NNSA Blog

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.

Jul 5, 2012 at 10:00 am

First Group Attending Radiation Detection for Nuclear Security Summer School

For most students, summer school was something you endured while wishing you were at the local swimming pool or air-conditioned movie theater. But not for a group of graduate students who recently signed up for a first-of-its-kind radiation detection course.

Twelve graduate students in science and engineering from across the country participated in the first Radiation Detection for Nuclear Security Summer School, co-sponsored by NNSA and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. (Watch TV clip.) 

At PNNL and other facilities in Richland, Washington, students received  hands-on training in detecting nuclear materials across a range of nuclear security missions. The students also learned first-hand about challenges that technical and policy experts face in the field. The students now can apply what they learned in their own research, better preparing them for nuclear security careers.

Radiation Detection for Nuclear Security Summer School

Jul 2, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Representatives from more than 75 companies converged on Amarillo, Texas, from across the country this week to attend the first Pantex Supplier Conference.

The conference, arranged by the Pantex Supply Chain Management Division, gave suppliers a chance to interact with Pantex senior management, federal officials and supply chain personnel to increase efficiencies and deliver a better product.

The keynote speech was delivered by Daniel Saiz, NNSA manager of M&O contractors, who discussed procurement opportunities within the nuclear weapons enterprise.

Remarks by Pantex leadership focused on ways that representatives could become preferred suppliers while delivering on the safety, security and quality standards that are a hallmark of business at Pantex.

Plans call for making the conference a yearly occurrence.

B&W Pantex Acting Deputy General Manager Rod Johnson

About the photo:

B&W Pantex Acting Deputy General Manager Rod Johnson speaks to attendees at the first annual Pantex Supplier Conference earlier this week. Representatives from more than 75 companies attended the conference, which allowed suppliers to interact with Pantex and NNSA leaders.

Jul 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

Six people digging

A multi-federal agency effort is now underway to build a permanent Interagency Fire Center in the heart of northern New Mexico’s fire country as the one-year anniversary of New Mexico’s second largest wildfire on record approaches. 

Building upon the success of last year’s multi-agency coordination during the Las Conchas fire, NNSA, Bandelier National Monument and Santa Fe National Forest have again partnered to enhance northern New Mexico fire protection efforts by building a 6,400 square foot facility to serve as a joint coordination and response center for fire events. The new building will cost more than $3 million, and will significantly enhance the current fire-fighting capacities of all the agencies.

Kevin Smith, site office manager for the NNSA’s Los Alamos Site Office said having a permanent facility dedicated to fighting wildland fires is a huge asset for the entire region, where response time matters.

The site where the new building is planned currently houses the Interagency Fire Center (TA 49) at LANL. The facility near Bandelier National Monument accommodates up to three helicopters and other equipment used for firefighting activities.

The new single-story multipurpose facility will include space for offices, training and conference rooms, and for storage of fire protection/suppression equipment. The new facility is designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) criteria. The LEED design standard reduces energy and water needs, which are important resource considerations for northern New Mexico.

Jun 29, 2012 at 3:00 pm

 1000th TRU Waste Shipment

Los Alamos National Laboratory yesterday celebrated the 1000th shipment of transuranic waste from the Laboratory to a permanent repository at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

Since October 2011 (the beginning of the current federal fiscal year), LANL has sent 147 shipments to WIPP. LANL began shipping transuranic waste to WIPP in 1999, and reached the 1000th shipment milestone on June 6, 2012. LANL has sent record breaking numbers of shipments to WIPP each of the past three years and is on track to further surpass its record in 2012.

Although the TRU waste is stored safely, a decision was made by the Department of Energy, the New Mexico Environment Department and the Laboratory to accelerate the disposal of the 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste stored above ground at Area G. The new deadline for disposal of this waste is June 30, 2014.

TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil and other items contaminated with radioactive material, mostly plutonium. Transuranic elements such as plutonium have an atomic number greater than uranium, so they are labeled transuranic, for “beyond uranium” on the periodic table of elements.

Click here to read more.

About the photo:

LANL’s 1000th shipment of transuranic waste leaves the laboratory on its way to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

Jun 27, 2012 at 11:00 am

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has now de-inventoried 97 percent of special nuclear material requiring the highest level of security protection.

The removal is part of NNSA's efforts to consolidate Category I and II special nuclear material, requiring the highest level of security by Oct. 1, 2012. This initiative will further improve security and reduce costs as part of NNSA's overall effort to transform the Cold War era nuclear weapons complex into a 21st century nuclear security enterprise. 

All shipments have been completed in full compliance with safety and environmental laws and procedures.  All federal and receiver site requirements were met for these shipments. The de-inventory project was initiated in October 2006.

NNSA had originally planned to remove high-security material from Livermore by 2014. However, NNSA developed an accelerated timeline to remove the material safely by Oct.1, 2012.

Jun 27, 2012 at 11:00 am

Container

NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) was recently commended by the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Forum (LLW Forum) for its efforts to find solutions to the issue of disused and unwanted radioactive sealed sources. Specifically, Abby Cuthbertson of GTRI was recognized for the work she has done, along with the Utah Division of Radiation Control and EnergySolutions, to develop a pathway for secure disposition of certain Class A sealed sources at the Clive low-level radioactive waste disposal facility in Tooele County, Utah.

At the spring meeting of the LLW Forum, a resolution was passed that acknowledged the benefits of sealed sources to society as a whole, the significant national security threat posed by disused sources, and the importance of developing disposal options as a permanent solution to the associated threat. The resolution also expresses appreciation for the coordination and cooperation by GTRI, the State of Utah, and EnergySolutions towards meeting that challenge and contributing to our national security.

For more information on GTRI’s efforts to secure radiological sources, click here.

Jun 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm

VFW Award

B&W Pantex has been named the 2012 Employer of the Year by the Texas Veterans of Foreign Wars for its exemplary efforts to hire and support veterans. Pantex representatives were presented the award last Thursday at the VFW state convention in Addison.

Anthony Acklin, center, B&W Pantex Human Resources Generalist, holds the 2012 Employer of the Year Award with officials from the Texas chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Read more about the award here: http://bit.ly/MKWPlP

Jun 19, 2012 at 12:00 am

NNSA

Sequoia, a supercomputer built for NNSA, has been named the fastest in the world by Top500. Operating at 16.32 petaflops (quadrillion floating point operations per second), Sequoia helps monitor the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile by simulating weapons performance in high detail. Simulating weapons performances permits NNSA to ensure the safety, reliability and effectiveness of our nuclear weapons without the use of nuclear explosive testing. The IBM BlueGene/Q system is housed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The semi-annual Top500 is an industry standard list that was released June 18 at the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC12) in Hamburg, Germany. The last time a supercomputer from the United States placed number one on the list was November 2009.

Jun 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Sandia hardware

Sandia recently upgraded the critical assembly (a small nuclear reactor) in Tech Area 5 to permit a new class of experiments as part of the development of a reactor experiments training course for NNSA. Hardware was designed and installed that allows experiments to safely approach critical conditions by varying the amount of water in the assembly. This provides the capability to simulate a critically accident caused by flooding, something that is at the heart of many safety analyses for the storage of nuclear material across the DOE enterprise.

About the photo:
The upgraded hardware (the large black cylinder to the right) that permits criticality experiments by varying the amount of water in the reactor is shown installed on the Sandia critical assembly in Tech Area 5.

Jun 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm