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A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Donald Hoffman, the founder, president and CEO of EXCEL Services Corporation (EXCEL). Hoffman is an active and visible leader within the nuclear industry. He’s a past President of the American Nuclear Society (ANS). His company has been a major exhibitor at ANS events for several decades – people who have attended any national ANS meeting since the 1990s have probably seen more than a few of the blue and gold bags emblazoned with EXCEL on the side. Recently, he has been engaging in more active efforts to spread information to the public and to political leaders about the value and benefits of nuclear energy. Hoffman began his nuclear career as a reactor operator and then engineering officer in the US Navy’s submarine force. He then served on the staff of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for five years. In 1985 he founded EXCEL Services Corporation. At the beginning of 2017, after 32 years in business in an ever-changing industry, EXCEL engaged in a significant reorganization and refocusing of its strategies for future growth. The following interview has been slightly edited for structure and brevity. Adams: EXCEL has been reorganizing, refocusing and repositioning. I wanted to talk to you about that and find out what you are doing now and what you see as the opportunities in the nuclear industry during the next several years. Tell me a little about your company and your recent reorganization. Hoffman: I started the company in 1985 when I left the NRC. During those 32 years there have been a number of successes and challenges. We participated in growth activities in the industry during the first 26 years. We helped to get plants licensed, provided services for NRC review and approval of Improved Technical Specifications (ITS) NUREGS, services for multiple ITS conversions, established the TSTF, improved technical specification conversions, and supported license renewals, power uprates, and 24-month fuel cycle extensions and other technical and regulatory initiatives. During that time, I think we were a really good partner to the industry. It is important for us to continue to be so. We had aligned ourselves during those first 26 or so years along major business’s four lines. These business lines were all reasonably successful, but in March of 2011, the industry was impacted by the Fukushima Daiichi event. During the past six years, plants have spent a lot of time, effort, focus and money on implementing post Fukushima Daiichi safety upgrades. Also at that time low prices of natural gas caused nuclear to not be very competitive in the marketplace. There were subsidies for renewables, wind and solar, but not for the third clean and only clean baseload energy source – nuclear. So nuclear did not have a level playing field. The unique value proposition of nuclear from an energy security, economy and environmental perspective was not being appropriately valued. Our utility clients were experiencing significant downward pressure to do much more with less. EXCEL has been extensively involved in attempting to preserve our current nuclear fleet in New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey. Nevertheless, we have suffered through the premature shutdown of one plant after another; San Onofre, Kewaunee, Vermont Yankee, and Fort Calhoun are just a few examples. EXCEL provides initiatives to enhance safety, improve performance, and reduce cost. Everything we do is a great-to-have, but it’s not an absolutely “have-to-have.” So as you can imagine, the last 7 years have been difficult, at best, for our company. As our industry and as our utility clients go, so go we. Towards the end of last year, I made a conscious decision to start looking at a different approach where we integrated new abilities and competencies to our existing, core capabilities in such a way that we could expand our support for our clients’ needs as our clients’ needs were changing. There were two basic areas into which I decided to expand EXCEL. The first is Critical Infrastructure Protection Services. Critical Infrastructure Protection Services has three elements: 1) information security, 2) physical security and 3) cyber security. By considering all three in an integrated approach, we can save the facility significant time and effort. Acknowledging the need for our plants to move forward and to be successful in completing Milestone 8 for the cybersecurity activities, I recognized that they need a unique perspective that looked at the effort not only from a cybersecurity standpoint but also understood the licensing and design basis, the culture and the operations of the facility. We integrate those considerations with our cybersecurity capability and competency. Our method of treating the three sectors of CIP has already demonstrated success in cybersecurity. I first hired Dick Rosano, who was the Chief of Nuclear Security for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He wrote the vast majority of the requirements for physical and information security while he was there. He had some involvement in cybersecurity. He is our Senior Vice President for Critical Infrastructure Protection. He has brought on individuals who have worked in and around the nuclear industry with the FBI, CIA and other entities and organizations that have developed approaches that have been very successful in ensuring that cyber, physical and information security were appropriately implemented at a variety of critical facilities. We are developing those capabilities not only for the nuclear industry, but we are also looking to expand those capabilities outside the nuclear industry to other energy sectors such as coal, oil and gas, wind and solar. The needs of these industries are unique. Since we can meet the needs of the nuclear community, then meeting the needs of some of these other entities is somewhat easier, a little more straightforward and probably not as costly. It’s still an approach where we think we can leverage the lessons learned. That has started to work; we’re starting to gain traction in other energy industries. We’ve been asked to consider expanding to other industries as well. For example, we’ve never worked for the government. We don’t work for the NRC simply because of the conflict of interest perception and concern, but we’ve never worked for any entity of the government, including the Department of Energy or the Department of Defense. The second area I decided to expand into is what we named Executive Performance Solutions. We had always been able to provide within EXCEL, very good policies, processes, and mechanisms with what we had learned from my years as a manager in the NRC and the years of our senior personnel in the NRC and industry. However, we had never had the highest levels of management and policy expertise. We were more of the provider of solutions and then the implementer of those solutions. In some cases, we discovered that our clients were having issues that really required someone who had a unique experience and expertise and who had a credibility with their name recognition because of their experience, a position they had held, and the activities in which they had participated. We decided to approach that area and to lay out a how we could begin providing that capability. We hired Mark Satorius as the Senior Vice President of Executive Performance Solutions. Mark was the former Executive Director of Operations for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is the highest non-commissioner level, essentially the COO of the agency. Subsequent to that, we decided to go after a number of others that we could bring in. People who had been office directors or had been regional administrators in one or more of the regions or had been senior level executives at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We brought in folks like Eric Leeds, former Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation; Jim Wiggins, former Director of the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response; Jack Strosnider, former Director of the Office of Nuclear Materials Safety and Safeguards, Ed Baker former Director of Advanced Reactor Programs; Chip Cameron, former Assistant General Counsel; Chuck Casto, former Regional Administrator of Region III; Joe Gray, former Assistant General Counsel for Licensing and Regulation; and John Greeves, former Director of Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection. And the list goes on and on. We brought on 17 of these individuals who cross all of the eight major activities in the NRC. Authorization, inspection and oversight, engineering, operations, health physics and radiation protection, emergency preparedness and incident response, new build, and international. We now have capabilities across all of those areas. We were bringing on a number of individuals that had unique capabilities because they had worked in the regulatory authority and had seen issues from the regulatory perspective, and were now working in the industry and starting to get a different perspective. We asked ourselves, why not form an entity in the group that also looked at Executive Performance Solutions from inside the utility perspective? We wanted people who had served as chief nuclear officers, site vice presidents and other individuals who had seen a number of things. We also wanted to bring onto the team individuals that were well versed in operations up to and including licensing and construction, initial operations or decommissioning, significant impacts for one technical reason or another, some kind of regulatory activity. We have now brought on several individuals who were site vice presidents or chief nuclear officers and we are expanding that now to include others. We had one particular client who had a problem that they were unable to solve. It was a significant issue that would have caused months and months of delays and several tens of millions of dollars of impact. We were able to find a solution, get regulatory authority approval and the client has moved forward. These are the kinds of things we hope to be able to do: bring unique solutions to complex issues and be able to ensure that our clients are successful, domestically or internationally. That gives you the sense of the changes that we are undergoing in EXCEL. We are becoming more rigorous in our processes; we are going out and doing more things; we are becoming more specific in how we are doing our marketing. I’m excited about it. We have a really good team and good people. Bringing in Dick Rosano and Mark Satorius were good moves. To complete EXCEL’s executive team, I brought in Michael McMahon, who had been President & CEO of Transnuclear, Inc., AREVA’s dry fuel storage/radioactive waste management subsidiary and had been a Senior Vice President with them under technical and engineering. He is now our Senior Vice President for Business Development. He is on the road today meeting with some of our clients. EXCEL had been in business for 32 years. I love what I do. I want to be here another 32 years and the only way to do that is to make sure we continue to add value and continue to be a really good asset and partner to our industry. Adams: What kinds of services have the participants in the advanced reactor community indicated that they might need? Have you been talking to them? Hoffman: I have. A number of them have indicated a number of services for example, strategic plans on how they go about getting acceptance for their activities. Next, how do they get the right kind of funding by demonstrating that they have a unique value. There are a number of different advanced reactor designs out there and arguably they are not all going to make it. The ones that are going to make it are going to have to have some way they can assure, once they get into commercial operation, there will be an appropriate return on investment. I think what we’ve tried to do is to work with our advanced reactor groups to talk about approaches that enable them to be successful. They’re not all created equal; the environments in which they will be operating are not created equal, and the environments in which they would be commercial are not equal. What we are attempting to do is to give them a sense of what the challenges are, when they will need to be met, how they will need to be met and what are the best approaches that have been demonstrated to be successful both in the U.S. and internationally. We’ve been helping them with things like siting, coordination, identifying the best partners, who should be the OEM or EPC, who should be the technology supporter or manufacturer, how can we help them with the licensing, how can we help them with the approaches and what kinds of construction agreements should they sign. We’ve been involved in this for many decades; we have worked in the United Arab Emirates and many other countries. We’ve seen a lot of different variables on what a good partnership looks like and how that can be structured so that both entities are successful. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some situations where only one entity was successful. I think that’s what’s important. We have folks that have worked with us both here in the U.S. and internationally in different positions that have seen things that are not necessarily recorded. We are seeing people who are repeating the same mistakes over and over again, and we think we can apply our decades of experience and help them avoid that. Those are the kind of things that we’re seeing from the advanced reactor community. They want us to assist them in establishing networks, figuring out how to set things up, learning how to plan and determining the best licensing approach. We have established unique applications, innovative licensing approaches, even with the NRC in certain things such as improved technical specifications, conversions and license renewal. We’ve been successful in assisting the NRC with an approach that maintains the highest levels of safety but allows the actual review, by the way it’s structured, to be completed in about half of the time for half of the cost in fees. NRC review fees and NRC review schedules are often complex and uncertain. That causes people who loan or invest money to have genuine concerns. If you can establish some level of predictability and stability in those kinds of normally unstable and unknown processes, I think it helps provide a great deal of confidence. We’ve been able to describe approaches that we think will work and we’re working with the NRC now. Congress is currently pushing forward with the Modernization Act. My concern is that legislation does not require anything to take place until 2021. My reaction is that we need change in 2017. By 2021, I don’t know what this landscape will look like. The most important thing that I will continue to do as an individual is be a good corporate citizen. That’s what’s important to EXCEL. We want to give something back. We’re not a company that is just here to provide services to the industry and to keep our people employed. We’re here to add value, to be an asset and to be able to say at the end of the day that we were a part of the success and we’re very, very proud of what we contributed. That’s why I was the co-chair of the American Nuclear Society’s committee on Nuclear in the States and why I formed Sensible Energy Matters to America (SEMA) last year. SEMA is a 501c(3) that has been and continues to be responsible for bringing about coordination among the eight major assets owners and suppliers in the energy portfolio of this country. SEMA works to find ways to cross the barriers of concerns when one is feeling that they are being unfairly treated by another for competitive advantage to the detriment of others. We’re finding policies and processes and an appropriate entire energy policy that will allow the country to be successful. I’ve worked very closely with Gov. Cuomo and his staff on the Zero Emissions Credit concept along with Exelon in New York. I have also worked with Gov. Rauner in Illinois. I’m currently working with Gov. Kasich in Ohio and also with Gov. Christie in New Jersey. I’m going to be going up to see the governor in Pennsylvania very soon. We are all looking for ways that we can get ahead of these issues together. I met with NEI last week and we talked about the importance of the industry collaborating and cooperating in such a way that we can get ahead of the issues. We need to go to see the governors and find ways in which we can cooperate with them. We need to give them the information that they need to be able to appropriately value the unique aspects of nuclear in their energy plans. I did get a chance to talk to former Governor and then Energy Secretary-elect Perry about having a Governor’s Council in the Department of Energy. That would be an organization in which they could actually speak to each of the states about energy policy and lay out what each of the states can and should do. We as an industry need to find a way to work with that council and then help issue some kind of federal policy so that states would be accepting of those policies instead of pushing back after it was issued because they would have been part of the creation of the legislation all along. It’s my sincere hope that we will find ways in this country to acknowledge and recognize the value of energy and the unique value of nuclear’s contribution and be able to move forward to the betterment of all of the American people. I’m really excited about our possibilities of success. Adams: That’s terrific. I just read a press release this morning. Gov. Perry visited Nevada yesterday to take a look at Yucca Mountain. He spoke with the governor of Nevada, had a governor-to-governor conversation. Hoffman: Unfortunately, I’ve heard that the governor of Nevada was saying that was not a conversation that he would engage in or consider. I think a lot of that is political in nature. We’ve spent so much time and effort on Yucca Mountain. It’s a place that we know. We know what’s good with it and we know what’s wrong with it. We’ve already spent billions of dollars to do the research. So any other place that we choose, no matter how perfect we think it might be, we’re going to discover some faults. So really the question comes down to, “Is this adequate? Can we utilize this? Can we get over the things that we know need to be addressed, even though there are some shortfalls in the actual location? And do we have a consent process here?” I believe that the feds want to do this, that the locals want to do it, but if the state doesn’t, and that’s the third arm of the consent process, I don’t know how successful they’ll be. How do we get a consent process that works at all three levels, federal, state, and local? That’s one of the things that I’d like to see us start doing. I don’t want to waste a lot more time on Yucca Mountain. If Yucca Mountain is unsuccessful, then we need to say, “Alright, what can we learn from it? What can we take from it? What can we do in other locations? How can we go to another location with a complete consent process and go there full speed ahead?” I don’t want to waste any more money trying to do something if it doesn’t have a relatively decent chance of going forward. Our industry needs to find a long-term solution that includes the back end of the fuel cycle. When U.S. nuclear industry leaders speak to others in the international community, they say, “Why are you over here telling us what we should do when you cannot even get out of your own way?” Adams: I think you and I agree. One of the challenges that we have in our industry is that are a lot of people that are hard driving, type A’s who can’t stand to fail. They don’t want to give up on something like Yucca Mountain. For me, sometimes it’s time to just say, “Okay, you’ve proven this is just too damn hard. Let’s try something else.” Hoffman: It cost more money to research Yucca Mountain than it did to put a man on the moon in the late 60s. That says it all. Knowing that, do I want to waste that the money that has already been spent? My first response is no. But if it’s a non-starter and if we have to recognize that all of the things that we can and should be able to do are not going to be successful in bringing it about, we have to be able to say, “Fine, let’s take the lessons learned and move onto something that we can be successful with.” Our industry and our public deserve it. We’ve spent so much time and money on this project that it’s almost criminal if we don’t find some solution that works for us in the near future. You hear people calling for another Office of Civilian Waste Management. If NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) is responsible for the weapons waste, then perhaps we do need an entity in DOE that is responsible for the civilian waste that helps to promote solutions and push for them to be implemented. We are certainly not moving forward at a pace that would allow us to get there any time in the near future. Adams: The NRC has issued some framework documents for advanced reactor licensing. It seems to me that they are moving too slowly. Some of the items that they still describe as unresolved are items that have been identified and under discussion since 2007-2008. How do we harness the talent that exists on the staff and get them to move forward? Hoffman: I think all of that’s going to come from a sense of urgency. Their first responsibility is to the environmental health and public safety. I understand and appreciate that. Anyone who works in the nuclear industry believes in responsible regulation. I am so pleased that Chairman Svinicki has stated that she is interested in finding solutions that works on this. I believe that she is the right leader for the NRC to work on this and to establish those processes to move forward. My statement to our industry is that we need to work with her. I don’t think that we should expect the NRC to develop their own framework without some input from us. I think that the industry owes it to itself to go and sit down with the NRC I know there have been discussions, but we need to do much more now and help lay out that framework. There’s a tremendous number of competent people in the NRC, but a lot of them have come on only in the last five to eight years. They do not necessarily have the expertise of people that started in the late 1970s, the early 80s or even in the late 80s when we were still licensing and placing into construction and operation new nuclear facilities. So for a lot of those people, the only thing they have seen is at Vogtle or VC Summer which has been done in a totally different licensing – part 52 with combined operating licenses. There are some unfortunate issues that have happened there and will continue to happen, but I hope we will learn from them and not repeat them. But what’s more important to me is that this is always going to be a collaborative effort. The fact is that we are a regulated industry and the most heavily regulated industry on the globe. Rightfully so – to a certain extent. But what can we do to make sure that we give the tools and the capability to our regulator so that they can be comfortable and confident in what we say? There are two sides to this. We cannot expect everything to be the regulator’s responsibility. We have a responsibility there too. And I know that the vast majority of our utilities take this responsibility seriously. I believe that we need to go and sit down with them. We need to set the bar. We need to tell them that 2021 is not soon enough. And we need to provide the input and solutions to this issue for the NRC to consider. Not wait for the NRC to develop it. The industry knows what is necessary and why as well as anyone. We believe in modernization; we need efficiency and effectiveness in our regulatory infrastructure, but we do not need them three or four years from now. We need them now. We need them maybe by the end of 2017. We need to be all working to establish some portion of the industry and some portion of the staff whose sole function and primary focus is to find a way that we can be successful in small modular reactors, advanced reactors and our large build reactor processes. The fact is that all of those mechanisms can be significantly enhanced. I hear all these great things about SMRs and advanced reactors, and don’t get me wrong, I believe in them; they have their place. But their place in not in lieu of large build capacity that we have and should continue to grow. I believe in large build reactors. I believe in our light water reactor current fleet program. I believe we have to learn from it, enhance and improve on it. It serves as the basis for research and development and lessons learned activities for us to go forward on small modular reactors and advance reactors. That’s why we need to work together. If I were asked, I would want to set aside an organization within the NRC that works with a group from the industry that is already starting to look at what does that refined licensing and regulatory process look like. They would start getting a draft together, then move it out for review and comment. It would show that we are truly serious about making these changes and making them now. Adams: I struggle with how to communicate this to the industry, but right now the NRC is legally obligated to collect 90% of its expenditures from licensees. And the licensees have been pushing hard on the NRC to keep those fees as low as possible, which is legitimate. The problem is that means that the NRC has been able to devote about a half an FTE to some of these advanced reactor issues over the last several years. And with the pressure from the industry saying cut your budgets, and unfortunately, even if Congress was to say okay, we’re going to give the NRC more money in its budget, it won’t arrive for more than two years. Hoffman: I think the industry would like to have some say in cutting the budget, but in certain places. Sometimes, it’s one of those situations where you have to be careful what you ask for. You tell them, “Cut your budget,” and they will do it in the very place where you don’t want them to, which might be in revising the regulatory regime. Adams: Don, I know that EXCEL hasn’t done much work for the government, but you personally did work for the government at one time. You probably remember, and I say this with all due love and respect for the bureaucrat that I used to be, If somebody tells you to cut your budget, the thing that you do first is to cut the most visible and painful place. If you are a town and you need to cut your budget, the first thing that you do is to lop off operating hours at the local library and maybe cut a few classes in the local elementary school. Because that gets attention. What’s going to happen if the industry keeps pressuring the NRC to keep expenditures down, they’re simply going to retreat into the things they know they have to do. They’re not going to do the nice-to-have things like a framework for licensing advanced reactors. Hoffman: I understand what you are saying. I appreciate that and recognize that to be real. It’s unfortunate, but real. I think they will retreat into the things that they do most, which is inspection and enforcement. I have recommended that the government take a look at the other industries in the country and find another industry that is as heavily regulated and that also pays for all of its own regulation. I strongly recommended to this administration and the people in it to consider decreasing the fee share of the budget to 50% or less to allow the government to pay for the kinds of things that it should pay for. The American people benefits significantly from the added value of nuclear power from the energy, economy and environmental standpoint and should shoulder more of the regulatory costs of providing energy from nuclear. Revising the licensing framework to enable future development is one of those areas where significant regulatory costs could be reduced. If asked, this industry would do its part to find a way to support an activity where the NRC focused more on its regulatory processes and activities. Not only for large light water reactor licensing, but also for SMRs and advanced reactors. I don’t think that was the place where they intended the NRC to not be successful. When you are hearing the cry for reducing budgets, you do the things that will have the most pain and the most impact. I believe that the industry needs to restructure its request in such a way that we can all move forward together on this because it’s good for the industry and for the American people. Some people say that the government should not pick winners and losers. My response is that the government should always pick the winner and that the winner should always be the American people. You should pick the kinds of solutions that benefit the American people. You were elected by the American people and are paid by the American people to serve their best interests overall. And if you’re talking about energy, then you need to provide them available, reliable, affordable, environmentally-friendly energy. And nuclear is at the heart of that equation. There are a number of ways that you do that. Not all of the eight sectors in the energy portfolio are created equal. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Some of the strengths for nuclear are its capability to be dispatchable, to be baseload, to be environmentally friendly and to be economically stimulating to the area where it operates. You’ve got to value that. Not all kilowatts are created equal. Adams: Whenever I hear someone say that the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, I say I wouldn’t mind so much if they picked winners and helped them be winners but the problem is that the government often picks losers and spends a lot of money trying to make them be winners. There are some children that leave themselves behind and there are some technologies that simply aren’t up to snuff. Hoffman: And while you may not want to make that decision, someone’s got to make that hard decision. And that’s why these people are in these positions. And, interestingly enough, that’s one of the reasons that I suggested strongly that there were several things that we needed to do. If we are going to change the process by which we fund new reactor design entities and organizations, just funding them until they got their licensing and design certification isn’t enough. Because then you were losing something if they never get to commercial operation. What I did was to lay out a program so the government funds a new reactor design entity based on diligence and capability to provide a return on investment and then the government acts like a business entity where it invests money to support the activities. The program supports design creation, design certification and also support getting to commercial operations. And then, what the government asks for is some return on that investment once they are in commercial operation. A small percentage of the money made in commercial operation comes back to the government too. Right now, if I give half a billion dollars and they get the design certification and never go any further, that’s a half billion dollars that I never get anything back on. A better business approach for me or the government would be to support getting to commercial operation and getting a return on the investment. But if I give a billion and this plant gets into operation and starts making money and starts paying a percentage of it back over the years it is operating – 40, 60 years whatever it may be – that’s a return that the government is getting. It says to everyone that the government is investing in the success of this country and getting a return on that investment. That’s one of the things that I’ve suggested strongly. The second thing I’ve asked them to do is to recognize that not all of these new, advanced reactor concepts are created equal. While they all want to do something, there needs to be some way in which we can discuss with them what unique market they think they are filling. There has to be some priority mechanism. When I sat down with many of the folks, I said we need to develop an energy policy which utilizes the strengths and weaknesses of all of the eight major sectors in the energy portfolio, what percentage we believe they should provide and why. We need to limit the risk to the American public. We should lay that out and revisit it at least every six months based on two things: 1) the market changes and 2) the technology changes. Because these factors change on a routine basis. We need to keep energy policy legislation as a living document; enhance and improve it so that we are again picking the American people as the winners in the energy community. There are ways in which we can be smart about this. This isn’t rocket science; this is just approaching things in such a way as to be practical and pragmatic about what’s important and what’s not. We need to do something and do it now. We need to do it with voices that are all in synch. If we are all on the same page; we are all working towards the same thing, which is the survivability of all of our appropriate energy sources in the appropriate mix that benefits the American people. I think there’s a solution to that. I really do. Adams: I need to challenge that goal. I don’t think we are all ever going to sing from the same sheet of music. But the cacophony of voices should tune out to provide us with a pretty good solution if we let people talk an listen. There are people with different interests. Those interests should be respected and heard, but not necessarily rule the day. Hoffman: I understand your point. What’s the definition of compromise –nobody’s completely happy? You find some way where everybody has some level of satisfaction and some level of, “I wish it could have been different,” but at the end of the day, who’s benefiting? The answer should always be the American people. The post Donald Hoffman – Changes at EXCEL Services Corporation and within the Nuclear Energy Industry appeared first on Atomic Insights.


News Article | April 18, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

An international team of scientists, including one from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has found that up to 20 percent loss in the annual maximum amount of water contained in the Western United States' mountain snowpack in the last three decades is due to human influences. Peak runoff in streams and rivers of the Western U.S. is strongly influenced by melting of accumulated mountain snowpack. A significant decline in this resource has a direct connection to streamflow, with substantial economic and societal impacts. The team showed that observed snowpack loss between the 1980s and 2000s is consistent with results from climate simulations with combined changes in natural factors (such as solar irradiance and volcanic aerosols) and human influences (such as greenhouse gases, aerosols, ozone and land use) changes. The observed snowpack loss was inconsistent with simulations that considered natural influences only. Based on the current state of the snowpack, the researchers estimate a further loss of up to 60 percent within the next 30 years. "The projected losses have serious implications for the hydropower, municipal and agricultural sectors in the region," said John Fyfe, a senior research scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and lead author of a paper appearing in the April 18 edition of the journal, Nature Communications. Using observations, land surface reanalysis products and climate model simulations, the team characterized the combined influences of decadal variability and external influences on recently observed and near-term projected changes in snowpack over the Western U.S. "These results add to the evidence of a human influence on climate that will have severe impacts on our water supply," said Benjamin Santer, an LLNL climate scientist and a co-author of the paper. Observations of snow water equivalent (SWE) were acquired from the United States Natural Resource Conservation Service Snow Telemetry (SnoTel) network of automated snow pillow measurements across alpine sites. The team focused on the post-1981 period, since the number of observations before this time was too low for calculations of reliable regional averages of SWE. The researchers used monthly (January-May) SnoTel observations that were continuously available from 1982 to 2016 at 354 stations with elevations greater than 1,500 meters. The data showed that 307 of the 354 stations (or about 87 percent of all stations) have a negative trend in annual maximum snow water. The maximum loss typically occurs in April. "These reductions in snowpack water storage have broad implications for future forest productivity and carbon storage, forest vulnerability to fire, as well as streamflow and water supply," Fyfe said. "Such sensitivities should be carefully considered in mitigating climate risks, particularly in the context of water resource and land management in the western United States." The LLNL portion of the work is supported by the DOE Office of Science. Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides solutions to our nation's most important national security challenges through innovative science, engineering and technology. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.


News Article | May 2, 2017
Site: www.chromatographytechniques.com

Scientists and researchers at the federal government's largest national laboratory are pushing ahead with work related to national security and the proliferation of nuclear weapons as new managers take over New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories for the first time in decades, officials said Monday. Director Stephen Younger discussed the lab's future during a news conference that marked the start of a new contract with National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a subsidiary of Honeywell International. The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced the $2.6 billion management contract in December. Officials have spent the last few months working on a smooth transition for the lab's thousands of employees and operations. The bulk of work at Sandia centers on the research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons, but scientists there also have worked on energy and climate projects. Younger, who has a background in nuclear weapons, called Sandia's employees the "superheroes of technology." "Sandia defends the world and provides the opportunity for millions, if not billions, of people to lead peaceful and productive lives," he said. Younger said his team has centuries of combined experience when it comes to national security issues and while the core mission of Sandia will not change, Honeywell, Northrup Grumman and other partners will be looking for ways to do more work and do it faster. The new lab leadership acknowledged current global conflicts, including nuclear threats by North Korea. "The government understands the importance of these institutions, and the institutions understand they have to be accountable for the money and the information they're providing. It's a different world today," Younger said. Lockheed Martin had operated Sandia, located in Albuquerque, for the past two decades and was among bidders that lost out to the Honeywell team. With an annual budget of close to $3 billion, Sandia is one of the Albuquerque area's largest employers with more than 10,500 workers. Most are based in Albuquerque, but Sandia also operates sites at Lawrence Livermore lab in California and testing facilities in Nevada and Hawaii. Its Albuquerque campus spans more than 21 square miles. A recent report by a coalition of local governments found that Sandia's partnership with private organizations through a science and technology park has generated more than $315 million in economic impact across the state over two years. Sandia will continue to work with local and small businesses, Deputy Director Dave Douglass said Monday.


News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.rdmag.com

Scientists and researchers at the federal government's largest national laboratory are pushing ahead with work related to national security and the proliferation of nuclear weapons as new managers take over New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories for the first time in decades, officials said Monday. Director Stephen Younger discussed the lab's future during a news conference that marked the start of a new contract with National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a subsidiary of Honeywell International. The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced the $2.6 billion management contract in December. Officials have spent the last few months working on a smooth transition for the lab's thousands of employees and operations. The bulk of work at Sandia centers on the research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons, but scientists there also have worked on energy and climate projects. Younger, who has a background in nuclear weapons, called Sandia's employees the "superheroes of technology." "Sandia defends the world and provides the opportunity for millions, if not billions, of people to lead peaceful and productive lives," he said. Younger said his team has centuries of combined experience when it comes to national security issues and while the core mission of Sandia will not change, Honeywell, Northrup Grumman and other partners will be looking for ways to do more work and do it faster. The new lab leadership acknowledged current global conflicts, including nuclear threats by North Korea. "The government understands the importance of these institutions, and the institutions understand they have to be accountable for the money and the information they're providing. It's a different world today," Younger said. Lockheed Martin had operated Sandia, located in Albuquerque, for the past two decades and was among bidders that lost out to the Honeywell team. With an annual budget of close to $3 billion, Sandia is one of the Albuquerque area's largest employers with more than 10,500 workers. Most are based in Albuquerque, but Sandia also operates sites at Lawrence Livermore lab in California and testing facilities in Nevada and Hawaii. Its Albuquerque campus spans more than 21 square miles. A recent report by a coalition of local governments found that Sandia's partnership with private organizations through a science and technology park has generated more than $315 million in economic impact across the state over two years. Sandia will continue to work with local and small businesses, Deputy Director Dave Douglass said Monday.


News Article | March 17, 2017
Site: www.techtimes.com

Graphene - Here's What You Should Know Even as criticism is mounting on slashing climate funding and allocations on science programs, the budget plan of President Trump would be generous with the energy department. This will be to manage the nuclear stockpile and revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. In the new allocations, the National Nuclear Security Administration budget would get a rise of 11.3 percent while axing many of the programs run by Energy Department with an estimated cut of almost 18 percent. In the budget for Energy Department, nearly half the money goes into maintaining the nuclear stockpile and cleaning the waste left by programs of nuclear weapons research and production. In the budget, the president would provide $6.5 billion for thie program. The Obama administration had dropped the Yucca Mountain storage facility meant to hold commercial nuclear waste in the underground for 1 million years. The revival of Yucca project is supported by the Nuclear Energy Institute but is strongly opposed by ex-Senators like Harry M. Reid. While the energy budget spending would be pruned 5.6 percent from the current levels to $28 billion, with redistribution of funds based on priority. The slashed budget will have Office of Science losing $900 million from its average corpus of $5 billion from which research is supported by more than 300 universities and most of the national labs. Among the programs that may be dumped will include Energy Star labels and Weatherization Assistance. The latter doles out funding to states and low-income families of ancient tribes for improving energy efficiency. Also to be scrapped are the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy that spends $300 million on basic research. Other notables to be scrapped are Title 17 loan guarantees that assist energy projects with a low-carbon orientation and Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program. The latter had supported companies like Tesla in the electric cars development and for launching combustion engines made of light materials as in the case of Ford. "The private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies," the Office of Management and Budget said. Meanwhile, Trump's administration has sought the views of U.S. energy companies on the U.N. global climate accord, according to sources. The move is being interpreted as a sign that Trump is planning to retreat from his 2016 campaign stand of backing out of the Paris Climate deal. Many of the companies replied that they want the United States to remain in the deal and offered support for U.S. commitments. The accord has the backing of nearly 200 countries to limit global warming by slashing carbon dioxide and other emissions from fossil fuels. The United States will be required to reduce emissions between 26 and 28 percent to come down to below 2005 levels by 2025. The companies contacted were "publicly traded fossil fuel companies," and it was known that the White House wanted their inputs before taking a decision on the Paris accord. The sources said the White House has been leading the discussions with the companies, not the State Department. However, a White House official declined to comment. Calling climate change a hoax, Trump had said if he wins, the White House will "cancel the Paris Climate Agreement" within 100 days, as the deal is too costly for the U.S. economy. After assuming office, Trump has been mostly quiet on the issue and said in an interview that he would keep an open mind on the Paris deal. He also met with climate change advocate and former Vice President Al Gore in December. Among the energy companies, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips have expressed support for the pact. The World Coal Association which has Peabody and other miners, also said it backs the deal. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


LIVERMORE, Calif. - Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed new mathematical techniques to advance the study of molecules at the quantum level. Mathematical and algorithmic developments along these lines are necessary for enabling the detailed study of complex hydrocarbon molecules that are relevant in engine combustion. Existing methods to approximate potential energy functions at the quantum scale need too much computer power and are thus limited to small molecules. Sandia researchers say their technique will speed up quantum mechanical computations and improve predictions made by theoretical chemistry models. Given the computational speedup, these methods can potentially be applied to bigger molecules. Sandia postdoctoral researcher Prashant Rai worked with researchers Khachik Sargsyan and Habib Najm at Sandia's Combustion Research Facility and collaborated with quantum chemists So Hirata and Matthew Hermes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Computing energy at fewer geometric arrangements than normally required, the team developed computationally efficient methods to approximate potential energy surfaces. A precise understanding of potential energy surfaces, key elements in virtually all calculations of quantum dynamics, is required to accurately estimate the energy and frequency of vibrational modes of molecules. "If we can find the energy of the molecule for all possible configurations, we can determine important information, such as stable states of molecular transition structure or intermediate states of molecules in chemical reactions," Rai said. Initial results of this research were published in Molecular Physics in an article titled "Low-rank canonical-tensor decomposition of potential energy surfaces: application to grid-based diagrammatic vibrational Green's function theory." "Approximating potential energy surfaces of bigger molecules is an extremely challenging task due to the exponential increase in information required to describe them with each additional atom in the system," Rai said. "In mathematics, it is termed the Curse of Dimensionality." The key to beating the curse of dimensionality is to exploit the characteristics of the specific structure of the potential energy surfaces. Rai said this structure information can then be used to approximate the requisite high dimensional functions. "We make use of the fact that although potential energy surfaces can be high dimensional, they can be well approximated as a small sum of products of one-dimensional functions. This is known as the low-rank structure, where the rank of the potential energy surface is the number of terms in the sum," Rai said. "Such an assumption on structure is quite general and has also been used in similar problems in other fields. Mathematically, the intuition of low-rank approximation techniques comes from multilinear algebra where the function is interpreted as a tensor and is decomposed using standard tensor decomposition techniques." The energy and frequency corrections are formulated as integrals of these high-dimensional energy functions. Approximation in such a low-rank format renders these functions easily integrable as it breaks the integration problem to the sum of products of one- or two-dimensional integrals, so standard integration methods apply. The team tried out their computational methods on small molecules such as water and formaldehyde. Compared to the classical Monte Carlo method, the randomness-based standard workhorse for high dimensional integration problems, their approach predicted energy and frequency of water molecule that were more accurate, and it was at least 1,000 times more computationally efficient. Rai said the next step is to further enhance the technique by challenging it with bigger molecules, such as benzene. "Interdisciplinary studies, such as quantum chemistry and combustion engineering, provide opportunities for cross pollination of ideas, thereby providing a new perspective on problems and their possible solutions," Rai said. "It is also a step towards using recent advances in data science as a pillar of scientific discovery in future." Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.


Abstract: Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed new mathematical techniques to advance the study of molecules at the quantum level. Mathematical and algorithmic developments along these lines are necessary for enabling the detailed study of complex hydrocarbon molecules that are relevant in engine combustion. Existing methods to approximate potential energy functions at the quantum scale need too much computer power and are thus limited to small molecules. Sandia researchers say their technique will speed up quantum mechanical computations and improve predictions made by theoretical chemistry models. Given the computational speedup, these methods can potentially be applied to bigger molecules. Sandia postdoctoral researcher Prashant Rai worked with researchers Khachik Sargsyan and Habib Najm at Sandia's Combustion Research Facility and collaborated with quantum chemists So Hirata and Matthew Hermes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Computing energy at fewer geometric arrangements than normally required, the team developed computationally efficient methods to approximate potential energy surfaces. A precise understanding of potential energy surfaces, key elements in virtually all calculations of quantum dynamics, is required to accurately estimate the energy and frequency of vibrational modes of molecules. "If we can find the energy of the molecule for all possible configurations, we can determine important information, such as stable states of molecular transition structure or intermediate states of molecules in chemical reactions," Rai said. Initial results of this research were published in Molecular Physics in an article titled "Low-rank canonical-tensor decomposition of potential energy surfaces: application to grid-based diagrammatic vibrational Green's function theory." "Approximating potential energy surfaces of bigger molecules is an extremely challenging task due to the exponential increase in information required to describe them with each additional atom in the system," Rai said. "In mathematics, it is termed the Curse of Dimensionality." Beating the curse The key to beating the curse of dimensionality is to exploit the characteristics of the specific structure of the potential energy surfaces. Rai said this structure information can then be used to approximate the requisite high dimensional functions. "We make use of the fact that although potential energy surfaces can be high dimensional, they can be well approximated as a small sum of products of one-dimensional functions. This is known as the low-rank structure, where the rank of the potential energy surface is the number of terms in the sum," Rai said. "Such an assumption on structure is quite general and has also been used in similar problems in other fields. Mathematically, the intuition of low-rank approximation techniques comes from multilinear algebra where the function is interpreted as a tensor and is decomposed using standard tensor decomposition techniques." The energy and frequency corrections are formulated as integrals of these high-dimensional energy functions. Approximation in such a low-rank format renders these functions easily integrable as it breaks the integration problem to the sum of products of one- or two-dimensional integrals, so standard integration methods apply. The team tried out their computational methods on small molecules such as water and formaldehyde. Compared to the classical Monte Carlo method, the randomness-based standard workhorse for high dimensional integration problems, their approach predicted energy and frequency of water molecule that were more accurate, and it was at least 1,000 times more computationally efficient. Rai said the next step is to further enhance the technique by challenging it with bigger molecules, such as benzene. "Interdisciplinary studies, such as quantum chemistry and combustion engineering, provide opportunities for cross pollination of ideas, thereby providing a new perspective on problems and their possible solutions," Rai said. "It is also a step towards using recent advances in data science as a pillar of scientific discovery in future." About Sandia National Labratories Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California. For more information, please click If you have a comment, please us. Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

IMAGE:  An F-16C makes a pass over Nevada's Tonopah Test Range after a March test of a mock nuclear weapon as part of a Sandia National Laboratories life extension program for... view more ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- From a distance, the drop of a mock nuclear weapon -- containing only non-nuclear components -- was a mere puff of dust rising from a dry lake bed at Nevada's Tonopah Test Range. However, it marked the start of a new series of test flights vital to the nation's B61-12 weapon refurbishment program. Initial data showed the March 14 test was a success, said officials at Sandia National Laboratories, which runs Tonopah. For months, teams will be analyzing a wealth of data they collected from this first of a qualification test series planned over the next three years. Those watching from the tower of the range's Test Operations Center felt "excitement and pleasure that it all worked as we expected," said Anna Schauer, director of Sandia's Stockpile Resource Center. The B61-12 consolidates and replaces four B61 variants in the nation's nuclear arsenal. The first production unit in the weapon's life extension program is scheduled to be completed in 2020. Test day dawned cloudless and wind-free, perfect weather at the range, an area of 280 square miles with two main target areas on flat lake beds sitting between mountain ranges. Workers from Sandia and contractor Navarro Research and Engineering operated tracking telescopes, remote cameras and other instruments in the field to gather information on the reliability, accuracy and performance of the weapon under conditions meant to replicate operations. An F-16C from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, chosen to drop the test unit representing a B61-12, began with a dry run over one of the lake beds. But during his next pass for the planned release, he had to roar off after a small group of wild horses ambled onto the lake bed. A video feed from a remote camera in the area showed the horses trotting away to safety, herded by wranglers: security officers in a white pickup, its headlights and rack lights pulsing. "That's a first for us," said test director Joe Simile of Sandia. "We've never had to chase horses away from the target." The extra pass meant the F-16 carrying the test unit and a companion wingman F-16 would have to refuel in flight from a tanker airplane circling the area before returning to base. Then, horses cleared off, the pilots circled back. The test director queried those responsible for the various aspects of the test, from telemetry to the pilot of the drop plane. One by one they gave the test a go and a disembodied voice over the intercom announced, "Range is green. Cleared to release." The announcement, "Commence run," galvanized dozens of people watching and listening to live feeds of preparations at the tower. Most dashed out to the balconies to watch -- a natural reaction despite knowing the lake bed was miles away and they'd see nothing more than dust rising from the high-altitude drop. The video feed, a much closer look, showed the F-16 release the test unit, the unit's spin rocket motor ignite and the mock weapon fall through the air. "It's great to see things all come together: the weapon design, the test preparation, the aircraft, the range and the people who made it happen," Schauer said. After the drop, the two F-16s turned to scream past the control tower about a half mile away, giving observers a closer look at the planes. On the lake bed, the only sign of the drop was a surprisingly neat hole. An hour or so after the test, Simile stood near the hole, describing plans to recover the weapon, his discussion punctuated by a warning beep-beep-beep from a truck backing up to unload recovery equipment. Crews were back later to dig the mock weapon out of the dirt. "The test unit recovery went very well, with the unit packaged up for return to Albuquerque," said Lee Post, B61-12 flight test lead. "We can only hope our future tests go this well." Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: news.yahoo.com

Sandia National Laboratories Director Stephen Younger discusses the future of the federal government's largest weapons and research facility now that it's under new management during a news conference in Albuquerque, N.M., Monday, May 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Scientists and researchers at the federal government's largest national laboratory are pushing ahead with work related to national security and the proliferation of nuclear weapons as new managers take over New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories for the first time in decades, officials said Monday. Director Stephen Younger discussed the lab's future during a news conference that marked the start of a new contract with National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a subsidiary of Honeywell International. The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced the $2.6 billion management contract in December. Officials have spent the last few months working on a smooth transition for the lab's thousands of employees and operations. The bulk of work at Sandia centers on the research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons, but scientists there also have worked on energy and climate projects. Younger, who has a background in nuclear weapons, called Sandia's employees the "superheroes of technology." "Sandia defends the world and provides the opportunity for millions, if not billions, of people to lead peaceful and productive lives," he said. Younger said his team has centuries of combined experience when it comes to national security issues and while the core mission of Sandia will not change, Honeywell, Northrup Grumman and other partners will be looking for ways to do more work and do it faster. The new lab leadership acknowledged current global conflicts, including nuclear threats by North Korea. "The government understands the importance of these institutions, and the institutions understand they have to be accountable for the money and the information they're providing. It's a different world today," Younger said. Lockheed Martin had operated Sandia, located in Albuquerque, for the past two decades and was among bidders that lost out to the Honeywell team. With an annual budget of close to $3 billion, Sandia is one of the Albuquerque area's largest employers with more than 10,500 workers. Most are based in Albuquerque, but Sandia also operates sites at Lawrence Livermore lab in California and testing facilities in Nevada and Hawaii. Its Albuquerque campus spans more than 21 square miles. A recent report by a coalition of local governments found that Sandia's partnership with private organizations through a science and technology park has generated more than $315 million in economic impact across the state over two years. Sandia will continue to work with local and small businesses, Deputy Director Dave Douglass said Monday.


News Article | May 1, 2017
Site: hosted2.ap.org

US nuclear weapons lab to keep focus on national security (AP) — Scientists and researchers at the federal government's largest national laboratory are pushing ahead with work related to national security and the proliferation of nuclear weapons as new managers take over New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories for the first time in decades, officials said Monday. Director Stephen Younger discussed the lab's future during a news conference that marked the start of a new contract with National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a subsidiary of Honeywell International. The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced the $2.6 billion management contract in December. Officials have spent the last few months working on a smooth transition for the lab's thousands of employees and operations. The bulk of work at Sandia centers on the research, development and maintenance of nuclear weapons, but scientists there also have worked on energy and climate projects. Younger, who has a background in nuclear weapons, called Sandia's employees the "superheroes of technology." "Sandia defends the world and provides the opportunity for millions, if not billions, of people to lead peaceful and productive lives," he said. Younger said his team has centuries of combined experience when it comes to national security issues and while the core mission of Sandia will not change, Honeywell, Northrup Grumman and other partners will be looking for ways to do more work and do it faster. The new lab leadership acknowledged current global conflicts, including nuclear threats by North Korea. "The government understands the importance of these institutions, and the institutions understand they have to be accountable for the money and the information they're providing. It's a different world today," Younger said. Lockheed Martin had operated Sandia, located in Albuquerque, for the past two decades and was among bidders that lost out to the Honeywell team. With an annual budget of close to $3 billion, Sandia is one of the Albuquerque area's largest employers with more than 10,500 workers. Most are based in Albuquerque, but Sandia also operates sites at Lawrence Livermore lab in California and testing facilities in Nevada and Hawaii. Its Albuquerque campus spans more than 21 square miles. A recent report by a coalition of local governments found that Sandia's partnership with private organizations through a science and technology park has generated more than $315 million in economic impact across the state over two years. Sandia will continue to work with local and small businesses, Deputy Director Dave Douglass said Monday.

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