Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and U.S. Department of Energy under secretary for nuclear security, spent two days at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories amid the expansions of programs and facilities underway at each campus.
At LLNL on Sept. 29, Gordon-Hagerty broke ground on a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center, according to a press release detailing her visit.
"The new EOC will consolidate emergency operations management, fire alarm monitoring, communications and response technical support into one location to streamline emergency management at LLNL," she said.
The new center is part of the NNSA's pilot program to streamline delivery of commercial-like construction projects. City, county, state and federal emergency personnel will have access to the new facility, which is also set to provide survivability from earthquakes, better accessibility to response staff during an emergency and self-sustainability for up to 72 hours without a resupply of fuel, food or water.
Gordon-Hagerty also helped dedicate the new polymers lab, the first facility at LLNL's new Applied Materials & Engineering Campus. A collection of three buildings, the campus will feature 3D printing, advanced manufacturing, brazing and welding, office space and other capabilities in addition to the polymers lab that was completed in July.
"One of my key priorities has been recapitalizing and modernizing NNSA's infrastructure, some of which dates back to World War II," Gordon-Hagerty said. "As evidenced by delivery of this campus, we have an excellent example for rapid infrastructure recapitalization. I appreciate and admire the close partnership between the NNSA organizations, Lawrence Livermore and private industry."
The Expand Electrical Distribution System (EEDS) project at LLNL was completed back in August, four months ahead of schedule and $1.1 million under budget. Gordon-Hagerty acknowledged the accomplishment during her time at the lab.
"This project is one of the critical milestones for the NNSA's Strategic Integrated Roadmap, which has a goal to modernize utilities across all sites by 2038. I'm also proud of the continued track record of excellence in NNSA and laboratory project management, as this project has come in under budget and ahead of time," she said.
The project, which was initially set at a budget of $33.8 million and came out with a final cost of $32.7 million, expands and supplements the existing electrical distribution along the east side of the lab, provides a new electrical connection to the Sandia campus, increases electrical reliability, provides redundant power to LLNL and offers necessary infrastructure to meet future mission needs.
The following day, Gordon-Hagerty toured the newest facility in nuclear weapons systems engineering at Sandia.
After 18 months of renovation, the Sandia Programs Engineering and Assembly Research (SPEAR) facility opened this summer and expands Sandia's capacity to assemble and electrically test nuclear weapons components and systems for the nation's nuclear stockpile, according to a separate release from Sandia.
The 10,000-square-foot facility includes a laboratory for functional electrical testing of weapons assemblies. Comprehensive data from tests performed at the SPEAR facility will allow systems engineers to determine if weapons systems meet U.S. Department of Defense requirements and to refine the hardware accordingly.
"This new facility presents an exciting opportunity for Sandia's nuclear weapons modernization programs," Gordon-Hagerty said. "The SPEAR facility represents a significant investment in Sandia's weapons-systems engineering capability in California that will be critical to meeting the hardware delivery demands of our partners across the nuclear security enterprise."
In other business
* Last week, Gordon-Hagerty issued a statement congratulating the co-recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, Andrea Ghez, who previously worked with LLNL researchers to help create the Center for Adaptive Optics.
"Ghez helped lead the revolution in adaptive optics by working with LLNL researchers to develop and demonstrate the technology, create major improvements and catalyze advances nationwide," the under secretary said in the statement.
Ghez, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, shares half the Nobel Prize with professor Reinhard Genzel of University of California, Berkeley, for their "discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy," according to The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The other half of the prize was awarded to Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford "for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity."
* The trade journal R&D World Magazine recognized LLNL researchers with an R&D 100 award for their new technique called versatile cold spray (VCS), which has been developed through a partnership with Virginia-based company TTEC Thermoelectric Technologies.
The new VCS technique deposits a broad range of brittle and glassy materials, including functional materials such as thermoelectric devices and magnets, onto any substrate, according to an LLNL press release. With this year's win, the lab has earned a total of 170 R&D 100 awards since 1978.
* Funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has allowed LLNL, chipmaker AMD and San Jose-based IT company Supermicro to upgrade the supercomputing cluster Corona, providing additional resources to scientists for COVID-19 drug discovery and vaccine research.
The Corona high performance computing system -- named for the total solar eclipse of 2017, not the coronavirus -- is used for unclassified open science applications. Since the pandemic began, the system has become a tool for LLNL's COVID-19 work, particularly for researchers attempting to discover and design antibodies capable of binding to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
* The Department of Homeland Security, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the United Kingdom's National Cyber Security Centre issued a joint alert on May 5, warning that hackers were exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic as part of their attacks. Since then, Sandia Labs and Boston-based firm BioBright LLC have partnered to improve the security of synthetic biology equipment.
"In the past decade, genomics and synthetic biology have grown from principally academic pursuits to a major industry," Corey Hudson, Sandia's computational biology manager, said in a recent statement.
Sandia and BioBright, a company that provides secure data collection and analysis to biotech and pharmaceutical companies, are working to develop better security to account for the industrial risks associated with this new commercial field using Emulytics, a research initiative developed at Sandia for evaluating realistic threats against critical systems.