rover team in Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory react after receiving confirmation of a successful landing. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA mission control and space science fans around the world celebrated the safe landing of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on February 18 after a journey of 203 days and 293 million miles. Landing on Mars is difficult—only about 50 percent of all previous Mars landing attempts have succeeded—and a successful landing for Perseverance, the fifth rover that NASA has sent to Mars, was not assured. Confirmation of the successful touchdown was announced at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., at 3:55 p.m. EST.

“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally—when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” said acting NASA administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration. The mission itself personifies the human ideal of persevering toward the future and will help us prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.”

Only radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) can provide the long-lasting, compact power source that Perseverance needs to carry out its long-term exploratory mission. Perseverance carries an RTG powered by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 that was supplied by the Department of Energy. ANS president Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar and CEO and executive director Craig Piercy congratulated NASA after the successful landing, acknowledging the critical contributions of the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Initial Los Alamos comingled TRU waste delivered to WIPP

January 26, 2021, 12:09PMRadwaste Solutions

Workers at LANL's RANT facility load the first comingled TRU waste shipment from the DOE and the NNSA. Photo: DOE

The Los Alamos field offices of the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management and the National Nuclear Security Administration have completed their first comingled shipment of transuranic (TRU) waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.

"Comingling NNSA and EM waste allows for more efficient shipments to WIPP," Kirk Lachman, EM Los Alamos field office manager, said on January 14. "Reducing LANL’s above-ground waste inventory is an important issue to our local communities and is one of our mission priorities.”

The comingled shipment consisted of one Transuranic Package Transporter Model 3 container with a total of 28 drums and containers inside.

NNSA to hold virtual public meetings regarding Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program

January 19, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will hold two virtual public meetings on a new environmental impact statement for its Surplus Plutonium Disposition Program (SPDP). The meetings will be held on Monday, January 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (ET) and Tuesday, January 26, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (ET). Participants can join by computer, telephone, or other device. A Notice of Intent contains a full description of the proposal and other options for providing public comment until February 1.

The program: The SPDP EIS will analyze alternatives for the disposition of 34 metric tons of surplus plutonium using the capabilities at multiple sites across the United States. The NNSA’s preferred alternative, the dilute and dispose approach (also known as plutonium downblending), includes converting pit and non-pit plutonium to oxide, blending the oxidized plutonium with an adulterant, and emplacing the resulting transuranic waste underground in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), in New Mexico. The approach would require new, modified, or existing capabilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Pantex Plant in Texas, and WIPP.

General Chair’s Special Session: Advanced reactors in uncertain times

June 10, 2020, 5:28PMNuclear News

The final plenary session of the American Nuclear Society's 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting was the General Chair’s Special Session, held on Wednesday, June 10. The session contained much information about the current and future role of advanced reactor technology. The session, with the subtitle “The Promise of Advanced Reactors during Uncertain Times: National Security, Jobs and Clean Energy,” featured two panels: the Lab Directors Roundtable and the Advanced Reactor Panel. The general chair is Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director. The session was moderated by Corey McDaniel, of Idaho National Laboratory, and the assistant general chair of the Annual Meeting.

A few of the issues covered during the dual plenary session included challenges to advanced reactor deployment, public-private partnerships in research and development, nuclear non-proliferation and security, workforce issues, and market conditions and demand.