Sandia National Laboratories is using its Ion Beam Laboratory (IBL) to study how to rapidly evaluate the tougher advanced materials needed to build the next generation of nuclear reactors and extend the lives of current reactors. Recent research was funded by NNSA’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development (LDRD) program.

Reactor operators need advanced cladding materials, which are the alloys that create the outer layer of nuclear fuel rods to keep them separate from the cooling fluid. Better alloys will be less likely to deteriorate from exposure to everything from coolant fluids to radiation damage.

Operating a reactor causes progressive microstructural changes in the alloys used in cladding, and that can hurt the materials’ integrity. However, present-day methods of evaluating materials can take decades.

The LDRD project worked with a variety of samples, everything from high-purity, single-crystal copper to materials used in today’s reactors. The Sandia team found that under the right conditions, a combinatorial approach can be used with new alloy compositions produced in-house. The LDRD project demonstrated a fundamental physics simulation of what’s happening to the material.

To read more about the research see: https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/reactor_materials/

Mar 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm



NNSA’s successful removal of all remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Ukraine was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this past Sunday. The completion of the mission was announced by President Obama and President Yanukovych during the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea where world leaders are meeting this week to renew commitments to global nuclear security. 

Click here to listen to NPR's coverage of NNSA's removal of HEU from Ukraine.

Mar 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm

NNSA Blog 

The United States and Sweden announced today at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit the successful removal of plutonium from Sweden. The plutonium shipment was completed by NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and was the first shipment of plutonium to the United States under this program. Over 3 kilograms of plutonium was removed and included Swedish, UK, and U.S. origin material stemming from former research and development activities in Sweden.  In order to complete this project and due to the sensitive nature of the material, NNSA and Sweden needed to develop facilities to stabilize and repackage the plutonium materials.


Mar 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm

NNSA BlogNNSA today concluded International Radiological Assistance Program Training for Emergency Response (I-RAPTER) in Slovenia.

The training, co-sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, was provided to 36 nuclear/radiological emergency responders, which included 15 participants from Slovenia and 21 students from 20 other countries.

The training was conducted with involvement of personnel from Sandia National Laboratories, the Remote Sensing Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory.

To read more about the training see: http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/slovenia


Mar 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm

The NNSA’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) surpassed a critical milestone in its efforts to meet one of modern science's greatest challenges: achieving fusion ignition and energy gain in a laboratory setting.

NIF's 192 lasers fired in perfect unison, delivering a record 1.875 million joules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to the facility's target chamber center. This historic laser shot involved a shaped pulse of energy 23 billionths of a second long that generated 411 trillion watts (TW) of peak power (1,000 times more than the United States uses at any instant in time).

The ultraviolet energy produced by NIF (after conversion from the original infrared laser pulse to the final ultraviolet light) was 2.03 MJ before passing through diagnostic instruments and other optics on the way to the target chamber. As a result, NIF is now the world's first 2 MJ ultraviolet laser, generating nearly 100 times more energy than any other laser in operation.

To read more about the March 15 record-breaking shot see: https://www.llnl.gov/news/newsreleases/2012/Mar/NR-12-03-02.html

Mar 22, 2012 at 10:44 am


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Operations Support Building (OSB) has achieved certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The OSB, which houses the new Target Alignment System and Final Optics Damage Inspection System alignment labs as well as optics and material handling labs and offices, is the fifth building at LLNL to be LEED-certified and the first in the National Ignition Facility and Photon Science Directorate.

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies for improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction and other factors. The OSB achieved certification after receiving 21 of 25 submitted rating points.

The research and documentation phase started in March 2009 and was completed over the span of 13 months. Construction began in February 2010, and the certification process began in June 2011 and was completed in December 2011.

To read more see: https://www.llnl.gov/news/aroundthelab/2012/Mar/ATL-031512_leed.html

Mar 22, 2012 at 9:28 am




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.

Mar 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm

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: https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/z-fusion-energy-output/

Mar 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

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: http://www.y12.doe.gov/news/release.php?id=272

Mar 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

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.



Mar 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm