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March 2012




From February 27 to March 6, 2012, 24 experts from 12 countries participated in an international workshop on nuclear forensics hosted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington.  The workshop was sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS).  

The workshop provided technical information and a hands-on learning environment for practitioners regarding the measurement of nuclear and other radioactive samples for forensics analysis, consistent with the guidelines in IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 2 “Nuclear Forensics Support.”  The event attracted broad international interest; experts attended from Argentina, Brazil, China, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.  Participants benefited from hands-on exercises as well as presentations by several U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, NIS, the IAEA, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, the European Union’s Institute for Transuranium Elements, the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment, and others.

Nuclear forensics is the popular term for the scientific characterization and analysis of nuclear or other radiological materials, which can provide critical information on the place of origin and process history of nuclear materials.  Just as law enforcement officials analyze human fingerprints after a crime to determine “who did it,” the science of nuclear forensics allows experts to develop a highly accurate “nuclear fingerprint” to trace the origin of nuclear material—a valuable tool for combatting nuclear smuggling and ensuring that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes.  Nuclear forensics investigations gather “evidence” by determining the material’s age, isotopic and mass ratios, impurity content, physical parameters, and other characteristics.  When illicit nuclear trafficking occurs, experts can use nuclear forensics to pinpoint where the material came from—and then work with responsible officials to ensure the event is not repeated.

International cooperation in nuclear forensics is one of many ways in which NIS is working to implement U.S. commitments made at the Nuclear Security Summit convened by President Obama in April 2010.  Progress on nuclear forensics and other efforts to secure nuclear materials will be reviewed at the highest levels at the next Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, on March 26–27, 2012.

Z MachineHigh-gain nuclear fusion could be achieved in a preheated cylindrical container immersed in strong magnetic fields, according to a series of computer simulations performed at Sandia National Laboratories.

The simulations show the release of output energy that was, remarkably, many times greater than the energy fed into the container’s liner. The method appears to be 50 times more efficient than using X-rays to drive implosions of targeted materials to create fusion conditions.

Such fusion eventually could produce reliable electricity from seawater, the most plentiful material on earth, rather than from the raw materials used by other methods: uranium, coal, oil, natural gas, sun or wind. In the simulations, the output calculated was 100 times that of a 60 million amperes (MA) input current. The output rose steeply as the current increased: 1,000 times input was achieved from an incoming pulse of 70 MA.

To read more see:

3rd Annual Oak Ridge Science Fair

Y‑12 National Security Complex teamed up with the Sunset Rotary Club of Oak Ridge to present the 3rd Annual Oak Ridge Science Fair. The science fair was held at Y‑12’s New Hope Center in Oak Ridge.

Three students were selected as overall grand prize winners. Jefferson Middle School fifth grader Ethan Brady was the first place grand prize winner for his physical science project on the “Effect of Light on Corrosion.” As the overall grand prize winner, Ethan and his parents won a trip to NASA Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

Ethan’s brother, Andrew Brady, a fourth grader from Woodland Elementary School, took home second place in the grand prize category for his physical science project on the “Effect of Materials on Ball Bouncing.” Woodland third grader Brennan Brook won the third place grand prize for his life science project titled, “Are all Sweetener Crystals Alike?” The second and third place grand prize winners were awarded Kindle readers as part of their prize packages.

To read more see:

Last night, the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC broke the news of NNSA’s latest achievement – removing all remaining weapons-usable material from Mexico. Through a trilateral agreement, the US, Mexico and Canada worked to convert Mexican research reactors to use low enriched uranium, removed all remaining spent and fresh HEU and provided Mexico with LEU to continue reactor operations. This achievement is a key deliverable from the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. and a crucial step in achieving the President’s nuclear security agenda to “secure vulnerable nuclear material world wide” within four years.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino appeared live last night to break the news with Rachel Maddow. Full video below. Video extras and behind-the-scenes footage can be found on Rachel Maddow’s blog.




A juvenile bobcat, born last year, sits outside a building at the Pantex Plant last week. Three breeding females make their home at Pantex, ranging across the site’s 18,000 acres and beyond. The smallest bobcat range encompasses an area of 15 square miles.

Pantex maintains an active Wildlife biology program, tracking and conserving various animal species on the plant site. As part of this program, and in collaboration with West Texas A&M University, Pantex tracks the bobcats using radio collars and ear tags. A female bobcat will give birth to a litter of three or four kittens every year, using cover provided on the plant to protect the kittens from predators, according to Jim Ray, plant wildlife biologist.

Admin speaking at podium

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino recently participated in the dedication of operational startup of a new $795 million renewable energy fueled facility at the Savannah River Site, in Aiken, S.C. The administrator joined U.S. Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) and other senior officials from the Department of Energy and Ameresco, Inc., a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company, in the dedication.

The 34-acre SRS Biomass Cogeneration Facility is the culmination of 30-months and more than 600,000 hours of labor. The project sustained and created an estimated 800 jobs, spanning the mechanical, construction, engineering, and supplier sectors. Fully operational, the plant will support 25 fulltime jobs onsite and support the local logging community.

This project is also the single largest renewable Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) in the nation’s history. ESPCs are contracts in which private companies finance, install, and maintain new energy- and water efficient equipment at federal facilities.

The SRS Biomass Cogeneration Facility replaced a deteriorating and inefficient 1950s-era coal powerhouse and oil-fired boilers, and will generate an estimated $944 million in savings in energy, operation and maintenance costs over the duration of the contract.

To read more about the facility see:

Sidney Drell and Administrator
Sidney Drell, a member of the LLNL/Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLC) Board of Governors, is the recipient of the NNSA Administrator's Gold Medal of Excellence for Distinguished Service, the highest honorary award granted by the NNSA.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino presented the award to Drell in recognition of his many years of exceptional contributions to Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, NNSA, DOE, and the nation.

Drell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of theoretical physics (emeritus) at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), Stanford University. Drell, who served as SLAC's deputy director until retiring in 1998, has been active as an adviser to the executive and legislative branches of government on national security and defense technical issues. He is a founding member of JASON, a group of academic scientists who consult for the government on issues of national importance.

To read more about Drell see:

Juan L. GriegoJuan L. Griego has been named as the Deputy Site Manager for Los Alamos Field Office (LASO) and his appointment to the Senior Executive Service. As the Deputy Site Manager, Griego will serve as the Chief Operating Officer for LASO and will be responsible for overall LANL contractor performance oversight and evaluation.

Griego’s federal Civil Service spans nearly 26 years, commencing with the Department of Energy in Los Alamos in 1986 as a project manager under the DOE Career Intern Program. Career assignments at LASO include Project Manager/Federal Project Director (FPD) for multiple LANL projects to include the initial FPD for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility Replacement Project and leadership/supervisory positions as Team Lead and Branch Chief for Project Management, Team Lead for Program Integration, Assistant Manager for National Security Missions, and Acting Deputy Field Office Manager since August of 2011.

Griego is also a U.S. Army Reserve Commissioned Officer with a 29-year career in the New Mexico National Guard. Currently holding the rank of Brigadier General, he is assigned as the Land Component Commander and is responsible for more than 2,500 New Mexico Army Guardsmen, with many currently deployed overseas supporting the global war on terrorism.

As we continue our work to build a 21st Century Nuclear Security Enterprise, and as we work to continually improve how we execute our major construction and acquisition projects, we need the best people we can find to complete our mission. 

Today I’m pleased to announce that John Eschenberg, currently Interim Manager of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office, has been tapped to lead the design and construction efforts of the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at Y-12.  He will transition to the UPF design and construction project in April.

As many of you may know, UPF will replace a World War II-era system by consolidating enriched uranium operations, including assembly, disassembly, and dismantlement of nuclear weapons components. It is a key piece of NNSA’s future.  It is projected to be the largest construction project in Tennessee history, and design of the UPF is approximately two-thirds complete with construction planned to begin this spring.

John is certified as a Level IV Project Manager in DOE’s Project Management Career Development Program and was recognized as the National Management Association’s Executive of the Year for 2009. Prior to his Oak Ridge assignment, he held staff and senior management roles at DOE nuclear facilities including the Hanford Site in Washington, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Maryland system. He is a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Executive Management Program at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He will transition to the UPF design and construction project in April pending formal approval by DOE/NNSA.  Please welcome John to the NNSA family and help him in his new role in any way you can.

Neile Miller
Principal Deputy Administrator

Frank LoweryFrank Lowery has been selected as the new NNSA Deputy Associate Administrator for Defense Nuclear Security (DNS).

In this position, he will assist the DNS Associate Administrator in providing direction for all phases of the DNS mission to protect NNSA material, capabilities, facilities, information, and people, and in managing the department’s accountable nuclear material assets.

During his 30-year career in the United States Navy, Lowery has served in a wide variety of challenging assignments that have given him broad experience in policy development, radiological emergency response, nuclear engineering readiness, quality review, and fiscal project management. Most recently, he served as the chief of staff to the commander, Submarine Group Two, where he was responsible for the leadership and management of the Atlantic Fleet nuclear-powered fast attack submarines, operated as the alternate area commander in the event of a radiological or reactor incident, and served as the principal advisor to the group commander.