EOD technician using XTK from within his response vehicle during a training exercise.

NNSA’s Sandia National Laboratories won the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s (FLC) 2016 Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer for a decontamination product that neutralizes chemical and biological agents and for software that helps emergency responders disable improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The image processing and analysis software, XTK, helps emergency responders better perform in the high-stress, time critical mission of disabling improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It is estimated that XTK is now in the hands of over 20,000 end users in most of the 467 recognized non-military bomb squads across the U.S.

By offering the software for free, and developing efficient ways to supply the application, hardware accessories, and training, XTK has saved the emergency response community millions of dollars in licensing fees and training costs. Even more importantly, XTK is helping to save the lives of emergency responders and those they serve and protect.

Read more about the award and the lab professionals whose work made it possible here.


EOD technicians use XTK to help analyze and disable an IED.

Feb 17, 2016 at 1:00 am

In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) successfully established the Uranium Lease and Take-Back (ULTB) program, as directed in the American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2012, to support the commercial production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in the United States using low enriched uranium (LEU).  With the establishment of the ULTB program, DOE ensures that commercial producers of LEU-based Mo-99 will have access to material and services needed from DOE to produce this important medical isotope in the United States.

Through the ULTB Program, DOE will make LEU available, through lease contracts, from the Department’s excess uranium inventory for irradiation for the domestic production of Mo-99 for medical uses. In addition, through take-back contracts, DOE/NNSA will retain responsibility for the final disposition of spent nuclear fuel created by the irradiation, processing, or purification of leased LEU and take title to and be responsible for the radioactive waste created by the irradiation, processing, or purification of leased LEU, for which the Secretary of Energy determines the producer does not have access to a disposal path.

Managed by the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation’s Material Management and Minimization Program, with support from the DOE Environmental Management Program, the ULTB Program is a critical element of the DOE/NNSA’s ongoing support for the establishment of a domestic, commercial Mo-99 production capability that does not use proliferation-sensitive highly enriched uranium (HEU).  To support this goal, DOE/NNSA is currently supporting four commercial projects for Mo-99 production in the United States by providing up to $25 million for each project on a 50-percent/50-percent cost-share basis.

“The establishment of the Uranium Lease and Take-Back Program is an important milestone that demonstrates DOE/NNSA’s ongoing commitment to facilitating the production of Mo-99 in the United States without the use of HEU,” said Anne Harrington, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “The ULTB Program will provide services needed to make new, commercial sources of Mo-99 in the United States available for patients in a way that is consistent with the goals outlined through the Nuclear Security Summit process and strengthens the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.”

The ULTB program is part of the DOE/NNSA’s strategy to ensure reliable, commercial supplies of Mo-99 are produced in the United States without the use of HEU. Mo-99 is an important material, because it’s radioactive decay product is technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the most widely used radioisotope in medical diagnostic imaging. Tc-99m is used in approximately 80 percent of nuclear diagnostic imaging procedures, equating to about 50,000 medical procedures in the United States every day.  


Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhancesthe safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit www.nnsa.energy.gov for more information.

Feb 16, 2016 at 1:00 am


The winner of the 2016 Nevada Science Bowl was the team from Reno's Davidson Academy of Nevada. From left: Matthew Bauer, Rinik Kumar, Haydn Bradstreet, Paolo Adajar, Eric Liu, and Coach Brett Guisti.

While sports fans across the U.S. prepared for last weekend’s game day, 160 Nevada high school students went head-to-head in a different kind of competition. Sponsored and hosted annually by the NNSA’s Nevada Field Office, the Nevada Science Bowl pits high schoolers against each other to buzz in quick answers to tough questions in all branches of math and science. After nearly 11 hours of competition among 32 teams, Davidson Academy of Nevada took home the trophy for the 25th Annual Nevada Science Bowl.

The Davidson Academy team also receives $5,000 for their school’s math and science department along with an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C., for the Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl in April. 

“Nevada Science Bowl is celebrating 25 years of encouragement and support for science and math education in Nevada,” NNSA Nevada Field Office Public Affairs Director Darwin J. Morgan said. “The students and parents gathered here for the Nevada Science Bowl are working for a better and brighter future and we are proud to help them.”

Read more about the competition, and the success of the other teams, on the Nevada Field Office’s news page.


Feb 15, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Dona CrawfordDona Crawford, Associate Director for Computation at NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), announced her retirement last week after 15 years of leading Livermore’s Computation Directorate.

“Dona has successfully led a multidisciplinary 1000-person team that develops and deploys world-class supercomputers, computational science, and information technology expertise that enable the Laboratory’s national security programs,” LLNL Director Bill Goldstein said. “Dona’s leadership in high performance computing has been instrumental in bringing a series of world-class machines to the Laboratory.”

Crawford was one of the original leaders in the 1990s of the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), a national initiative to support the shift from testing to simulation for verifying nuclear weapons and supporting the stockpile. This initiative led to the nation’s success in high performance computing (HPC). According to the TOP500 list released in November, the U.S. continues to lead the way in HPC systems with 199 of the 500 systems (233 in June 2015).

Often the only woman in the room throughout her career, Crawford nonetheless achieved enormous success. She has testified before Congress about the critical need to develop next-generation supercomputers, and is involved in development and outreach for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) on both professional and community fronts.

Crawford has served as an advisor to the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation, as co-chair of the CRDF Global Board and of the Council on Competitiveness High Performance Computing Advisory Committee, and as a member of IBM’s Deep Computing Institute’s External Advisory Board, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Her STEM outreach efforts include support for underrepresented groups and advocating involvement for women and girls.

Crawford has been prolifically recognized for her accomplishments throughout her career. She was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005, received the Computerworld Honors Award in 2006, was featured as one of insideHPC’s “Rock Stars of HPC” in November 2010, received Alumni Career Achievement Award from University of Redlands California, and was the first woman named among HPCWire’s People to Watch—and the only woman to have made the list twice, in 2002 and 2013.

 “It has been an honor and a privilege to lead this world-class organization for nearly 15 years,” Crawford said. “I have the utmost confidence I am leaving an organization and people I care deeply about in the hands of experienced, extremely capable leaders who will continue tomove Comp forward as a vital element of the Laboratory.”

In all, Crawford’s career at DOE and NNSA spanned 40 years, including 25 years at Sandia National Laboratories.

“Strong leaders are important, but it has always been the people who are the magic within computation,” Crawford said. “I look forward to watching from the sidelines as you continue to push the frontiers of what is possible in support of lab missions.”


Feb 12, 2016 at 11:00 am


Last week the Nuclear Science Week (NSW) National Steering Committee released its impact report from the 2015 event, detailing the many ways people were educated about all things nuclear as a result of the event.

Nuclear Science Week is an international weeklong celebration to focus interest on learning “about the important positive impact that nuclear science has on the world,” NSW’s National Steering Chair James Walther said.

Organizers hope to get community members interested in STEM education by using the available resources or by hosting local events.

Celebrated the third week of October, NSW grass-roots community programming all over the nation and one “Big Event” hosted in a different city each year help spread learning and career interest in STEM fields to affect national security, energy, medical research, and new technology.

The request for proposal (RFP) for hosting the national event for NSW 2016 is on the NSW website. The community chosen to host the national event will benefit from notoriety, international visibility, networking, and outreach opportunities, according to the RFP. 

Feb 11, 2016 at 1:00 am


The workshop hones intern and staff scientist ability to speak to the public about science.

The more than 400 fourth-graders who donned lab coats at Sandia National Laboratories' outreach program last month quickly learned the importance of science when the “Magic Chemistry Dog” was dognapped, and only forensic chemistry analysis could solve the crime.

Fingerprint tests, chromatography, pH testing, and fiber analysis helped students spend the day getting excited about chemistry in pursuit of answers about a missing furry companion. 

The CSI: Dognapping Workshop was designed by more than 65 Sandia staff and intern volunteers to excite and encourage the next generation of scientific leaders. The 2 hour workshop uses theatrics and hands-on activities to help students to understand concepts from materials science to chemistry to forensics.

Last month’s workshop was the 11th year Sandia hosted the activity, which was awarded the ChemLuminary Award for Outstanding Kids & Chemistry by the American Chemical Society in 2015.

Read more about this year’s workshop, and read the activity instructions in full here.


The students are "accused" of dognapping, but use science to prove their innocence and find the dog.

Feb 9, 2016 at 12:00 pm


Sandia California held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Algae Raceway Testing Facility last week. The new facility will help scientists advance laboratory research to real-world applications.

In a twist of geometry, an oval can make a line. The new algae raceway testing facility at Sandia National Laboratories in California may be oval in shape, but it paves a direct path between laboratory research and solving the demand for clean energy.

As the nation and California adopt policies to promote clean transportation fuels, that path could help bring the promise of algal biofuels closer to reality. As one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, algae are an ideal source of biomass, but researchers have not yet found a cost-competitive way to use algae for fuels.

“This facility helps bridge the gap from the lab to the real world by giving us an environmentally controlled raceway that we can monitor to test and fine tune discoveries,” said Ben Wu, Sandia’s Biomass Science and Conversion Technology manager. “The success of moving technologies from a research lab to large outdoor facilities is tenuous. The scale-up from flask to a 150,000-liter outdoor raceway pond is just too big.”

Read more.


Feb 9, 2016 at 10:00 am


Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz (second from bottom left, clockwise) and Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (sitting next to Moniz), discuss Ian Hutcheon's legacy with his wife Nancy (across from Harrington) and daughter Dana Hutcheon Gordon.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last Thursday awarded the first Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) fellowship in honor of the late Ian Hutcheon, a longtime nuclear forensics expert at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to Thomas Gray.

Gray serves as a nonproliferation graduate fellow in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Gray was one of 22 applicants for the position. The fellowship is a two-year assignment as a junior professional officer (JPO) in support of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Division of Nuclear Security.

To the nuclear nonproliferation world, Hutcheon brought not only a passion for science, but an ability to reach out to partners internationally, engaging them in the science that supports U.S. nuclear security efforts. Because of his innate ability to engage, teach and inspire, Hutcheon was one of the very finest scientist-diplomats, with a unique ability to grow and inspire young talent.

Read more about the fellowship here.

Feb 9, 2016 at 1:00 am


Scientists at NNSA facilities study climate and meteorology. Other sites are key players in weather preparedness.

Today, on National Weatherperson Day, NNSA recognizes numerous contributions to the nation’s climate and weather readiness in any situation. With emergency response as one of its core missions, NNSA’s enterprise helps prepare the nation against the worst disasters, with weather as an important component in the equation of security.

NNSA’s labs have been recognized internationally for their invaluable work in climate modeling and aid in emergency weather preparedness. NNSA’s Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories are active as Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassadors for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) effort to strengthen national resilience against extreme weather.

NNSA’s Pantex Plant has been recognized as one of the National Weather Service’s StormReady sites for its community activism in severe weather preparedness. Staff at NNSA’s Los Alamos Laboratory received the GreenGov Presidential Award in November 2015 for their proactive commitment to environmental stewardship through planning, monitoring, and response.

Three of NNSA’s labs, Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, and Los Alamos, work in a partnership with other labs and groups to generate the most complete climate and Earth system models for climate change issues. Lawrence Livermore and Sandia each have a dedicated organization for monitoring and studying climate, while Los Alamos has two (here and here).

NNSA’s meteorological expertise also plays a big role in the nation’s preparedness against nuclear threats via the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC), which conducts atmospheric dispersion modeling of hazardous materials in support of health and safety decision making. NARAC is also a key stakeholder in the Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center. With support from across the nuclear security enterprise, NNSA’s emergency response assets are integrated into the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center to keep the nation safe in case of radioactive threats by, among other activities, evaluating weather conditions. 

Many dedicated men and women of NNSA’s enterprise are expert weatherpersons as part of their jobs in national security, using highly specialized technology for accurate data-gathering and collaborating with other experts and the public in educational and emergency outreach.

Feb 5, 2016 at 1:00 am

World Cancer Day encourages citizens worldwide to take action, raise awareness, and garner support in the campaign to end cancer. Inherent in NNSA’s missions are technological developments for detection, computation, and chemistry—with benefits for cancer research.

Scientists at NNSA’s laboratories receive both federal and private recognition for their work that has a huge impact on cancer research. One exceptional young scientist received an award from NIH for her computational work to learn more about how cancer progresses. Both Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory partner with universities to expand cancer research capabilities.

Cancer breakthroughs at NNSA labs include uncovering how a protein stops prostate cancer metastasis to bone, an association between a virus and bladder cancer, production of medical isotopes that fight cancer, a drug to destroy childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia, use of nanoparticles to destroy cancerous cells, and development of a high-resolution gamma camera used for prostate cancer detection.

NNSA’s work in nonproliferation has led to development of very sensitive and often non-invasive monitoring and detection technologies that have applications in cancer detection and treatment. NNSA retrained nuclear weapons scientists internationally to work in cancer treatment. A recently developed laser plasma accelerator can be used in scanning devices to spot hidden nuclear materials and for radiotherapy treatments for cancer.

Learn more about how NNSA’s labs and work tie into cancer research here.

Feb 4, 2016 at 5:00 pm