USEC to Go Private
President Clinton has approved proceeding with the privatization of the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC). USEC manages the Laboratory's Atomic Vapor Laser Isotope Separation (AVLIS) project, which is intended to produce enriched uranium for commercial nuclear reactor fuel. USEC was created in 1992 by Congress to privatize federal uranium enrichment activities, which convert natural uranium to enriched uranium for reactor fuel. With Clinton's approval, USEC will now be moved to the private sector.
"The vision . . . is to move uranium enrichment out of the government and into the private sector while realizing a substantial return for the U.S. taxpayer," said USEC Chairman William J. Rainer. "This latest action moves us to the final stages of realizing that vision." The action also furthers the nation's largest technology transfer effort.
USEC officials estimate it will take approximately six months to convert to private ownership. Added Victor Lopiano, director of the AVLIS program at Livermore, "This is an important first step toward AVLIS deployment."
LLNL Pantex Sign Weapons Stewardship Pact
The Laboratory and Pantex have formally joined forces to develop and implement new production technologies for caretaking and dismantlement of nuclear weapons, as well as demilitarizing excess nuclear weapons pits.
At a formal ceremony in July, William Weinreich, general manager of the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and Livermore Director Bruce Tarter signed a memorandum of mutual intent for collaborative activities between the two Department of Energy facilities. The five-year agreement formalizes collaborative efforts long-ago established. Said Tarter, "Our role is to do the technology and work to transfer it to the production plants. It's important for all labs within the DOE complex to share their capabilities and their facilities."
The memorandum focuses on three areas: development of evaluation techniques and tools to assess the effects of aging on the nuclear stockpile and to assure the stockpile's reliability, technology to enhance the manufacturing of new high explosives that would replace the current (and aging) stock of explosives should they be needed, and Laboratory-developed security systems that can be introduced at the Pantex site. The agreement also paves the way for an exchange of personnel and joint use of facilities.
Robotic Factory to Speed Up Human Genome Study
The Joint Genome Institute will be using robots to improve speed, accuracy, and economy of Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos national laboratories in their work to decipher the human genetic code. The robots will read the order of DNA molecules and log the data into public databases in the process of unlocking the mysteries of human diseases. The robots will be installed in a 56,000-square-foot building in Walnut Creek, California, where the work will create up to 200 jobs.
Licenses for Microreaction-Chamber Technology
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has issued limited exclusive licenses to two diagnostic and research instrumentation firms for use of Livermore microreaction-chamber technology. The licenses granted to Cepheid of Santa Clara, California, and Soane BioSciences of Hayward, California, allow the companies to use the technology specifically for amplification and detection of nucleic acids and for ligand-binding assays.
The Livermore reaction chamber allows rapid changes and precise temperature control for very small reaction volumes (nanoliters) and is ideally suited for DNA amplification reactions. This capability is instrumental in clinical diagnostics and large DNA research studies such as the Human Genome Project.
The license to Cepheid permits the company to produce and sell products incorporating sleeve reaction-chamber designs that may include integrated optics for monitoring chemical reactions. In addition, Cepheid may produce and sell products that include electrophoretic devices coupled to an integrated optics reaction chamber.
The license to Soane BioSciences permits the company to produce and sell products that incorporate sleeve reaction-chamber designs without integrated optics, coupled to electrophoretic devices.
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