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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 55, No. 17           August 22, 2003
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

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MESA groundbreaking is "momentous day for labs" Explosive Destruction System gets workout destroying munitions on both sides of the pond Sandia, Kansas State University developing rapid disease detection system for farm animals

MESA groundbreaking is "momentous day for labs"

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By Neal Singer

Tuesday morning (Aug. 19), National Nuclear Security Administration head Linton Brooks joined with Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., and senior management from Sandia for an official groundbreaking that celebrated the beginning stages of construction of Sandia's $462.5 million MESA complex.

Sandia participants in the ceremony, which took place in a large tent erected near the construction site at the southeast corner of Area 1, included Sandia President C. Paul Robinson, Senior VP for Defense Programs Tom Hunter, VP for National Security and Arms Control Al Romig, and Director of the MESA Program Don Cook.

The pleasant event, which went off smoothly and was videostreamed on Sandia's internal Web, seemed the Labs' ceremonial version of thanking the gods for seed corn and future success -- given, of course, sufficient hard work.

Paul Robinson looked over an audience of approximately 200 people and said, "This is a momentous day in the history of our laboratory. . . . MESA is a linchpin of our people and of technologies coming together in the national interest."

"This is a day to celebrate the tangible reality of a vision," said Tom Hunter, who spoke of MESA's promise of making components "smaller, smarter, more functional."

Ambassador and NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks, who flew in from Washington for the occasion, conveyed "very high regards" from DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham, who had been scheduled to attend but was kept in Washington by the aftermath of last week's Northeast blackout.

"MESA is more than a technological achievement," Brooks said. "It will help us attract the next generation of scientists and engineers to continue our national security work in an effective, safe environment. I am proud to be associated with this Laboratory."

Wilson praised Sandians. She told the audience, "You have a sense of humility that is probably not deserved. There is nothing like [these laboratories] anywhere in the country, and arguably in the world."

Bingaman spoke glowingly of the MESA Institute, an offshoot MESA program that brought more than 40 students this year to work at Sandia and encourages trips here by their professors. "The MESA Institute will bring students, faculty, and other researchers from around the country to New Mexico and Sandia. I applaud that outreach effort very much." The MESA Institute is headed by Regan Stinnett (1903).

Said Domenici, who chaired the Senate committee that first committed funds to MESA, "The MESA project is a critical facility to the future of Sandia, bringing together businesses and scientists from all over the world. It can be a tremendous economic engine for New Mexico and the world." He listed three goals and hopes he has for the project: scientific work that would improve nuclear weapons systems, a rebirth of basic science for America, and that New Mexico share in that rebirth.

Al Romig hosted a video display of Sandia microtechnology.

MESA (for "Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications") is the largest project that Sandia has ever undertaken. An "under-ground-breaking" ceremony held last year celebrated the installation of utility lines. Thus far, $200 million has been appropriated for engineering design, microelectronic tool upgrades, utilities construction, and work in progress. Two of three building construction contracts have been awarded for a total of $83 million, with approximately $58 million subcontracted to New Mexico businesses. Upon completion in 2008, three major facilities are expected to house 648 researchers (including some from industry and academia) in 391,000 square feet of space.

The three buildings that formally comprise the project -- a microfabrication facility, a microlaboratory, and a weapons integration facility -- are expected to include advanced visualization labs and 'clean' rooms that will help modernize safety, security, and reliability functions of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and contribute to other national security missions.

The adjacent construction of an advanced computing facility and a nanotechnology center to be built just north of Sandia's Eubank gate means that an unusually capable and interrelated group of scientific facilities will be available for scientists from the Labs and industry, as well as for university faculty and students.

"A large planning team throughout Sandia worked to make this ceremony happen," said Cindy Olson (1900), senior management assistant to Don Cook. - - Neal Singer

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Explosive Destruction System gets workout destroying munitions on both sides of the pond

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By Nancy Garcia

Success has been the name of the game for the Explosive Destruction System (EDS), which wrapped up development testing of a new larger system in the United Kingdom this summer with the remarkable accomplishment of completing every test on its originally planned date during the five-month-long deployment.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond one of the other three systems built by Sandia to dispose of aging munitions was used to destroy 15 mortar shells containing mustard agent that were recovered at the Spring Valley subdivision of Washington, D.C.

"When we started in 1998," says project manager John Didlake (8118), "we expected to destroy a maximum of six rounds in a year. This year we have destroyed 34 recovered munitions in the US and 22 in the UK, four rounds in one day, and nine rounds in one week." The Army is expanding the original mission of the EDS to include nonexplosively configured munitions and deployments, not only to public sites, but also to military bases where nonstockpile munitions are stored.

More than 100 munitions or bottles containing a chemical agent have been destroyed so far. The munitions are placed within a leak-tight chamber, where their metal shells are opened with an explosive charge. The contents are then neutralized with caustic chemicals and the effluent disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.

Designed by Sandia for the Army's Nonstockpile Chemical Materiel Program, EDS is intended for use with WWI- and certain WWII-vintage chemical warfare materiel. It can be used when a chemical munition is deemed unsafe to transport or store by routine means, when a stored munition is determined unsafe for continued storage, or when the limited quantity of munitions requiring destruction does not justify the use of other means.

The first three EDS units were designed to destroy munitions containing up to 1-pound equivalent of TNT. A fourth system completed in November 2002 can handle up to 4.5 pounds of TNT equivalent. It just completed tests at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down, England. The testing demonstrated the ability of the large system to destroy three smaller munitions at one time. Processing multiple munitions in the systems to increase throughput and reduce cost is a primary desire of the Army. The Army will continue operational testing of the large unit this fall and winter at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

"The Spring Valley deployment in Washington, D.C., was a historic event for EDS since Spring Valley was the birthplace for EDS," John says. In May, one of the smaller EDS units was deployed to a parking lot about 100 yards from Sibley Memorial Hospital, where the rounds containing mustard agent, recovered from the subdivision, were safely destroyed in the unit.

During WWI Spring Valley was a chemical weapon development and testing site operated by American University's extension service. After the war many munitions were buried at the site. In 1993, construction workers building upscale homes dug up an explosively configured chemical munition. The public location prevented the normal destruction method of packing tens of pounds of explosives around the munition, setting off the explosives, and letting the fireball consume the chemical agent. Concerned about the possibility of other sites like Spring Valley, the Army commissioned a survey that identified more than 100 possible sites for buried munitions in the US.

One possible site was proven when an armed and fused 4.2-inch mortar containing phosgene was recovered from a farmer's field in Gadsden, Ala., on land that was previously part of Camp Sibert, a WWII Army training base. EDS destroyed the round in an operation staged about 100 yards from the farmer's home on the Sunday before Labor Day 2002. The farmer seemed to put his faith in the emergency responders, John says, leaving home only for church and an afternoon with friends during the major part of the destruction operation.

The EDS project is a combined effort between Explosives Application Dept. 15322 in Albuquerque and Engineering for Emerging Technologies Dept. 8118 in Livermore. - - Nancy Garcia

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Sandia, Kansas State University developing rapid disease detection system for farm animals /a>

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By Will Keener

As Mike Whitehair quietly moves through the pen of cattle, something captures his attention. The Abilene, Kan., veterinarian pauses, pulls out a cell phone and punches in a code -- not to make a call -- but to start through a series of questions on the tiny screen regarding clinical signs he may be seeing in the cattle and illnesses they could represent.

Such is the vision of the Rapid Syndrome Validation Project for Animals (RSVP-A) being developed jointly by Sandia and Kansas State University.

"This joint effort offers a unique opportunity which builds on the strengths of both institutions: the agricultural expertise and experience of Kansas State and the security and systems engineering capabilities of Sandia," says Cecelia Williams (6245), Sandia researcher.

The project is an Internet-based system for rapid detection and reporting of infectious disease outbreaks in cattle.

Susan Caskey (5324), the Sandia RSVP project lead, says, "With the success of RSVP within the human population, it seemed the ideal model to use for monitoring animals. With the help of K-State, RSVP-A was created using the models developed within the human system."

Whitehair, co-owner of the Abilene Veterinary Hospital, is helping K-State veterinarians test the initial version of the project in a private practice setting.

"The need to be able to quickly recognize disease symptoms -- whether introduced naturally, accidentally, or by humans intent on havoc -- has never been more important," says K-State research veterinarian and project leader Mark Spire. At stake is a multibillion-dollar industry in Kansas that is the leading agricultural income generator, he said.

Kansas was home to 6.35 million head of cattle during 2001, according to data kept by the US Department of Agriculture. The state annually ranks at or near the top in cattle feeding and beef processing.

"As a result, Kansas imports more than 4 million head of cattle for grazing and feeding purposes and nearly 2 million for slaughter," Spire says. "As a net importer of livestock, this large movement of cattle from every region of the country into Kansas has the potential to introduce diseases not native to this area. Plus, the risk of introducing pathogens is significantly increased by the movement of workers, vehicles, and visitors to and from cattle operations every day. And since most of the animals are concentrated in large facilities, the high density in small areas heightens the risk of catastrophic economic losses resulting from acts of agroterrorism or from naturally introduced diseases."

The RSVP-A system will help scientists and agencies determine, down to the county, where clusters of animals are showing similar, but unusual symptoms. However, cattle owner anonymity is built into the program, says Whitehair. The project, modeled after Sandia's RSVP-H software for humans and funded by Homeland Security funds through the USDA and ultimately the Kansas Animal Health Department, has been in development for 1-1/2 years and in the testing phase a few months.

Although the system initially focused on cattle, it may be extended to other species, says Brad DeGroot, veterinary epidemiologist with K-State's Department of Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology, who is also working on the project.

The RSVP-A project may be the tool to fill a gap in this country's livestock disease diagnostic systems, says Kevin Varner, Topeka, Kan.-based veterinarian-in-charge with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

"We have an excellent system for finding diseases that we expect to find -- diseases that we already know about," says Varner, citing brucellosis, pseudorabies and tuberculosis. "We've historically not done a good job of quickly detecting emerging diseases in this country."

The initial test phase, which began earlier this year, will last two years, Varner says. At the end of that time, if the system still looks feasible, the testing could either be extended or the program could be launched nationally.

"The focus is to capture data at the point of activity when the practitioner is in the field, so we're not asking him or her to remember to do a report when they get back to the office," DeGroot says.

The project, if successful, will give veterinarians a way to pool their observations so that they can spot a potential looming crisis in advance, DeGroot says. Veterinarians look at client cattle every day to determine why they are sick or not performing well. They examine lamenesses, skin and mucosal lesions, birth defects, diarrhea, central nervous system problems, deaths, and various other maladies in the course of their daily work. The RSVP-A system takes the information they gather beyond the individual farm or veterinary clinic and into a central databank.

Using the handheld devices may seem foreign to some veterinarians at first, but the fact that each unit is a working cell phone and personal organizer should help practitioners adapt. Plus, once a veterinarian is familiar with the software, it takes less than a minute to enter the data if he or she sees unusual symptoms, DeGroot says.

"The only way to prepare for the unknown is to practice," said Whitehair.

Eventually, the technology may allow for transmission of photos of the clinical signs in question.

The system's initial testing is being done in the five-county area that Whitehair's practice covers -- home to about 225,000 head of cattle. That phase, begun in the spring, is expected to continue for about a year, through typically busy and quiet times on cattle operations.

This month the testing will be expanded to 15 collaborating veterinarians. - - Will Keener

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Last modified: August 22 , 2003

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