Viewers from around the region tuned in Feb. 27 for a virtual public town hall featuring Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason and special guest Ted Wyka, manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office.
Filming live at the Laboratory’s leased facility on Pacheco Street in Santa Fe, the pair covered a wide range of mission-focused topics, including:
- The Laboratory’s role in global security
- R&D success in areas like clean energy, supercomputing and nonproliferation
- A deep dive on the Laboratory’s Site-Wide Environmental Impact Statement
- Recent successes in waste management operations
- Campus infrastructure improvements
- Plutonium production
- Procurement and hiring initiatives
- Small business contracting
It was the fourth virtual town hall featuring Mason and the first in which Wyka joined him.
Robust government support for Lab mission
Mason kicked off the event with a brief overview of Laboratory current affairs, noting unprecedented fiscal activities and strong ongoing support from Congress and the NNSA for the Lab’s deterrence mission at a critical time in world history when geopolitical tensions are on the rise in places like Russia and China.
From there, Mason discussed the Lab’s approach to address on-site capacity issues during its recent hiring boom, noting related challenges associated with the Laboratory’s growing workforce in areas like transportation and housing.
On the transportation front, Mason and Wyka talked specifically to an NNSA-driven effort to improve the intersection of State Road 4 and Jemez Road, which is a main thoroughfare to and from the Laboratory site for employees, suppliers and vendors handling waste shipments. The project comes as a result of an agreement between the Department of Energy and NNSA to spend up to $12 million to improve DOE-owned transportation routes used to ship transuranic waste from the Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. An additional investment of $3.5 million by NNSA cleared the path for East Jemez/NM 4 intersection upgrade to move forward.
Laboratory remains a major economic driver in region
Mason spoke at length on the importance of the Laboratory’s regional partnerships and pipelines that funnel talent to the mission, create alternative career paths for local high school graduates and significantly benefit the local economy.
On the pipeline front, Mason also pointed out the Laboratory’s robust spending portfolio, which included $2.1 billion in overall procurements last fiscal year, with $915 million spent in New Mexico, of which $615 million was spent with small businesses.
Questions taken from the public
Following updates, Mason and Wyka took part in a question-and-answer session with live viewers from surrounding communities, discussing everything from NNSA’s role in handling the Laboratory’s management and operating contract to the status of on-site pit production and what lies ahead in FY23.