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)


Jan 16, 2013 at 11:00 am

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.

Jan 16, 2013 at 11:00 am

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.

Jan 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

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.


Jan 11, 2013 at 12:00 pm


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.

Jan 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

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.

Jan 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm

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.


Jan 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm

MOX people
Top: MOX Services President Kelly Trice, left, presents a certificate to Wise President and Owner David Abney and Wise Marketing Director Renee Abney. Wise was recognized as a 2012 MOX Gold Supplier during a special presentation in Dayton. Bottom: Byers Precision Fabricators was recognized as a 2012 MOX Gold Supplier during a special presentation in North Carolina. Steve Marr of MOX Services (left) and Kevin Hall of NNSA (right) present Roger Byers (center) with the award.


From prime contracts to subcontracts, small businesses provide mission-critical work every day, enabling the Energy Department to achieve its mission. At the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), MOX Services, the contractor responsible for the construction of the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility, has awarded 9,683 subcontracts to small businesses to support its nonproliferation efforts to dispose of surplus weapon-grade plutonium by fabricating it into MOX fuel for use in commercial nuclear power reactors.  MOX Services’ success in completing this project lies with finding and utilizing the products and services supplied by small businesses. NNSA and MOX Services are committed to increasing the contracting opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses, and the 9,683 subcontracts they have awarded to small businesses total approximately $860M.

NNSA and MOX Services have been fortunate to have worked with some exemplary small business subcontractors on the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility. Here are higlights on some of these small businesses:

Byers Precision Fabricators

Byers Precision Fabricators, a small business located in Hendersonville, North Carolina, specializes in laser precision cutting-edge technologies and fabrication. It currently has a multimillion-dollar contract in support of the MOX facility.  Byers is providing Nuclear Quality Assurance (NQA) Level-1 fabrication and assembly of process unit equipment glovebox shells, ventilation, mechanical components, and internal assemblies. With less than 50 employees, Byers has consistently performed and delivered high quality units on schedule and within budget for the MOX project and performed at levels usually expected of much larger world class companies. This September, NNSA and MOX Services presented Byers Precision Fabricators with the first "Gold Supplier Award" for its exceptional performance. Byers currently has approximately $10M in active contracts with MOX Services.

Petersen, Inc.

Petersen, Inc., with locations in Ogden, Utah and Pocatello, Idaho, is a small business that provides custom steel fabrication and machining services to industries throughout the country. Petersen’s contributions to the MOX project have been invaluable and it currently has approximately $80M in active MOX contracts, primarily for the fabrication of gloveboxes and internal assemblies that need to adhere to the strictest NQA Level-1 standards. Petersen, Inc. has performed superbly providing quality products, resulting in its selection as one of MOX Services “Gold Suppliers” and it will be presented an award in the near future.


SMCI, Inc. is a small business metal fabricator located in Lakeland, Florida.  After qualifying as a Quality Level 1 (QL-1) fabricator in 2005 before the start of MOX construction, SMCI successfully bid two successive solicitations for fabrication of the thousands of metal plates that will be embedded in the concrete structure of the MOX facility.   Over the last six years, SMCI has delivered over $25M worth of fabricated metal embedded plates and has consistently delivered a quality product.   SMCI has been very responsive to the project’s needs and, during the peak construction years, was delivering 70 to 80 thousand pounds of fabricated metal plates per week.  With SMCI’s dedication to the project and its ability to consistently manufacture quality products, the MOX project’s concrete work has been a success.

Wise Services

Wise Services is a Dayton, Ohio-based business that performs specialized construction, dismantling, stabilizing and environmental restoration. The company was a subcontractor during the environmental clean-up and site closure of the Department of Energy’s Fernald uranium production facility in Ross, Ohio.  Wise Services is a division of Wise Construction Company, a full service general contractor headquartered in Dayton.  Wise has provided construction services for MOX Services since 2008 and has been awarded nearly $41M in subcontracts.  This December, NNSA and MOX Services presented Wise Services with a "Gold Supplier Award" for its exceptional performance.  

All four of these subcontractors were performing limited to no NQA-1 fabrication work prior to receiving their respective MOX Services subcontracts.  As a result of this successful work, these vendors are well poised to support future nuclear new build projects.

The MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility is being built to support the U.S. commitment under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), which commits the U.S. and Russia to each dispose of at least 34 MT of surplus weapon-grade plutonium, enough material for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons. The plutonium will be fabricated into MOX fuel at the MOX facility and then irradiated in domestic nuclear power reactors. After the MOX fuel is irradiated in civilian reactors, it is no longer suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

Jan 3, 2013 at 11:00 am

Nearly 50 Y-12 employees served as Santa’s elves in the 2012 Angel Tree program. Now in its seventh year, this program is run by the Y-12 Employees' Society and works with charitable agencies to provide holiday gifts to children of families deemed eligible for assistance.

This year, Y-12 elves donated enough time and money to fulfill the holiday wishes of more than 497 children living in counties around the complex. Wish lists often reflect passing trends, but every year there are requests for bicycles. In 2012, Y-12 employees' efforts brought in a total of 44 new bikes and helmets to be donated, meeting more than 80 percent of the requests for bicycles.

Y-12 employees participate in all aspects of the toy drive, including donating money, shopping for toys, and collecting, sorting and delivering gifts to the agencies.

Read more about the Angel Tree program and Y-12's participation here.


Dec 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

In an effort to continue to support small business, Y-12 has selected GEMTech Y-12, LLC, (GEMTech) and Technical Resource Alliance (TRA) to help with staffing needs. The agreement between Y-12 and the two companies address Y-12’s existing need for experts from various types of engineering and technical-related disciplines. The agreement also helps to streamline more than 50 existing subcontracts to better serve the site with respect to efficiency and overall cost savings.

The two companies' focus on meeting Y-12 needs, relationship building with both Y-12 and their internal team, and utilization of unique, effective tools have enabled them to provide quicker-than-expected response times and reduced project staffing costs, resulting in a smooth, professional relationship with Y-12 personnel.

In FY 2012, Y-12's collaboration with suppliers was vital as the complex faced budget reductions and uncertainties. Both TRA and GEMTech offered a rebate to Y-12 based on the revenues generated in FY 2012.

Dec 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm