Monthly Archives: December 2008

More opinions on Obama’s science choices

The Union of Concerned Scientists called it a “dream team,” referring to President-elect Obama’s choices of John Holdren as White House science adviser, Steven Chu as Energy Secretary, and Jane Lubchenco as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On the other end, the Competitive Enterprise Institute issued a statement that referred to Holdren and Lubchenco as “alarmists” on global warming and called the choices “unfortunate.”

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Management challenges at DOE

I know, I know, it sounds like a set-up line for a joke, but it’s actually the title of a special report by DOE’s Office of Inspector General. Here’s the link.
The IG said these were the areas with most serious challenges: contract administration, cyber security, energy supply, environmental cleanup. safeguards and security, and stockpile stewarship.

Fogbank & Y-12, etc.

On Dec. 17, prior to a visit to the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, I had a briefing with Steve Kyle, the classification manager at Y-12. The briefing was basically about ground rules for visiting the new storage facility for bomb-grade uranium and a request that certain details not be published.
Since I’d had a similar briefing with another classification officer during an earlier visit to HEUMF, this one was mostly a conversation about classification. I took the opportunity to ask Kyle what he could say about Fogbank, the mystery material that attracted a lot of attention (note here and here and here) earlier this year in regards to revamping of Trident warheads.

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Vass on the curse/blessing of working at a DOE lab

I had a chance recently to spend some time with Arpad Vass, one of the star researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who’s gotten international attention for his work in forensic anthropology and chemistry.
In many ways, Vass loves working at ORNL, where there are world-class scientists in every discipline just down the hall. “I guarantee you if there’s a problem, the national lab can solve the problem. I don’t care what it is. There are absolutely brilliant problem-solvers here. But you have to be free not to worry about proposals. Do we have to lock our doors today?”

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DOE’s $200M ‘funding opportunity’ for biofuels projects

Like so many other announcements coming out of the Dept. of Energy in the final days of the Bush administration, the pre-Christmas announcement of a new $200 million, six-year biofuels initiative carried a caveat — “subject to annual Congressional appropriations.”
In other words, let’s see what happens when the Obama administration takes over Washington and the new Congress takes a fresh look at energy programs.

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More evidence of budding nuke renaissance

A new report by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education shows that U.S. enrollments and degrees granted in nuclear engineering are continuing to rise, solidifying a trend of recent years. The ORISE study is based on 2007 data acquired from the 31 academic institutions with nuclear engineering programs.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (46) and Purdue University (39) awarded the most undergraduate degrees, while Massachusetts Institute of Technology awarded the most Ph.D.’s (12).

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ORNL shut out on young scientist awards

For all the good things that happened to and at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2008, here’s one that didn’t.
There were no ORNL researchers among the winners recently announced by the White House for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.The PECASE award is reputed the to be the “highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are early in their independent research careers.”

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