Number 455 | December 28, 2015

ORNL technique could set new course for extracting uranium from seawater

Newswise — An ultra-high-resolution technique used for the first time to study polymer fibers that trap uranium in seawater may cause researchers to rethink the best methods to harvest this potential fuel for nuclear reactors.

The work of a team led by Carter Abney, a Wigner Fellow at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, shows that the polymeric adsorbent materials that bind uranium behave nothing like scientists had believed. The results, gained through collaboration with the University of Chicago and detailed in a paper published in Energy & Environmental Science, highlight data made possible with X-ray Absorption Fine Structure spectroscopy performed at the Advanced Photon Source. The APS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Argonne National Laboratory.

PPPL physicists propose new plasma-based method to treat radioactive waste

Physicists at DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are proposing a new way to process nuclear waste that uses a plasma-based centrifuge. Known as plasma mass filtering, the new mass separation techniques would supplement chemical techniques. It is hoped that this combined approach would reduce both the cost of nuclear waste disposal and the amount of byproducts produced during the process. This work was supported by PPPL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program.

"The safe disposal of nuclear waste is a colossal problem," said Renaud Gueroult, staff physicist at PPPL and lead author of the paper that appeared in the Journal of Hazardous Materials in October. "One solution might be to supplement existing chemical separation techniques with plasma separation techniques, which could be economically attractive, ideally leading to a reevaluation of how nuclear waste is processed."

Lawrence Livermore licenses tool to improve government computer network security

Government agencies, along with state and local governments, could receive a helping hand from a computer network security tool developed by computer scientists and engineers at DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The LLNL software-based technology, known as the Network Mapping System (NeMS), has been licensed to Cambridge Global Advisors (link is external), a Washington, D.C.-area strategic advisory firm.

“We developed this capability to discover and characterize computer networks,” said Celeste Matarazzo, a principal investigator for cybersecurity in the Lab’s Global Security Principal Directorate. “It is important to know what you have on your networks, so that you can decide what best practices to apply.”

NREL seeks to optimize individual comfort in buildings

The newest addition to DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is an experimental environmental chamber capable of making its occupants shiver or sweat.

Designed to reveal the connection between human comfort and energy systems, the Comfort Suite (C-Suite) stands 10 feet tall and 16 feet wide by 16 feet deep, and allows for a wide range of environmental conditions. The interior is teeming with banks of sensors that provide data about everything from the current concentration of carbon dioxide within the room, to a real-time three-dimensional map of all occupants' body positions. Researchers can simulate a range of environments that will allow different technologies to be evaluated and optimized.


NETL’s David Miller: The heart of CCSI

David Miller is an unassuming man. He maintains a hint of boyish charm—a self-effacing grin and glasses propped on the bridge of his nose. To look at him, one would never suspect that he stands at the nexus of an alliance that sprawls across the entire continental U.S.: the Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI)—a vast web with personnel in eight states representing five Department of Energy laboratories, five esteemed universities, and an advisory board with over 20 industry partners who have hitched on for the ride. The coalition is unique, in both structure and mission, and David Miller, the technical director, is at its heart.

The initiative was launched in 2011 with a deceptively simple sounding objective: accelerate the development and deployment of carbon capture technologies by designing computational modeling tools that will speed development and scale-up. Carbon capture technologies are exactly what they sound like—technology that is designed to be incorporated into fossil-fueled power plants and isolate the CO2 before it can be released into the atmosphere. The current U.S. strategy for climate change mitigation relies on developing effective carbon capture methods as an integral component of the plan.


California, here they come: Weather patterns, warming could produce extremes

La Nina cools off the ocean surface (greens and blues) in the winter of 1988. On the right, El Nino warms it up (oranges and reds) in the winter of 1997.California, here they come: Weather patterns, warming could produce extremes

The weather patterns El Nino and La Nina may bring some ornery conditions to California later this century.

A research team from DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Utah State University, funded by DOE ’s Office of Science, studied the patterns to gain a better sense of California’s future weather as the earth warms up. The scientists concluded that El Nino and La Nina, which alternately warm and cool the Pacific Ocean, could lead to at least a doubling of extreme droughts and floods in the state.

In the project, the research team looked at what happens to California in global climate models. To examine the most extreme case, the scientists simulated 2006 to 2080 using conditions in which very few efforts are made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.