NNSA Blog

NNSA Blog

NNSA's Emergency Communications Network (ECN) provides the capability to exchange real-time voice, data, and video information for managing emergency situations that involve NNSA assets and interests. In 2015, emergency response support teams in NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operations vastly improved on the communications support available in these situations by revamping the mobile ECN systems. NNSA reduced the size of the ECN systems by approximately 88 percent and their cost by 60 percent, while increasing the available communications pathways by 300 percent.

Previous ECN Mobile systems cost about $400,000; weighed approximately 500 pounds and provided a single source of communications: satellite. New ECN Mobile systems cost approximately $145,000; weigh about 60 pounds and provide three sources of potential communications: satellite, Internet, any available cellular signal.

What does this improvement mean for the United States? More effective and efficient communications for NNSA personnel deployed as part of the nation’s radiological and nuclear emergency response capability, helping to provide security to the nation from the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Jan 22, 2016 at 12:00 am

Argonne’s Amanda Youker discusses the Mo-99 program, which supports nonproliferation goals, with NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz.Since its founding in 1946, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has played a key scientific role in developing the beneficial use of atomic energy. In fact, over the last century, Argonne’s expertise was involved in the development of every nuclear research reactor in the United States.  What may be less well-known about Argonne is its partnership with NNSA to prevent the misuse of that same power.

Lt. Gen. (retired) Frank G. Klotz, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), received a first-hand look at the role Argonne’s research and development work plays in this major national security mission when he visited the laboratory on January 15.  While Argonne has its roots in the non-military use of nuclear energy and is part of the larger DOE national laboratory complex, it also works closely with NNSA in several critical areas that contribute to global nuclear security.

“Reducing the threat posed by the potential spread of nuclear weapons material is a core mission of NNSA, and Argonne has been an important partner in that effort for decades,” Klotz said. “The experience and scientific expertise of the researchers at Argonne have made the world a safer place, and it was a pleasure to meet some of those people today.”

A core mission of NNSA’s Office of Material Management and Minimization is to reduce nuclear threats by minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civilian applications. This is largely achieved through conversion of nuclear reactors from the use of HEU—which can be a proliferation risk—to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. Since this program was launched in 1978, more than 90 reactors in dozens of countries have been converted to LEU, or verified as shut down. Argonne experts support this effort by redesigning reactor cores to use LEU, and by developing new types of fuel that can work in the reactors.

Another way Argonne works to minimize the use of HEU is in the production of critical medical isotopes. Argonne supports NNSA’s mission by developing a variety of technologies to produce the most commonly used medical isotope, molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), without the use of proliferation-sensitive HEU. Argonne supports international Mo-99 producers to convert to the use of LEU, and supports NNSA’s domestic commercial partners to accelerate development of the capability to produce Mo-99 in the United States without the use of HEU.

Argonne Director Peter B. Littlewood welcomed Klotz to the laboratory and said Argonne’s decades of experience in nuclear reactor and fuel design makes the laboratory a singular resource in the nuclear nonproliferation effort.

“Argonne was founded to help fulfill the promise of peaceful nuclear energy, and we also recognize that we must be vigilant to prevent its misuse,” Littlewood said. “We are honored to have General Klotz visit, and we hope to strengthen this partnership, which is critical to the security of the United States.”

Klotz and Dr. Stephen Streiffer discuss work sponsored by NNSA at the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. Department of Energy User Facility at the lab. Streiffer is director of the APS, which provides the brightest storage ring-generated X-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere.While controlling nuclear material is important, care must also be taken with so-called dual-use materials, equipment and technologies that have peaceful applications but that can also contribute to the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). For example, some computer codes that are used to model nuclear reactor cores could also be used to model nuclear weapons. Argonne maintains an active trade- and technology-control program that works with NNSA to help prevent diversion of U.S. nuclear and related dual-use exports, and to further strengthen international efforts to control the trade in WMD-usable equipment and technologies. 

During his visit, Klotz also toured the Advance Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science/Basic Energy Sciences user facility at Argonne that provides the brightest storage ring-generated hard X-ray beams in the Western Hemisphere. Users perform a broad range of NNSA-supported research at the APS. NNSA supports operation of two sectors of the APS, which are used to conduct high pressure and shock physics experiments that support NNSA’s nonproliferation and defense program missions.

For Klotz, it was a full day, but one that he said emphasized the importance of cooperation across the entire DOE enterprise.

“Every site and laboratory within the DOE system is on a mission of ensuring the security of the United States, whether that be through energy security or through national security,” Klotz said. “I am proud of the contributions made by our laboratory workforce—some of the best and brightest scientific minds in the world.”

Jan 19, 2016 at 4:00 pm

 

NNSA Blog
NGFP Fellows at the annual NGFP Career Skills Workshop, where they met with PNNL and NNSA leaders to gain practical guidance and best practices for applying to positions after their fellowships.

The NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) participated a Career Skills Workshop earlier this month in Washington. The annual event provides Fellows practical guidance and best practices for applying to positions after their fellowships. Fellows learned about what to expect when for applying for federal positions, resources for working with national laboratories across the U.S. Department of Energy complex, and general information about federal positions and hiring processes. Key presenters included:

  • NNSA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Management and Budget Frank Lowery, who shared information about federal hiring and the USAJobs job portal. 
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Director of Talent Acquisition Rob Dromgoole, who provided guidance for writing résumés and preparing for interviews.
  • PNNL NGFP Operations Lead Ryan Boscow, who shared advice on how best to pursue positions in the federal government and the national laboratories.
  • PNNL Technical Recruiter Colin Sanders, who shared tips for using LinkedIn and other social networking tools to assist in career searches.

NNSA Blog
NNSA Deputy Associate Administrator for the Office of Management and Budget Frank Lowery speaks to Fellows at the NGFP Career Skills Workshop.

NNSA Blog
PNNL Technical Recruiter Colin Sanders presents to Fellows at the NGFP Career Skills Workshop.

NNSA Blog

Jan 19, 2016 at 12:00 am

NNSA Blog

Most of us just reach into the closet to pull on a warm coat to shield us from the winter weather, but for thousands of needy children in the Kansas City area who have outgrown their coats, it’s not so simple.

Thanks to the Coats for Kids program, which provides new and gently used coats for children who need them, many of these children will be toasty warm.

Each year, NSC contractor Honeywell teams up with local radio station KMBZ 98.1 FM to support the effort.

“We are on a mission to get students excited about math and science,” says Chris Gentile, Honeywell FM&T President. “We’ve found that kids cannot concentrate on their studies and be successful at school if they are not well equipped with the basic necessities. This is why we feel it is important and take part in this effort.”

This is the sixth year that Honeywell issued a challenge to KMBZ radio listeners to donate $1,000 over a 10 day period. When the goal was reached, Honeywell doubled it with a $10,000 donation to help purchase new coats for Kansas City kids in need. Together, we contributed more than $24,000 to help area children keep warm.

Jan 19, 2016 at 12:00 am

Installation of part of ARC preamplifer systems.

X-ray radiograph of a backlit grid produced on the first programmatic ARC shot.

The National Ignition Facility’s (NIF) performed the first programmatic experiments with Advanced Radiographic Capability (ARC) on December 1-3, 2015. ARC, a petawatt-class laser with peak power that will exceed a quadrillion watts, is designed to produce brighter, more penetrating, higher-energy X-rays than can be obtained with existing radiographic techniques. In the December tests, good quality images of a backlit test grid were recorded on an image plate diagnostic. This is an important milestone toward the quality imagery of NIF experiments that ARC will be able to produce.

The world’s highest-energy short-pulse laser, ARC will take high resolution x-ray images at very high speeds and brightness under experimental conditions that are relevant to understanding the operation of modern nuclear weapons. ARC captures imagery at a resolution of 20 millionths of a meter and up to 50 billion frames per second. ARC will create images so quickly, brightly and clearly that it will be able to produce radiographic “movies” of the small scale experiments conducted at NIF—a feat it is expected to achieve in 2016.

ARC is one of the many diagnostic tools serving as part of NNSA’s non-explosive nuclear stockpile stewardship program. NIF experiments are essential to the nation’s stockpile assessment and certification strategy. NIF will be the only place for scientists to gain access to and examine thermonuclear burn without nuclear explosive testing.

 

After amplification in the NIF laser, the ARC beams are compressed in the target bay and focused to Target Chamber Center (TCC).

 

Jan 13, 2016 at 12:00 am

NNSA Blog

The team in front of Los Alamos' Trident Laser Target Chamber. Back, from left: Tom Shimada, Sha-Marie Reid, Adam Sefkow, Miguel Santiago, and Chris Hamilton. Front, from left: Russ Mortensen, Chengkun Huang, Sasi Palaniyappan, Juan Fernandez, Cort Gautier and Randy Johnson.

 

A transformative breakthrough in controlling ion beams allows small-scale laser-plasma accelerators to deliver unprecedented power densities. That development offers benefits in a wide range of applications, including nuclear fusion experiments, cancer treatments, and security scans to detect smuggled nuclear materials.

“In our research, plasma uses the energy stored in its electromagnetic fields to self-organize itself in such a way to reduce the energy-spread of the laser-plasma ion accelerator,” said Sasikumar Palaniyappan of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Plasma Physics group. “In the past, most of the attempts to solve this problem required active plasma control, which is difficult.”

Laser-plasma accelerators shoot a high-energy laser into a cloud of plasma, releasing a beam of ions, or electrically charged particles, in a fraction of the distance required by conventional accelerators. The laser generates electromagnetic fields in the plasma.

Learn more about it here.

Jan 12, 2016 at 12:00 am

NNSA Blog

The last row of panels at the Whitethorn Solar Facility project site at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California was installed last week. When complete, the 3.3 MW fixed-tilt solar photovoltaic facility will represent the largest DOE/NNSA purchase of solar energy from an onsite facility. Electrical installation will continue for several more weeks, then start-up testing and commissioning will be necessary before commercial operation begins.

Click here to learn more about the project.

Jan 11, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Jan 11, 2016 at 10:00 am

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Les Nakae, front, shows off a liquid scintillator detector for measuring neutrons and gamma rays with nanosecond timing, which requires the new theoretical formulations detailed in a recent research paper. Joining him are team members, from left: Neal Snyderman, Jerome Verbeke and Ken Kim. Not shown is Manoj Prasad. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have created a new method for detecting and analyzing fission chains to assess and evaluate nuclear material.

The powerful mathematical tools enable the team to detect, analyze and assess unknown objects containing fissionable material in a wide range of applications, from safeguards and border security, to arms control and counterterrorism. The research appears in a recent edition of the journalNuclear Science and Engineering.

Special nuclear materials (SNM) -- highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium 239 -- are unique among radioactive materials in sustaining neutron-induced fission chain reactions. Only SNM naturally create self-perpetuating fission chain reactions and in turn emit bursts of many neutrons and gamma rays.

Their new methods are designed to exploit the burst timing pattern of neutrons and gamma rays emitted by fission chains in HEU and plutonium. One of the goals is to determine the mass and geometric properties of the unknown material and its configurations.

Learn more about their method.

Jan 8, 2016 at 12:00 am

NNSA Blog
NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz, Dr. Steve Aoki, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Colleagues:

It is with mixed emotions that we announce the retirement of Dr. Steve Aoki, Associate Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation. Steve officially retired on December 31st after 33 years of Federal service. He served his country at the State Department and the National Security Council, and helped stand up NNSA in 2000. Steve is a valued colleague and a dedicated public servant who will be greatly missed. He made many significant contributions to the public welfare and advanced the national security throughout his distinguished career.

In accordance with NNSA’s succession policy, Jay Tilden will serve as Acting Associate Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation. Jay has supported nuclear counterterrorism and incident response at DOE since 1996, and joined NNSA eight years ago as the Intelligence and Security Advisor to the Deputy Under Secretary of Energy for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation. He has served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation since 2012. Dave Bowman will fill in as the Acting Deputy Associate Administrator. We have extraordinary confidence and trust in both Jay and Dave.

We wish Steve well on his future endeavors, and welcome Jay and Dave to their new roles.

Frank Klotz and Madelyn Creedon
“Mission First, People Always”

Jan 7, 2016 at 5:00 pm