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Lab News -- September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011

LabNews - Sept. 23, 2011PDF (1.8 Mb)

10,000: Annular Core Research Reactor hits milestone

By Stephanie Hobby

An abrupt bang, a bright blue flash, and a loud cheer marked the 10,000th operation of Sandia's Annular Core Research Reactor (ACRR). About 150 people gathered in Tech Area V on Sept. 8 to celebrate the milestone for Sandia's research reactor.


BIG SHOT - A group of spectators gathers at the ACRR for its 10,000th operation. The shot was videostreamed live to a nearby auditorium to accommodate more than 150 onlookers. The ACRR has been in operation for more than 32 years at Sandia. (Photo by Randy Montoya)


In its 32 year history, the ACRR has been a valuable resource for an incredibly wide variety of experiments.

With a dry, nine-inch diameter cavity in the core's center, and a 20-inch diameter external cavity, the ACRR's primary missions are to subject electronics to high-intensity neutron irradiation environments and conduct reactor-safety research. The ACRR has also provided testing support to organizations as varied as semiconductor manufacturers, NASA, and recently, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

"The ACRR has been a real workhorse for Sandia. ACRR supports stockpile stewardship activities concerning terminal-phase, hostile, and fratricide effects. Lab leadership relies on these and other weapons-component testing done at Sandia to support certification of the nuclear weapon stockpile," says Lonnie Martin (1381), an ACRR operator.

ACRR is a water-moderated, pool-type research reactor capable of steady state, pulsed, and tailored transient operations and, in the past, has been configured for medical isotope production. Some of the other experimental areas include: reactor-driven laser experiments; space reactor fuels development; pulse reactor kinetics; reactor heat transfer and fluid flow; electronic component hardening; and explosive component testing. It is also routinely used for education and training programs.

At peak power in its steady state mode, the ACRR produces 4 megawatts of power. But during a maximum pulse, it generates a whopping 35,000 megawatts of power in 7 milliseconds. Nuclear engineer Ron Knief (1382) smiles when comparing its power output to that of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. "For that very short time, we produce three times more power than the nation's largest nuclear site. They have three big reactors, and yet, for a fraction of a second, we produce three times more power than they do."

The ACRR is descendent of the Sandia Annular Core Pulse Reactor (ACPR) - itself unique among a large family of TRIGA (Training, Research Isotope Production, General Atomics) reactors. The TRIGA concept is credited to Edward Teller, and its realization to him and a group of distinguished scientists who assembled in a "Little Red Schoolhouse" in San Diego in 1956.

Their goal was to "design a reactor so safe . . . that if it was started from its shut-down condition and all its control rods instantaneously removed, it would settle down to a steady level of operation without melting any of its fuel."

Essentially, even if all of the engineered safety mechanisms failed, safety is still guaranteed based on the laws of nature. In 1978, the original ACPR TRIGA fuel was switched out with a ground-breaking ACRR ceramic-metal, UO2/BeO fuel, which is designed to allow steady state and pulsed operation at fuel temperatures up to 1,400 degrees C.

And for all its impressive technical achievements, the celebration Sept. 8 was as much about the team that has faithfully operated it for more than three decades. "It's a small group of operators through time; the one overriding characteristic of the operations group is their enthusiasm and dedication to keeping this machine operable," says Lonnie. "It's been a privilege to be a part of this project." - Stephanie Hobby

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Nearly $1 billion in economic activity in California generated by Sandia in 2010, according to new report

By Mike Janes

Sandia generated nearly $1 billion in both direct and indirect economic output in the state of California in 2010 with nearly half coming from the San Francisco Bay Area, according to a new report prepared by the Center for Economic Development (CED) at California State University-Chico.


To view a PDF version of the Sandia/California economic impact study, click the image at left..


This economic output — defined in the report as revenue to all private businesses and public organizations — included $163 million in purchases and contracts to California businesses, $155 million in employee compensation and benefits, and $1.4 million in state corporate tax. Combined, those three components amount to $319 million, the total direct injection into the California economy.

Indirectly, impacts of Sandia’s spending are responsible for an additional $24 million in revenue to California’s state government and $612 million in additional revenue to other businesses and organizations in the state. In sum, the total output impact is $955 million.

About half Sandia’s economic impact in California occurs in the San Francisco Bay Area, home of Sandia’s campus in Livermore. The Bay Area’s share of the total economic impact of Sandia is $474 million in output, $304 million in household income, and more than 2,500 jobs.

 “This report demonstrates that Sandia is a significant economic engine for the state of California,” says Denise Koker (8520), senior manager of human resources and business operations at Sandia/California. “And because the state — especially the Bay Area — is recognized as a global leader in energy innovation and a center of high-tech R&D and industry, we believe California and Sandia are natural partners. Those two entities should continue to strengthen their bond and seek out ways to jointly support both the state’s and the country’s missions through technology and innovation.”

California households, according to the report, saw $497 million in financial benefits, including direct employee compensation plus $342 million in payroll, self-employment, and other household income paid by other California businesses and organizations. The household income benefit supports more than 4,800 California jobs.

At the end of 2010, Sandia employed 1,072 regular and temporary employees and approximately 130 staff augmentation (contract) employees in the state of

California, primarily at its Livermore site and at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, just outside San Francisco.

Also in 2010, out of 726 new hires at Sandia’s New Mexico and California locations, 71 obtained their highest degree from a California university. About 106 students from around the country held internships at Sandia’s California site. Sandia researchers regularly team with professors and students at California universities such as the University of California (at Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, and San Francisco), Stanford, Caltech, Harvey Mudd, and the University of Southern California. In 2010, Sandia funded more than $2.1 million to California-based universities for work that supports Sandia programs.

Cal State-Chico’s CED utilized the IMPLAN economic impact analysis system (version 3.0) to estimate the overall impact of Sandia’s spending on all California businesses, organizations and households.

Sandia’s internally-produced 2010 Economic Impact on the State of California report can be found here. -- Mike Janes

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'An experience I’ll never forget . . .' - US Coast Guard Academy interns reflect on a summer of immersive work at Sandia

By Bill Murphy

It may seem an unlikely collaboration: a desert-bound national laboratory hosting cadets from the United States Coast Guard Academy (USCGA).


US COAST GUARD ACADEMY cadet interns with mentors and program coordinators at Sandia.

But look a little deeper and a common theme emerges: The US Coast Guard is the world’s oldest life-saving organization; it has a long and proud tradition of keeping America safe. And so does Sandia.

Along with similar goals of service to the nation, the institutions share a common engineering foundation: The USCGA curriculum is largely engineering-centric and Sandia is the nation’s largest engineering laboratory.

With these common interests in mind, in 2005 Sandia launched a summer internship program to bring USCGA cadets to the Labs to work on science and engineering projects. This past summer, six USCGA cadets participated in the program at Sandia, including one cadet who worked at Sandia/

California, a first in the history of the six-year partnership. The projects are anything but make-work; they are challenging, relevant, real-world, hands-on projects designed to stretch the skills and increase the knowledge of the USCGA cadets. The program, matching the students with Sandia researchers, encourages a mentoring relationship that enhances the cadets’ technical and professional growth.

The NNSA-sponsored Military Academies Collaboration (MAC) program, coordinated by Staci Dorsey (0215) and Sarah Low (8529), has been such a success with the USCGA that plans are now in the works to partner with the nation’s other military academies.

Coordination efforts are currently underway with NNSA, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory to bring in cadets from all the military academies to the three laboratories for internship positions in the summer of 2012. A Sandia Daily News notice will be issued in December to solicit projects for the summer 2012 MAC Internship Program.

This year’s summer interns were cadets Andrew Breen, Christopher Monacelli, Thomas Kane, Wryan Webb, Brian Gracey, and Alexander Lloyd (Sandia/

California). The cadets, selected for the internship by the USCGA based on their academic performance and leadership skills, spent the first half of the summer on a Coast Guard boat assignment and the remaining six weeks at Sandia.

This year, the six interns worked on six different projects across multiple strategic management units and divisions, including:

Shortly before heading back to New London, Conn., to resume their academy life, the six cadet interns shared their thoughts with the Lab News about their summer experience at Sandia. Here are their comments:

Andrew Breen

I really enjoyed my time at Sandia. I had the pleasure of working with Curt Salisbury (6533) on the DARPA Autonomous Robotic Manipulation project. My task was to design a data glove to control a robotic hand, a task that had its challenges, but has been rewarding. During the six weeks I spent at the Labs, I was very grateful to Sandia for the opportunity to work with and around so many smart people, not only giving me hands-on experience in engineering and design, but also an appreciation for how different government agencies, like the Coast Guard and Sandia, can interact to benefit mission readiness. My time at Sandia is something I certainly will not forget, and I am excited to take the experience and knowledge I have gained here into my Coast Guard career.

Alexander Lloyd

In the short six weeks I spent working at Sandia, I was presented with an incredible opportunity to learn about the history of Sandia as well as its current role in national security and technological development.  I had the privilege of taking tours of most of the on-site facilities showcasing current projects and was able to attend seminars and talk to experts about current issues facing the United States. As a future Coast Guard officer, the project assigned to me in the field of homeland security hit close to home, serving as an eye-opener of the real threats that face our country. Preparing for a career in the military, I hope to look back on this experience as a positive one, knowing that some of the brightest minds in America here at Sandia and the other labs are constantly working on new technologies to keep our nation ahead.

Chris Monacelli

The six weeks I spent working at Sandia were an experience like no other. This was a time for me to really expand my knowledge in numerous fields of study. I think I have learned just as much in six weeks here as I have in three years at the academy. I don’t think I will ever get the chance to work with and learn from so many bright minds in a single place anytime soon. Professionally, I think this internship has prepared me for a career outside the Coast Guard. It also has helped me get one step further in my Coast Guard career because I have worked with the personnel who train Coast Guard aircraft inspectors. Overall, the experience I got at Sandia is one that I will never forget.

Brian Gracey

My time at Sandia went by way too fast. The six weeks at the laboratory were the most exciting, rewarding, and creative weeks of my engineering career. Under the guidance of David Novick and Dan Small (both 6533), I worked on the Hexacopter, a remote-controlled, six-rotor copter with surveillance and autonomous capabilities. Through this work, I expanded my knowledge of SolidWorks and learned a lot about rapid prototyping and concept development, skills that will certainly help me in my future. Sandians are a truly unique breed and I am proud to say I worked alongside so many intelligent and truly awesome people. The amount of respect and teamwork displayed on a daily basis was inspiring. I look forward to working with Sandia in my future as a Coast Guard officer. My only regret about my summer experience at Sandia is that it had to come to an end. However, my engineering experiences at Sandia have me excited about my career and ready to return to the Coast Guard Academy for my senior year. Thank you to all those at Sandia for providing me with a unforgettable summer experience.

Thomas John Kane

My time at Sandia has been an experience that helped me grow as a person and as an engineer. Being accustomed to the military environment of the Coast Guard, seeing how an elite research facility operates has helped me learn about how true scientific research is being done. I worked with a research group on finding new materials for high-capacity batteries. I learned a ton about batteries and battery science, a subject in which I had little prior knowledge. I think there are few places in America where you can find as many smart, dedicated people as you do at Sandia. Being in that environment alone was a very rewarding experience. I know that the resources I gained both personally and professionally during my time at Sandia will give me a tremendous advantage as my peers and I move into our senior year at the academy.

Wryan Webb

Working at Sandia this summer was a very rewarding six weeks. I was attached to Center 2600, working with Sandians in their efforts to monitor and evaluate the integrity of Stronglinks. The experience was somewhat challenging, as the world of Stronglinks is an intensive one. Gaining the general level of competence to even participate in an intelligent conversation took some time. However, since then, I had the opportunity to work with and learn from many incredible people, which has been beneficial, both in terms of professional development and in the personal relationships I’ve established with many impressive Sandians. This short-term internship program has been one of the most worthwhile uses of summer I’ve ever had and I will definitely be recommending it to other cadets back at the US Coast Guard Academy. -- Bill Murphy

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