Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Bob Dynes 'Comforts' Livermore
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Climate scientist calls for end of new coal power plants in U.S.
(Created: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 12:28 PM MST)
SETH BORENSTEIN AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON — One of the world’s top climate scientists called for an end to building new coal-fired power plants in the United States because of their huge role in spewing out greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. In the next decade of so, 159 coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be built, generating enough power for about 96 million homes, according to a study last month by the U.S. Department of Energy. “There should be a moratorium on building any more coalfired power plants,” NASA scientist James Hansen told the National Press Club Monday. Hansen was one of the earliest top researchers to warn the world of global warming. Hansen’s call dovetails with an edict by the private equity group buying TXU, a massive Texas-based utility. The equity group, led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. And Texas Pacific Group, agreed to stop plans to build eight new coal-fired power plants, not to propose new coalfired plants outside Texas and to support mandatory national caps on emissions linked to global warming. This is the first time Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, has called for an end to coal burning. He said it’s the No. 1 solution to global warming, and that so far, no coal-fired plants can capture carbon dioxide emissions so they are not released into the atmosphere. While burning oil and natural gas also release carbon dioxide, they will run out and there’s more coal to burn and pollute the Earth, so it’s more of a threat, Hansen said. “Coal is the big amount,” Hansen said. “Until we have that clean coal power plant, we should not be building them. It is as clear as a bell.” Hansen, who said he was speaking as a private citizen, also told the press club that by mid-century all coal-fired power plants that do not capture and bury carbon dioxide “must eventually be bulldozed.” It’s foolish to build new ones if the emissions can’t be dealt with, he said. He said the increased efficiency could make up for the cutbacks in coal. Like the Bush administration, Hansen said he had high hopes for using cellulosic ethanol, or switchgrass, as an alternative fuel. But unlike the president’s plan which is big on this source for cars, Hansen proposes burning switchgrass for electrical power and sequestering the carbon dioxide emissions underwater so it would reduce the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide. Although switchgrass could reduce our dependence on oil, burning switchgrass in cars would not reduce emissions much, he said. Coal provides about half of the United States’ electricity, according to the Department of Energy. Hansen’s call “ought to be vetted by those who have an understanding of the energy demands placed on the U.S. economy,” said National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich. “When seen in light of those demands, then statements like that will appear unreasonable, to put it charitably.”
From the 'Halls' of NNSA (?)
PLEASE post this anonymously. I work at NNSA and I was asked to help draft a memo spinning the RRW decision to be announced sometime soon, probably later this week. It seems to me to be the worst way to go about this thing, but the Deciders at the top have reluctantly heeded the military on the POG and chosen the Los Alamos design. But NNSA's going to award the actual project to Livermore, believe it or not. It looks to me like there'll at least be a lot of grumbling at Livermore about having to work on a Los Alamos design, and complete demoralization of the Los Alamos team. Whatever you do with this, make sure you don't publish my e-mail address, or I'm cooked. Thanks.
[Note to all contributors: When blogspot.com sends me an e-mail, the original sender's e-mail address has been wiped off clean. It keeps you truly anonymous, but at the same time, I had to append a question mark to the title of this post, just for honesty's sake. -Pat.]
UC Skates on Fines -- Will LANS?
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The Santa Fe New Mexican, February 27, 2007
The University of California violated nuclear safety rules at Los Alamos National Laboratory 15 times in 2005, but the university won't pay for it.
As a nonprofit institution, the university is exempt from the fines covered by a federal law that regulates nuclear safety at the lab. The university managed the lab until June 1, 2006.
The university would have paid a record-breaking $1.1 million in fines had they not been exempt, which would have been the largest single penalty ever in the history of the Department of Energy's nuclear safety program.
Monday's announcement by the National Nuclear Security Administration centers on three events from 2005: a March incident where four workers received minor uptakes of radioactive material; a July incident where at least two people were contaminated with americium-241 and a contaminated package was accidentally sent across the country; and a November inspection performed by the department that revealed many problems in the lab's environment, health and safety programs.
Tom D'Agostino, the head of the administration, wrote lab Director Michael Anastasio earlier this month that future fines against the new lab manager, Los Alamos National Security LLC, will not be waived.
"My (expectation) is the prompt and aggressive completion of corrective actions focused at resolving underlying causes will be one of your highest priorities," D'Agostino wrote. "This expectation will serve as the standard to which I will hold you during future enforcement deliberations, should they become necessary."
University spokesman Chris Harrington said in a statement Monday that the university has taken a number of corrective actions to fix the problems outlined by the department. "The University of California takes safety and security issues very seriously as part of our commitment to managing the national laboratories," Harrington said.
The university is one of four partners in Los Alamos National Security LLC, which also includes the construction giant Bechtel.
Pete Stockton of the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight criticized the department for taking nearly two years to investigate and take action. "It's so far from the event," Stockton said. "And then of course there's no penalty."
The Department of Energy is authorized by the federal Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 to regulate contract companies that break nuclear safety rules.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Take Classified Work Away from LANL at Great National Peril
LANL is all about classified work. Nuclear stockpile stewardship (most of the stockpile is still made up of our designs), non-proliferation and (nuclear) threat reduction and response. The very core of LANL's work is addressing the very defense threats that, short of biological warefare, scare the daylights out of decent people everywhere. So, these fools would like to make it go away ... leaving the United States dramatically weaker in the face of monstrous threats from many corners of the globe, and they want to do this for the purposes of political grand-standing, power and control.
It's not about security ... it's about power. If it was about security, we'd see the FBI before Congress for the tens of laptops they lose each year, which they can't account for holding classified information or not. We'd have seen equally public thrashing of Sandia for apparently attempting to cover up the successful hack of their network by hostile foreign powers. We'd have seen the FBI thrashed over the Hansen spy incident. Or the CIA over the Adrich Ames incident. Or the navy over the Jonathan Pollard spy incident.
Instead, what we've got is a continuous piling on, punishing time and again LANL personnel who struggle in the face of byzantine, incomprehensible policies, procedures and rules to work safely and securely. When an individual chooses to violate their oath, everyone pays except the one individual at the root of the deceit. The follow-on is more byzantine rules, policies and procedures, layered heavily on top of the already confusing, contradictory and vulnerable morass of existing rules. And the Congressionally demanded public floggings of the staff who continue to struggle under the crushing weight of management and policies that does not work.
Those among the LANL staff who want to know who got fired or disciplined over the incident need to understand that while it must feel really good and righteous to demand indiscriminant punitive actions, it also means that they themselves could be next. "Oh, never!" they might cry. Well, never say never. Because in the system we have that is ready to collapse under its own weight, a well intentioned, hard working, detail-oriented LANL employee can try as hard as they can to cover every angle and still be buried alive if something goes wrong with safety or security.
You may ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.
Experts in human performance improvement can certainly see the ongoing disaster the LANL management-by-appeasement-to-politicians approach has precipitated. The response to this and past security and safety incidents has effectively taught LANL personnel to adopt a siege mentality, which leaves management standing alone in the face of solving the real problems. The Director's proud and frequent statements about how he's disciplined 24 people should be a shameful admission that he is destroying the incentive for staff to bring security or safety incidents or problems to management's attention. When it's widely known that anyone within sight of a problem will be subject to a witch hunt by HR-ER on the behalf of the Director and devastated by the results, why in the world would anyone trust them with the knowledge that a problem exists?
Congress simply feeds this fire of incompetence by stimulating this defective and destructive cycle of failure.
If LANL is to improve and perform, it has to make it easy, automatic and rewarding to work safely and securely, and it must tap the real-world understanding the personnel have of the vulnerabilities and solutions to our safety and security problems. It must make it safe for individuals to admit mistakes and help the institution learn how to prevent them in the future.
As it is, bureaucrats write new layers of confusion to lay down on top of the rotting old layers of confusion. While they try hard, they have no idea what the real high-probability, high-consequence vulnerabilities really are. They only make the situation worse by giving management the false belief that they've really got the problem fixed this time. It's not going to stop until LANL management, and Congress, stop circling the wagons and firing inward at the lab personnel.
The Laboratory is living in abject fear, which is driving many many people to shut up and keep their head down, depriving the institution of the very experts who could actually be part of the solution. The Lab's done this for years, and it's doing it again, expecting a different outcome.
To remove classified work from the lab is to kill the lab, and probably most of our nuclear knowledge. The capabilities of the Laboratory are totally embodied in the people and the history of our work which lives there. It cannot be transplanted like a tulip bulb. Once it's wiped out, it's gone forever. Whatever might be reconstituted elsewhere will be a different place, starting from scratch.
I'm sure Iran, North Korea, and other proliferant threats to our world would greatly benefit from the setback.
Associated Press, Monday, February 26, 2007
Subcontractors for Los Alamos National Laboratory did not follow lab safety procedures before a construction accident last year that injured two lab workers, an internal lab investigation found.
The June 28 accident could have been prevented, but lab officials failed to correct unsafe working conditions, did not effectively enforce safety requirements and failed to consider the history of one of its subcontractors, Magnum Steel Constructors, the report said.
In 2003, a Magnum worker died in a work-related accident in Bernalillo, and the company was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for six serious violations, investigators said.
Magnum workers were using a crane to move a 1,500-pound metal staircase at the lab's Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility last summer when the structure slipped from its rigging, fell more than 50 feet and struck two men.
One of the workers received leg injuries and the other suffered multiple leg fractures and a broken pelvis, the report says.
Representatives with Magnum and Pace Iron Works - a lab subcontractor that hired Magnum to help on the project - said Friday they hadn't seen the report but insisted the accident was unavoidable.
"They worked like they normally work at a job site, as far as I'm concerned," said Shaun Myers, a quality control officer with Pace. "Nobody wants to get hurt. They deal with steel all day long. They don't want to do it in an unsafe manner."
Investigators, however, found that a "poor rigging technique" was directly responsible for the accident, which "very easily could have resulted in two fatalities."
In the past, federal oversight officials in the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration have investigated serious lab accidents.
But NNSA, which is giving more oversight responsibilities to the lab's new corporate manager, opted last summer to let the lab take the lead on last summer's investigation.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said the report should demonstrate that the lab's internal investigations are as rigorous, if not more so, than the government's.
"We're harder on ourselves than the DOE is," Roark said.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Al Gore Wins Oscar: Los Alamos May Have a Future, Too
Stay tuned. Maybe all is not lost. Maybe the tide is going out for the corporate elite. For now, give a cheer and take a sip of champagne. Atta boy, Moses! (-Best of luck in getting the Nobel Peace Prize, too.)
[Also, two "Al's" won Oscars: Al Gore (Moses) and a local Santa Fe boy who made good, Alan Arkin, the memorable grandfather in "Little Miss Sunshine" and author of the subversive children's book, "The Lemming Connection." Congratulations, Al and Al!]
I thought you might find interesting the following articles, one from MIT’s “The tech”, another from the SF Chronicle about Bechtel and the “Big Dig” in Boston. Bechtel’s corporate managers place a high value on superglue type “fixes”, and this is being manifested at LANL. Anything to get the [recordable] rates down, is the motto, safety be damned.
Attorney General Calls Big Dig Tunnel Ceiling Collapse ...A Crime...
By Scott Allen, THE BOSTON GLOBE, Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Declaring that a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse in Boston last summer was “a crime,“ Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said Monday that his office’s investigation into the July 10 death of Milena Del Valle has convinced him that people and companies connected with the tunnel’s construction should face manslaughter charges.
Reilly said the investigation, including a review of 400,000 pages of construction documents, suggests that the design and construction of the tunnel ceiling in the Interstate 90 connector was so reckless that it was criminal, a belief Reilly said he has had since first seeing the Del Valle family’s flattened car.
He said that project managers overseeing ceiling construction in 1999 knew that the bolts holding up the ceiling sometimes slipped out unexpectedly and that they pressed ahead with construction anyway. Likewise, he said, managers knew there were problems with the training of some workers putting up the ceiling, but they did not double-check their work. He also said the ceiling design - held up by epoxy bolts that essentially are super-glued to the tunnel roof - was questionable and illegal in some states today.
“They knew enough at some point to stop it, and they didn’t do it,” Reilly said during an afternoon press conference, referring to managers from Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the joint venture that oversaw the Big Dig project, and Modern Continental Construction Co., the firm that built the ceiling.
“The clock was ticking,” he said. “The fuse was lit. It was just a matter of time” before the ceiling collapsed.
“It is clear to me now that they didn’t do it right, and the consequences were grave,” Reilly said.
At his request, a special grand jury has been hearing witnesses since last month, and Reilly has not asked the grand jury to indict anyone.
He said he would first seek to recover the state’s financial damages due to the accident, which has cost at least $30 million in tunnel repair and investigation costs while causing headaches for drivers. The tunnel, a major route to Logan International Airport, has been partially closed for more than four months.
Reilly announced plans to file a civil lawsuit against 15 companies connected with the tunnel ceiling project, including Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff. He declined to say how much money he wants from the lawsuit - expected to be filed in Suffolk Superior Court Tuesday instead of Monday, as his staff had expected - but a state official familiar with the case said he expected damages to exceed $150 million.
Normally, prosecutors wait for criminal cases to be concluded before filing a civil lawsuit, but Reilly said he didn’t want to wait because of a requirement in state law that lawsuits over faulty construction be filed within six years of the project’s completion. In the connector tunnel, a single ramp opened to the public on Nov. 29, 2000, making the sixth anniversary Wednesday. “I’m not personally sure that the opening of a ramp triggers it, but I am not taking any chances,” Reilly said.
[For the in-depth San Francisco Chronicle article, click on the title of this post.]
After RRW, After Pu Pits: Reprocessing Reactor in Los Alamos?
LOS ALAMOS MONITOR STAFF REPORT, Sunday, February 25, 2007
A public hearing to discuss the Department of Energy's plan to begin reprocessing the spent fuel from U.S. power reactors will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Hilltop House Best Western, 400 Trinity Drive, in the La Vista Room.
The meeting is one of three to be held in New Mexico, along with a meeting in Hobbs on Feb. 26 and in Roswell, Feb. 27. GNEP is considering 13 national sites for one or more of the proposed Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiatives
The plan proposes that the advanced fuel cycle research facility be located at a DOE site. Los Alamos National Laboratory is among the sites under consideration, along with the Savannah River Site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Hanford Site. Other locations, including Hobbs and Roswell, are under consideration as a location for a nuclear fuel recycling center and/or an advanced recycling center.
As DOE describes the GNEP recycling plan, spent fuel would be received from commercial nuclear reactors and processed in a nuclear-fuel recycling center. Reprocessing separates plutonium and uranium from the other types of nuclear materials which would become waste. The reusable material would be mostly consumed in an advanced recycling reactor, and the reduced volume of non-reusable constituents would be converted to waste forms for eventual storage in a geologic repository or some other long-term storage facility.
Along with the national programmatic activities, the way the whole program fits together, and site-specific consideration about where to locate the main facilities, the environmental impact statement would examine the impact of two complementary international initiatives.
Via a "reliable fuel services program," the U.S. would cooperate with countries that have advanced nuclear programs to supply nuclear fuel services to other countries that refrain from pursuing enrichment or recycling facilities to make their own nuclear fuel. A second initiative would develop "proliferation-resistant" nuclear power reactors suitable for use in developing economies.
The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a press release today calling DOE's plan misguided and urging local citizens to attend the local scoping meetings to express their concerns.
The Bush administration is requesting a FY 2008 budget of $405 million for the GNEP program, a large fraction of which will be directed toward reprocessing the spent fuel from nuclear power reactors.
"Any community hosting a reprocessing facility will by necessity become a long-term dump for spent fuel shipped from nuclear plants around the country," said Edwin Lyman, senior staff scientist at UCS. "Even if this spent fuel is eventually reprocessed, the residual highly radioactive wastes will have to stay where they are generated unless another site can be found to take them - an unlikely prospect."
The comment period runs through April 4, 2007.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
This might be the week that the RRW announcement is made
It is rumored that this might be the week that the RRW announcement is made. There are 3 potential outcomes of this announcement (none of them good for LANL or consistent with the POG technical recommendation). The scenarios are:
I. LLNL is instructed to implement the LANL design (for the Navy)
II. LLNL is authorized to move forward with their own design (for the Navy)
III. Some version of frankenbomb is given to LLNL as the lead
It might be insightful to have an informal survey of how the weapons staff might respond to the announcement. Many in the weapons program have been kicking around some of the options. The most popular staff responses are:
1. Stay at LANL, but leave the weapons program
2. Go to work at SNL
3. Leave LANL in disgust
4. Stay at LANL in the weapons program, but cut back to a 40 hr week
5. Make no changes
Anyone bold enough to state what you will do (anonymously of course)? This may provide the LANs and NNSA boys a hint at things coming their way (even though they don’t really value weapons experience).
Fix NNSA: "Lance" that Boil
As a real old-timer, let me suggest to all of you that the first priority of Congress should be the annihilation of NNSA (and the permanent firing of every single political hack therein). The second thing should be the abrogation of the contract with LANS. Thirdly and finally, a nonprofit entity should be established to run LANL's retirement and benefits system. By then, any leftover micromanagement by DOE will seem like a relatively tiny burden on the backs of the weary workers at LANL. Trust me.
-Son of Oppy
When NNSA goes away, even LANS won't seem so bad ...
And now, a comment on "Son of Oppy"'s post from (yup, you guessed it!) Anonymous:
There's only one teeny, tiny problem with "Son of Oppy"'s suggestion, and that is:
What if nobody in Congress (House OR Senate) really cares about LANL's gradually dwindling ability to do first-rate science? Bingaman and Udall seem to care, but is that enough? Is there any time to waste? I hope to God that some thoughtful Congressional and/or Senatorial staff members are reading this blog, or else we may slide beyond the tipping point one of these fine, blustery spring days. (By "tipping point," I mean the loss of morale, loss of experienced scientists, and loss of ability to attract bright, young scientists gets so far out of control, that LANL cannot be saved as a viable research lab for years to come.)
Friday, February 23, 2007
Next big story?
I noticed both the San Francisco Bechtel office and the San Francisco Chronicle spending quite a bit of time reading this blog post today:
I wonder if an expose on LANS' cooking the books on safety statistics is in the works.
-Pat, the Nosy Dog
Pantex, LANL, Safety Problems
Supervisor of troubled Texas nuclear plant moved to Los Alamos (Podcast)
LOS ALAMOS (2007-02-23) -- The federal official in charge of overseeing a Texas nuclear-weapons plant where workers are complaining about safety issues has been transferred to oversee the Los Alamos National Laboratory's nuclear weapons operations.
Los Alamos Site Office Manager Dan Glenn has not returned our call for comment. But we talk to a watchdog group about charges critical of the Texas facility that were aired in a Los Angeles Times article.
Listen to the story.
Just in case you were wondering
LANL has not dropped off the radar screen in Washington. Here were a couple of our more interesting visitors this week. Click on an image to enlarge.
-Pat, The Dog
Oh, and about Mitchell
So, why did Mitchell leave after just 5 months at LANL?
-Pat, The Dog
No Fair! Sandia Snags 'Award'!
One of the Annual Awards for the year that just ended goes to Sandia
National Labs --
"The 'National Lab for Hire' Award to Sandia National Labs, for letting a
parade of young-earth creationists promote their pseudoscience and hawk
their books in the Steve Schiff Auditorium."
-- From the March/April 2007 issue of "Skeptical Inquirer."
[But wait a minute: Doesn't LANL get one for Anastasio's bringing Judith Miller to the Lab, she who is a former reporter from the New York Times, who aided President Cheney in his rush to war in Iraq? (Remember the WMDs that weren't?) Seems a little unfair; Sandia always gets the award, while Los Alamos get left holding the bag ... At least LANL didn't score in the Darwin Awards. -As far as I know.
- the results of Stupak's FBI briefing,
- repercussions from Dingell's latest threats to slash LANL's work load, and to enlist the GAO to help him do it,
- fallout from the claims of another LANS attempt at a cover up, this time regarding the latest two on-site accidents, both of which resulted in Pu uptake by glovebox operators,
- repercussions from both Joe Martz and John Pedicini having gone public with some of the sleazy goings-on regarding the RRW competition, and
- related to (4) above, allegations that our very own UC director, Anastasio, has been instrumental in trying to force the RRW decision to go to his old Alma Mater.
-Pat, The Dog
|Los Alamos: Obelisks for a bleak future|
February 23, 2007
Criticism builds as anti-weapons activist prepares 'doomsday' monument
LOS ALAMOS -- Ed Grothus, an anti-weapons activist for 40 years in the hometown of the atomic bomb, has a new public-art project: a large granite monument with inscriptions to commemorate the first atomic explosion.
Grothus envisions what he calls his "doomsday stones" someday playing a role similar to that of the Rosetta Stone, which helped researchers decipher hieroglyphics long after ancient Egyptian civilization had faded away.
"I'm almost certain we're going to blow ourselves away," the 83-year-old said Thursday. "And when we do that, there will be nobody around. But when the little green men come, they will be able to read everything on earth when they discover my doomsday stones."
A pair of 22-ton, 33-foot-high white granite obelisks, quarried in China, arrived Thursday at Grothus' store, the Black Hole, where he sells items salvaged from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
So far, Grothus said, he has spent about $150,000 of his own money on the monument. But he isn't sure where he'll put it.
In November, he pitched his idea to the four-member Los Alamos Public Art Advisory Council, which has authorized various statues and plaques around Fuller Lodge, a historic building in the community that grew up around the nuclear-weapons laboratory. However, the council has yet to set a public meeting on the proposed monument.
Grothus said an ideal locale would be one of the mesas east of Los Alamos. He imagines something like the Cristo Redentor, or Christ the Redeemer, statue overlooking Río de Janeiro, Brazil, from atop Corcovado Mountain.
"It would be neat if we mounted them at the end of a mesa and lighted them at night," he said. "You could see them for miles. But because of the doomsday stones and the message there, it should be an accessible mesa."
Not everyone likes his idea.
Stephen Stoddard, 82, a former Republican state senator who worked as a ceramics engineer at the lab for 30 years, is among the skeptics.
Stoddard is part of a group of military and lab veterans, the Los Alamos Education Group, formed to counter the anti-nuclear Los Alamos Study Group. He attended the November meeting to hear what Grothus proposed to inscribe on the stones.
"It was pretty inflammatory stuff," Stoddard said. "Primarily, he said, " 'I'm putting this here for the day when the little green men come down, after we've blown ourselves to hell, so they'll know who developed these bombs.' "
To Stoddard, "it was more of a degrading thing to the effort to really save lives (by eliminating the need to invade Japan to end World War II). ... I don't think we need to be memorialized as the place that built the bomb."
Grothus offered to give the Los Alamos Education Group space to put its own inscription on the monument. However, Stoddard said he doesn't find that equitable.
"At first, we thought maybe he was beginning to relent -- at least seeing our side of the thing too, and there might be some way to compromise," Stoddard said. "But when we saw the projected comments, we said, 'No, no, this is definitely not fair to Los Alamos and Los Alamos history.' "
Grothus became a political activist while working as a machinist for the lab from 1949 to 1969. He said he began questioning the Vietnam War, to the chagrin of his peers, and in 1968 was an alternate delegate for Minnesota's U.S. Sen. Eugene McCarthy at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
After retiring from the lab, Grothus and his wife, Margaret, bought a gift store called the Shalako Shop and started Los Alamos Sales Co. to market outmoded lab equipment. They began to trade in real estate, acquiring the Grace Lutheran Church and the adjacent Mesa Market grocery on Arkansas Avenue, which he converted into the Black Hole.
In recent years, he has shown up at rallies on the Aug. 6 anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing to carry banners apologizing for the use of bombs developed at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In the 1997, he was investigated by the Secret Service for sending cans of food, relabeled as "organic plutonium," to the Clinton White House. Several documentaries have focused on Grothus' activities.
For more than a decade, he made a trek to Santa Fe each Nov. 1 to tape to the door of what is now called the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi his "sexual reformation creed" -- calling for acceptance of sex education, population control, homosexuality, birth control and artificial insemination. This act, he said, commemorated the start of the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses protesting Roman Catholic dogma to the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany.
Grothus said he does these "notorious things" because he wants people to know how the nuclear industry endangers civilization. He said his monument isn't meant to celebrate the Trinity Site test in New Mexico in 1945, "just to make note of it."
"I've offended some people in town," Grothus said. "Some people think I'm the conscience of the town. Other people think I'm a real pain in the ass."
[One could ask whether "Los Alamos: Obelisks for a bleak future" means a bleak long-term future for mankind or a bleak short-term future for the Laboratory ...
Thursday, February 22, 2007
And the Beat Goes On ...
Bad feelings remain from 60-year grievance
ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Assistant Editor, Thursday, February 22, 2007
More than 60 years after they lost their lands to the U.S. government for a secret project in the mountains of New Mexico, heirs of Hispanic homesteaders who claimed their property was taken improperly are beginning to receive compensation. Sen. Pete Domenici's office announced Tuesday that a down payment of $4.7 million would be dispersed immediately to 394 claimants, to be followed by another 97 payments on Friday. The payments range upwards from a few hundred dollars to $100,000, the result of efforts by three generations of aggrieved property-owners, Hispanic activists and determined individuals who battled the U.S. government for recognition of what they considered in many cases, the theft of their land. Domenici's announcement said the payments are being distributed through the NNSA Oak Ridge Payment Center from the Pajarito Plateau fund, a $10 million account the senator arranged to be added to the Department of Energy's Budget two years ago. A spokesman in Domenici's office said the disbursement was further delayed in "working out who got what." "It was quite an intricate formula," said Matt Letourneau, the senator's deputy press secretary. "They had to factor in not just land, but livestock."
The funds are intended to settle the claims of Hispanic homesteaders who were removed or whose property interest was purchased by the Corps of Engineers to make way for the facility, known first as Project Y, that became Los Alamos National Laboratory. Charges of forced removal, underhanded and heavy-handed tactics and discriminatory treatment toward the Hispanic farmers have embittered some of the participants of the controversial land seizures that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the U.S. into World War II.
Although the list of claimants and the amounts that were paid were not disclosed by the Department of Energy, it seems likely that few of the original claimants survived to see their settlement payments. Jose Gonzalez, a World War II veteran, one of the last surviving named plaintiffs who lived in El Rancho, died last week, said Joe Gutierrez, a program leader in renewable energy at the laboratory. He also mentioned the Gomez brothers, who were born and raised and resided on the Pajarito Plateau all of their lives until they were evicted. "Unfortunately, they passed away before they saw justice," Gutierrez said. Gutierrez was the guiding force of the Homesteader Association that began a concerted push for justice while current N.M. Gov. Bill Richardson was Secretary of Energy. Richardson, and all the politicians rebuffed their efforts, Gutierrez said.
Chuck Montano, a former head of the Hispanic Round Table, said he became involved in the dispute as an outgrowth of laboratory lay-offs in 1995 that were seen as discriminatory toward Hispanics and ultimately settled in court. Of the homesteader settlement, he said, "It's long overdue." He agreed that little came from Richardson's promises to help at the time, and that "forced the homesteaders to take the congressional route."
Gutierrez said and news reports in 2000 confirmed that then-Sec. Richardson offered the homesteaders a parcel of laboratory land for a monument to the Hispanic settlers and other assistance. "I looked at it," said Gutierrez. "It was unusable - wetlands, the skating rink - a place where the sun doesn't shine." It was the land through which the bypass road is now planned. Guitierrez said he has the whole history documented and plans to write a book. "We got shortchanged in 1942. We got shortchanged again with this settlement," he said.
Plenty of LANL News Today
You might as well read about it here, because you can bet your fuzzy butt that you won't be getting it from LANS.
First, from the New Mexican: LANL: Glove-box work back to normal after plutonium exposure
Then there's this: House decries 'LANL problem' Mostly a Roger Snodgrass dupe of yesterday's news about Dingell's fresh threat to take work away from LANL
A reader just sent in another story by Roger Snodgrass entitled Funds dispersed to homesteaders:
And then this article with an interesting title, but which is mostly background fluff:
Dropping the Bomb
Government Reconsiders UC-Managed Los Alamos National Laboratories
Finally, a John Arnold piece from the Albuquerque Journal:
LANL Could Lose Classified Projects
By John Arnold, Journal Staff Writer, Thursday, February 22, 2007
Congressional leaders aren't finished scrutinizing Los Alamos National Laboratory over its security failures. Members of a powerful House committee have asked Congress' investigative arm, the General Accountability Office, to evaluate the feasibility of moving classified activities to other laboratories "where there is a better track record with respect to security."
In a Feb. 16 letter to Comptroller General David Walker, House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders said repeated security problems have cast doubt on whether lab manager Los Alamos National Security and the National Nuclear Security Administration"are capable of assuring adequate safety, security, and sound business management practices." The letter comes less than a month after lawmakers grilled LANL and NNSA officials over the lab's most recent security breach, when more than 1,500 classified documents were discovered during a drug raid at the home of a former LANL subcontractor.
At the Jan. 30 hearing, LANL director Michael Anastasio outlined a detailed response to the breach and said he had disciplined more than two dozen lab employees following a lab investigation. But in their letter to the GAO, committee leaders cite LANL's history of security problems and said lab officials haven't followed through on repeated promises to solve security problems. Since the late 1990s, LANL has dealt with a number of high-profile security lapses, including the temporary disappearance of two computer hard-drives containing nuclear weapons information and the case of Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwan-born U.S. citizen who admitted to mishandling nuclear secrets. The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has held 12 hearings on LANL security, the committee's letter notes.
"More dramatic steps are necessary, and we intend to develop and implement a range of options to solve problems at LANL," states the letter, signed by committee chairman Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and three other committee leaders. They ask the GAO to inventory LANL's major defense, science and energy programs and to evaluate how the lab can reduce its volume of classified material. Lawmakers also want to know what lab programs could be readily moved "without impairing national security activities."
Members of the state's congressional delegation quickly defended LANL, saying that the lab's new management team— which took over operations last year—is working aggressively to resolve security problems. "I don't think they've gotten enough credit for that," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in an interview Wednesday. "The lab by definition is focused on projects which in many cases require classification," he said. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., called Dingell's letter "a dubious response to an issue that deserves productive responses. This newest House push against LANL amounts to unnecessary and counter-productive piling-on," Domenici said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Lab watchdogs, however, praised House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders for continuing to investigate LANL and said other weapons labs should be subject to similar reviews. "It's wonderful that somebody in Congress is finally beginning to take oversight of the nuclear weapons laboratories, or at least of Los Alamos, more seriously," said Los Alamos Study Group executive director Greg Mello.
Dingell also wants the GAO to examine how federal nuclear weapons officials will consider security track records as they restructure the country's nuclear weapons complex. Under the restructuring plan, known as Complex 2030, Los Alamos is one of five sites that NNSA is considering for a next-generation nuclear weapons factory.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
By Ralph Vartabedian, The Los Angeles Times, Wednesday 21 February 2007
Amarillo, Texas - Electrical failures have shut down the plant. The roof has leaked. Decrepit machinery dates back more than 40 years. Safety lapses led inspectors to levy fines twice within two years. And employees, under deadline pressure, complain they often are worked past the point of exhaustion.
The rituals and procedures inside those cells are supposed to be as strict as any operating room, part of a safety culture that reduces any chance of an accidental nuclear explosion to one in 100 million.
But lately, outside experts are questioning whether those safety margins are eroding. Federal investigators are trying to assess the overall safety of the plant, which employs 3,300, amid troubling safety snafus and what employees call an atmosphere of intimidation.
Energy Department officials acknowledge that the plant has fallen behind schedule on reliability testing of weapons. Long delays have occurred in decommissioning thousands of surplus warheads to satisfy disarmament pacts. They also concede the plant has maintenance problems and has violated safety procedures. But they insist there is no danger of a conventional or nuclear explosion.
The backdrop to problems at Pantex is a growing concern that the Energy Department has mismanaged the nuclear weapons program. Last year, the Defense Department bluntly said that it had lost confidence in the Energy Department, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman has acknowledged.
Conditions at Pantex began deteriorating at the end of the Cold War in 1989, when federal managers started starving the plant of funds. Billions of dollars instead were funneled into nuclear weapons laboratories, giving scientists new supercomputer centers, powerful lasers and physics instruments.
By about 2000, the leaks in Pantex's roof were so bad that workers had to cover bombs with plastic when it rained. In summer 2004, a power overload tripped transformers, causing a plant wide blackout. In July, another electrical failure occurred when rats gnawed through wiring, according to weekly safety reports. And in August, a storm swept over the plant that left standing puddles in nuclear production areas.
Dan Swaim, BWXT president at Pantex [a partner of LANS, LLC, who runs LANL], acknowledged that both incidents broke safety rules and were unacceptable, but he said there was no risk of a disaster.
In an interview, Rowesome, who retired in 2004, said he did not want to alarm the public, but he believes Energy Department officials are so "overly confident" and "complacent" about safety that they are not alert to deteriorating safety conditions.
Meanwhile, Pantex has fallen behind schedule in performing critical surveillance tests required by laboratory scientists to certify the reliability of the bombs, Schoenbauer acknowledged. "That backlog has not affected the lab's ability to certify weapons," he said.
John Duncan, who until four years ago headed surveillance testing at Pantex for Sandia National Laboratory, agreed that testing problems at Pantex are undermining confidence in the stockpile. Even today, the certifications of nuclear weapons are being made with less certainty than scientists should have, Duncan and Levine said.
"I knew we were in trouble when I started attending meetings in Washington and was told to work better, faster, cheaper," said Duncan. "They started sending people to the plant with little weapons experience."
The Bush administration has ordered the plant to increase dismantlements by 50 percent this year.
Another task looming for Pantex is modernizing the W76 missile warhead used on the Trident submarine. Hundreds of W76 warheads will have to be disassembled and rebuilt with new parts. Swaim said the W76 program will begin on schedule later this year.
Although the jobs are sought after in Amarillo, an anonymous letter surfaced in November alleging that the plant was in serious disrepair, BWXT management was letting safety slip, and employees were forced to work more than 80 hours a week in some cases.
The stress of working with nuclear weapons has been exacerbated by an abusive management, according to Henry Bagwell, the former chief of the Metals Trade Council, the principal union at the plant. "They treat people badly," said Bagwell, who left last year after 24 years at the plant.
[Sound familiar, LANL people? Are you scared sh*tless, LLNL people? The Beast is coming for you next! Read the whole story by clicking on the title.
--Pat, the Dog]
Can Dingell Make LANL Go Away?
By ANDY LENDERMAN | Santa Fe New Mexican, February 21, 2007
A congressional committee wants to formally study whether classified work at Los Alamos National Laboratory should be taken away and moved to other weapons labs because of security lapses at Los Alamos in recent years.
The Democratic-controlled committee, which is seeking a General Accounting Office investigation, also wants to look at ways to make LANL's classified work area smaller and more consolidated.
"The repeated failures to protect national security assets have cast doubt on whether Los Alamos National Security, LLC ... and the National Nuclear Security Administration are capable of assuring adequate safety, security and sound business management practices," U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., wrote to the GAO. "More dramatic steps are necessary, and we intend to develop and implement a range of options to solve the problems at LANL."
New Mexico's senators quickly stuck up for the lab and the private company that has managed it since June 1.
"The new contractor has been managing the lab for less than a year and already it has taken some aggressive steps toward tightening security -- and I'm sure more steps will follow," U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement. "LANL scientists are committed to producing world-class science in our nation's best interest, and I believe they deserve our strong support."
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., called Dingell's move "a dubious response to an issue that deserves productive responses. The lab and the Energy Department are working to implement reforms now at Los Alamos. This newest House push against LANL amounts to unnecessary and counter-productive piling-on."
He also said more needs to be done regarding security at Los Alamos and other labs, which face increasing cyber-security threats.
A lab spokesman had not seen the letter and was not prepared to comment Tuesday evening.
Dingell, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, noted that in the past eight years, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has held 12 hearings on security, safety and management problems at Los Alamos.
Dingell asked the GAO to do three things. First, to come up with an inventory of all the programs at the lab and their cost.
Second, to evaluate how to "reduce and consolidate the volume of classified material and the size of the security footprint at LANL, as a means to make it more manageable, and whether it is feasible to move classified activities to other weapons labs where there is a better track record with respect to security."
And third, Dingell requested the GAO look at how NNSA evaluates a facility's security track record as it makes plans to reorganize the nuclear-weapons complex.
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group, which advocates nuclear disarmament, said he recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. "The Energy and Commerce Committee is serious about looking at the mission of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and so are a lot of other people in Washington," he said. He also said the committee is looking at the scale of the lab.
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauded Dingell's move and said Congress should also look at how NNSA provides oversight at Los Alamos.
A veteran Los Alamos scientist questioned the idea of moving classified work out of Los Alamos. "The contribution that we make to classified programs would be lost," scientist David Carroll said. "The quality of the work, the continuity of the work and that kind of thing should not be taken lightly, given the overwhelming 60-year history of the contributions that Los Alamos has made to national security."
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
John Fleck: Flames Backatcha, Pat!
The New LANL Blog
Written by John Fleck, Tuesday, 20 February 2007
I don't know who Pat the Dog is. And therein lies a problem.
Back in the day, at the heart of Los Alamos National Laboratory's shutdown troubles, a guy named Doug Roberts, a computer scienctist [sic] at Los Alamos, started a frank and deeply useful blog that became a central gathering place for discussions of the lab's troubles. Among labbies and people like us who follow the lab, it was known simply as "the blog." LANL the Real Story was useful for a lot of reasons. But much of its strength derived from the fact that Roberts signed his name. In the Internet world, signing one's name has value. It creates accountability, makes one more conscious of one's words.
Anonymity in the Internet world, on the other hand, creates what psychologists have dubbed "online disinhibition effect ". The disinhibition - the willingness to say things on line that you would never say to someone's face - exists in Internet communications where one signs one's name. But it is far more likely to show up behind the cloak of anonymity. Anonymity allows one to be vile and stupid with no need to be held accountable later for what one says.
You could see this in Roberts' blog. He was civil, thoughtful, hard-hitting at times, but consistently decent. There was a core of contributors who signed their names. They were great. Anonymous posters in the comments on his blog could be uncivil, vile, and often useless. I used to read Roberts' posts, but I largely skipped the comment threads.
There's a new blog on the scene, focused on the recent Bechtel takeover of Los Alamos management - LANL the Corporate Story. In contrast to Roberts' openness, the new blog is run by "Pat the Dog." Pat, apparently a current lab employee, no doubt has good reasons for withholding his or her identity. But Pat's anonymity has led to rather a surfeit of disinhibition.
A recent cheap shot at the Los Alamos Monitor is a great example. If I knew who Pat the Dog was, I'd be able to have a thoughtful conversation with him or her about the underlying issue of media standards of information gathering and reporting versus blog standards, and why his criticism of Monitor reporter Roger Snodgrass is poorly informed. If Pat had to sign his or her name, he or she might be more circumspect about trashing the integrity and ethics of the Monitor reporter with so little evidence to back up the charge.
There's been some great stuff on the new blog, especially the post last week by John Pedicini, the nuclear weapons designer working on the new Reliable Replacement Warhead. It's worth noting that Pedicini signed his name and stood behind his words. (And John, if you're reading, be sure to invite me to your going away party! [Happy-Face sign]).
But mostly, the new blog has just devolved into a bunch of anonymous complaining and whining . Too bad.
[As for "anonymity," I will remain in that state for the duration--sorry, John. And I think a significantly larger number of people are choosing to remain anonymous when they post to this blog than Doug's, because of the 'atmosfear' at LANL these days under corporate management and intimidation--see, for example, the earlier post on reporting of safety incidents and the pleth of comments thereupon.
Do you think, John, that all these people from group leader on down are just flippin' paranoids? Wackos? Nutcases? Why more so now than even under Nanos' Infamous Shutdown? Oh, yeah, you always get the outspoken types who impolitely raise their hands and ask for simple, straightforward, but embarrassing clarifications from managers (even signing their names to posts or letters to the papers), but there are plenty others at the Lab who should not be held to some inhuman level of perfection you newspaper reporters seem to prefer. (I might just mention the name of one "reporter" for you to think about when you demand perfection of LANL employees: Judith Miller, formerly of the NYT.)
Now, I promise to do a better job in future of keeping in check my distaste for what looks to me like in-house ("pet") reporters, but I will ask you and your colleagues to do more assiduous digging and questioning of the manager class. They have much to answer for, believe me. And my mission is to provide as fair a forum for my fellow workers as I can for holding managers accountable.
(By the way, Doug's blog was accused at times of descending into a swamp of "anonymous complaining and whining." But you expect that from management shills, both inside and outside the institution; it's just part of the "joys" of being a blogger. Have a nice day. -No Happy-Face sign.)
--Pat, who fetches the paper in the mornings]
A glovebox is a sealed workspace that allows lab workers to handle radioactive materials safely from a separate area.
The suspension of the work comes after two lab workers were exposed to plutonium through cuts they suffered in separate accidents while working in gloveboxes last month.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said the amount of plutonium was relatively small.
But he said the seriousness of the accidents is associated with the exposure to open wounds.
Roark said both workers are responding well to therapies.
Lab managers were informed of the incidents Jan. 25 and immediately suspended handling plutonium in gloveboxes pending a full review, he added.
DOE is searching the blog for info on Pedicini
Terry's ears hust have been burning
Terry "There Is No FBI Investigation of Mitchell" Wallace is checking himself out on the blog (he's a regular visitor here).
Monday, February 19, 2007
RRW Losing Support?
Nuclear arsenal proposal blasted
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER, Inside Bay Area, 02/19/2007
SAN FRANCISCO Experts assembled by the world's largest scientific organization declined in a report Sunday to endorse a Bush administration plan for redesigning all U.S. nuclear weapons, citing a lack of reliable cost estimates and of proven methods for verifying whether the new hydrogen bombs will work without test explosions.
The new weapons could lead to hardier bombs that are easier to make and harder for terrorists to detonate, but the cost benefits "are less certain and would only be established in the long term," a panel of nuclear weapons experts said
In presentations here before the American Association for the Advancement of Science, weapons officials and military leaders pressed the case for remaking the U.S. arsenal with more durable nuclear explosives, as well as more modern safety and security features than are present in existing weapons built in the 1970s and'80s.
"If the policy is to have nuclear weapons, the policy ought to be to make them as secure as possible, as safe as possible. Anything less is irresponsible," said Gen. James Cartwright, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, the military branch over all U.S. nuclear forces.
Every year directors of the nation's three nuclear weapons labs and top Energy and Defense department officials certify the safety, security and reliable operation of the nuclear arsenal without nuclear testing, and have done so since 1996. An official of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the weapons arm of the U.S. Energy Department, stressed Sunday that the existing bombs and warheads remain fine, but he suggested that senior scientists have uncertainty about what may happen to the weapons in the future as they age and components are replaced.
"We see increased risks absent nuclear testing in ensuring the safety, security and reliability of today's stockpile (of nuclear arms)," said John Harvey, the nuclear agency's director of policy planning.
With the new "reliable, replacement warheads," he said, the United States could move more easily to a leaner, less costly complex of labs and factories that could make the bombs on demand, reducing the need to keep thousands of redundant warheads in storage as insurance against problems, as is the case today.
Under a deal with Congress, the new weapons would have the same military missions as the bombs and warheads that they replace. But the factory to make them would give the United States more agility to manufacture new types of weapons, if needed, Cartwright said.
"It has to," he said. "If 10 years from now, you need a new capability, the question is whether you have the science and the manufacturing capability to respond to it."
But an early report from a panel assembled by the AAAS most of them former Energy Department or nuclear-weapons lab executives found many of the benefits of the new warheads distant in time and uncertain, and said there is no clear evidence of future breakdown in the existing nuclear arsenal.
"I think the uncertainty is serious and it's legitimate, but it's not yet empirical," said panel chairman and physicist C. Bruce Tarter, former director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is competing to lead development of the first of the new warheads.
The panel also said it was impossible based on information available now to judge the administration's new RRWs against the current course of simply maintaining the bombs and warheads designed, tested and fielded during the Cold War.
"If there aren't numbers for costs or schedules, how do you know it's better than what you're doing?" Tarter said.
The experts agreed, however, that existing U.S. weapons are changing from their original designs due to aging and gradual component replacement with parts designed to be as close as possible to the original.
"It's a hard problem, and there's no panacea. And it's going to be with us as long as we have nuclear weapons," Tarter said.
The question then becomes whether it is better to stick with maintaining existing, well-tested designs or rely on the new, untested but more generously designed and more secure warheads.
"We would say there isn't enough information to say," Tarter said.
Administration proponents for the new warheads and a new bomb factory coupled with them argued that the plan should allow for more cuts in U.S. weapons held in reserve and make a return to nuclear testing less likely.
But some critics say other nations will read the policy as signaling U.S. intent to keep a nuclear arsenal forever, contrary to promises 30 years ago under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work toward disarmament.
If the Bush administration chooses to pursue the new warheads, it will take "White House leadership that produces bipartisan support for two decades" and "be coupled with a transparent administration policy on nuclear weapons, including comments concerning stockpile size, nuclear testing and nonproliferation."
The panel's experts also indirectly chided administration and weapons lab officials for pitching such a laundry list of selling points for the new bombs, some of them contradictory, saying that the military should "specify which design features (reliability, surety, manufacturability) are most important since not all can be simultaneously optimized."
Without nuclear testing to prove that the new weapons would work, bomb designers would have to rely on a combination of experiments and measurements, and some members of the expert panel were not convinced that such a recipe has been found to deliver the same confidence as a full-blown nuclear test.
"Certifying a new nuclear explosive package remains an unproven technical feat," said Raymond Jeanloz, a University of California, Berkeley, planetary scientist and panelist.
Cartwright said he was confident, however, and felt future military commanders and presidents would be as well.
"My crystal ball is no better than anyone else's," the general said. But designing the new warheads with more generous specifications, less like a highly tuned sports car and more like a pickup truck, should help, he said.
"And the science has gotten better."
Santa Fe New Mexican
February 19, 2007
We're best, right?
Far too many things are classified in the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Father of the hydrogen bomb Edward Teller argued that after six months there are no longer any secrets. Automatic declassification after six months would alleviate the problem. Declassify almost everything. This is “forward thinking.”
As for arrogance, it is unfair to single out lab personnel as being arrogant. Isn't our country the best the world has ever known? Doesn’t everyone want to come here? Don’t we have a country wonderfully run by corporations? Isn't our political system which lets everyone vote, with the masses bought by enormous advertising budgets, the very best? Aren't our politicians, bought by lobbyists, the very best money can buy? Isn’t “W” doing his very best to transplant our political system into Iraq? Nothing can be conceived as better than our country as it is. It is the end of history. Our country is arrogant.
Edward B. Grothus
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I thought you had outgrown that nasty tendency of being a friendly mouthpiece of the LANL Administration. As you well know, the FBI is also investigating the validity of the claim that former Associate Director John Mitchell violated security rules by taking a laptop with classified information on it to his home. That is not mentioned anywhere in your fluff piece.
Small town newspaper -- what else should we expect, I guess.
-Pat, The Dog
FBI queried on security breach
ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor
What did the FBI learn from the discovery of 1,588 pages of classified and unclassified documents in the home of a subcontract worker near Los Alamos National Laboratory?
That's what House investigators want to know now about the security breach that came to light in October.
The FBI is investigating the unauthorized access and removal of classified information as an ongoing criminal investigation, but the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee has asked for a briefing on the FBI's clearance system at LANL and, by implication, throughout the nuclear complex.
"The recent incident at LANL, and the findings in the Inspector General's report, indicate there may be significant deficiencies involving the application of personnel security policies and standards within the Department," wrote the chairman and ranking member of the subcommittee on Thursday to FBI Dir. Robert Mueller III.
Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. and Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., presided over hearings Jan. 31 that included testimony by energy department officials and top officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration that oversees LANL.
The congressmen pointed out that security weaknesses were identified in the Government Accountability Office's testimony during an Armed Services hearing and noted that Energy Secretary Bodman was transferring two additional security experts from headquarters to Los Alamos.
The FBI receives about $1 million a year from DOE to perform portions of security clearances and related investigations.
The congressmen want to know if the FBI examined how the subcontract employee involved in the removal of classified material got her clearance and what further assurances need to be made in the system.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
"Safety" at LANL: A statistical game, an employee nightmare, or a threat to management bonuses?
--Pat, the vigilant, safety-minded Dog
The “safety” area of LANS has now become a warehouse for former Bechtel executives, who are terrified that they may lose their huge bonus fees. Their allegiance is not to LANL, but to their former corporation.
In late November 2006, the LANL site received 20 year record snowfalls and black ice was all over the lab. The result was many slips, trips, and falls sustained by LANL employees, some as serious as fractures, and many in the dreaded “recordable” category. “Recordable” injuries are a safety metric under managerial performance assessments. One former Bechtel employee, now a safety manager, demanded to know if these recordable slip and fall injuries were witnessed, because he wanted “independent corroboration” that they actually occurred at LANL. His attitude seems to be that LANL employees are getting injured just to hurt his safety statistics. We all know how much fun a fracture is …
This Bechtel corporate focus on ”the numbers,” rather than trying to improve real safety at the site, has succeeded in intimidating many employees from seeking medical attention at Occupational Medicine when they are injured. Only those injured seriously enough that they can’t drag themselves off site are reporting their injuries. Managers are now held accountable if their employees get recordable injuries, and the injured employees are now too often the subject of not sympathetic, but punitive attention, for having sustained a serious injury.
Just Say "No!" to "Frankenbomb"!
By John Arnold
Journal Staff Writer, ABQ Journal, Santa Fe Edition, Saturday, February 17, 2007
A senior Los Alamos National Laboratory weapons scientist says a program to develop a new kind of nuclear warhead will fail if the government takes a "frankenbomb" approach to its design.
Weapons designers at LANL and California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are competing to design the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which would replace existing warheads in the nation's aging Cold War-era arsenal.
John Pedicini, LANL's design team leader, believes LANL won the competition based on the technical merits of its design. But Pedicini wrote on a Web log that following the technical competition, federal nuclear weapons officials asked the rival labs to come up with a "plan of cooperation," including a hybrid warhead design that would include elements from both teams' plans.
"A hybrid design by inexperienced personnel, managed by committee, is not the best approach... The best appellation I have seen for such an approach is 'frankenbomb,' '' Pedicini writes in an entry posted on the site "LANL: The Corporate Story."
Noting that he was writing as a private citizen and not as a representative of the lab, Pedicini said that he has been told by "multiple highly placed sources, with ranks into sub-cabinet level" that LANL won the technical competition.
He added that there are some features of the Livermore design that are an advance over his own team's plan, and that he would incorporate those advances, should LANL win the competition.
"If this is what is meant by hybrid, then the outcome would be good," said Pedicini, who did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking additional comment.
Weapons designers were asked to come up with plans for a replacement warhead that could be deployed without underground nuclear testing. The teams submitted their designs last year to the Nuclear Weapons Council, an inter-agency panel of Department of Energy and Pentagon officials who decided last fall that the Reliable Replacement Warhead program should move forward.
The Bush administration's budget proposal for fiscal year 2008 calls for tripling program funding to $88 million.
But the weapons council has yet to name a lead design team, fueling speculation among lab workers and observers about the competition's outcome.
"There are a lot of rumors out there, and there are a lot of people who think they know what they're talking about. As I understand it, it's a very small group of people that really do know the situation and are discussing it, and that's the Nuclear Weapons Council," said National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Bryan Wilkes.
LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said that Pedicini's comments were not made on behalf of the lab, but he declined to comment further.
Pedicini is the second senior LANL weapons designer to speak publicly this month, without lab management's permission, about the Reliable Replacement Warhead and nuclear weapons policy.
Joe Martz, LANL's Reliable Replacement Warhead project leader, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the U.S. should consider a nuclear weapons policy that would eventually eliminate the country's nuclear arsenal.
He also believes that it's unlikely LANL will win the Reliable Replacement Warhead competition, due to security lapses highlighted during a congressional hearing last month, according to a Chronicle article published Tuesday.
In his Web log post, Pedicini calls the Jan. 30 congressional hearing "a wild card whose influence I cannot gauge."
The Reliable Replacement Warhead is a key component of NNSA's plan to consolidate and modernize the nation's nuclear weapons complex.
Supporters say the new warhead design will be easier and safer to maintain and will offer more protection against unauthorized use. It will also allow the government to dismantle old weapons and ultimately reduce the size of the stockpile, NNSA officials have said.
However, critics say that programs to maintain and extend the life of the existing nuclear weapons have been successful. Going forward with a new warhead design is unnecessary and will undermine global nonproliferation efforts, they contend.
As to whether the RRW "undermine[s] global nonproliferation efforts," that depends strongly on who runs American foreign policy, and whether or not they prefer to use diplomacy as a rational alternative to the Neoconservative pre-emptive, who-needs-allies approach.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Copper Heist Du Jour
Is anybody besides myself looking for the Great Copper Heist to become the next LANL scandal du jour? After all, anybody can see that this is just another violation that's the fault of the Arrogant Butthead Scientists and their Academic Culture.
[/Sarcasm Off/ --Pat.]
By: Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Two US House members are asking what the FBI has learned about an October security breach at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The FBI is investigating the breach at the northern New Mexico nuclear weapons lab.
The problem came to light when more than 1,500 pages of documents—some of them classified—were found during a drug raid at the home of a lab subcontractor’s former employee.
Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan and Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky have asked FBI Director Robert Mueller for a briefing on the extent of security problems in the Energy Department complex.
Stupak says he’s concerned similar problems may exist elsewhere in the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
I never expected to be the subject of comment in the blog, however I noticed the discussion on RRW and management support while searching the web for information on RRW. Note that I write this as a private citizen and not as a representative of LANL or LANS.
The quotes of mine are accurate, but dated. The outcome of RRW and actual management support thereof are facts not yet fully in evidence. Ultimately the outcome of this competition may be the decisive factor in the upcoming RIF decisions.
Multiple highly placed sources, with ranks into sub-cabinet level, in 5 separate organizations have told me and/or the LANL RRW team that we won the RRW technical competition. Senatorial language prohibits outcome based upon anything but technical merit. This win occurred, despite LANL being severely restricted on what information we could present. These restrictions were particularly constraining in adequately presenting our case to the SAGSAT. The LANL team performed magnificently, despite the uneven playing field, and in this regard I could not be happier.
After the technical competition, there was a directive from the NWC for the lab directors and NNSA to come back with a plan of cooperation between the labs. This was to include examination of a hybrid design. Director Anastasio's confidence in the LANL RRW design is, perhaps, best illustrated by the fact that he declined detailed technical briefings of the sort received by the LLNL director.
Director Anastasio and his senior managers have assured me and the LANL RRW team in many venues that LANS did not take a dive, did not stab the LANL RRW team in the back, and were fully supportive of the design and team. Asking again at the all hands meeting, absent additional facts would be redundant. Currently, it is not unreasonable to take management statements at face value. At a minimum, LANS management is smart enough to know that word parsing would destroy their credibility.
The rumors that the NWC directive was turned into an opportunity for private contractors to override the POG technical decision also seem somewhat hard to credit. LANS, and soon to be LINS, are private contractors under the UC umbrella, and RRW is a weapons purchase. Under DOD contracting rules, I cannot fathom Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrup-Grumman etc being granted such latitude. UC doing so during a time of intense scrutiny would certainly redefine arrogance.
All that remains to judge LANS by, is the result. If LANL wins, we were not stabbed in the back. I am anxiously awaiting the results and any explanations thereof. We can then all judge for ourselves whether the reality speaks differently than the words. Note that the recent security hearings are a wild card whose influence I cannot gauge.
I had hoped to see the revolutionary advances in safety and security achieved by the LANL RRW team highlighted in answer to the legitimate question posed by Representatives Stupak and Barton about what can be done only at LANL. Experiments supported by simulations have unambiguously shown that the LANL design will perform as advertised, LLNL "peer review" notwithstanding. No competing design has been shown to meet the same standards. Hostility to the LANL advances in safety and security are another puzzle to me, as safety and security were not only the top priorities in the RRW competition but also the topic of the recent congressional hearings. In this regard, I am somewhat less than satisfied.
As some of you may know, I have championed the cause for RRW for more than 15 years, yet there are ways to fail at this endeavor. A hybrid design by inexperienced personnel, managed by committee, is not the best approach, and even provoked negative comment at the JASON review. The best appellation I have seen for such an approach is "frankenbomb." That said, there are some features of the LLNL design that are an advance over ours, and if we get the assignment, I would incorporate them in our design. If this is what is meant by hybrid, then the outcome would be good.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
You may sign my name as I stand by what I say. In this case I will take the LANS management claims of no retaliation at face value. In the worst case I am used to being retaliated against for blowing the whistle on national security issues.
Multiple ADC reviews have shown this letter to be unclassified.
--John M. Pedicini
"The Committee expects the initial RRW design approved by the Department to be selected based on a combination of considerations, including the ability to certify the warhead without underground nuclear testing, cost production and ease of maintenance and dismantlement. The Committee would oppose the use of workload leveling among the labs as a factor in any design selection decision. The design teams at both Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory have worked extremely hard on their respective designs with the expectation that the best design would be selected. Any selection that isn't decided purely on merits would be a disservice to the Department of Defense, the RRW design teams and the NNSA."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
By Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report, Tuesday 13 February 2007
Two weeks ago, a devastating report by the world's leading climate scientists warned that global warming is no longer a threat, but is a manmade disaster that has already impacted the environment. The report confirmed that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases were to blame for severe heat waves, floods and an increase in more-intense hurricanes and tropical storms. Climatologists predict the temperature will rise by two to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and sea levels are expected to increase by seven to 23 inches by the year 2100. Yet, hours after the report was released, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the Bush administration would continue to oppose mandatory reductions in greenhouse gases in the form of CO2 caps. Mandatory caps could financially ruin some of the energy companies responsible for polluting the air, he said.
"There is a concern within this administration, which I support, that the imposition of a carbon cap in this country would - may - lead to the transfer of jobs and industry abroad (to nations) that do not have such a carbon cap," Bodman said. "You would then have the US economy damaged, on the one hand, and the same emissions ... potentially even worse emissions." The problem with that logic is that it is being peddled by a Bush appointee who for a dozen years ran a Texas-based chemical company that spent years on the top five lists of the country's worst polluters.
It's not just a few clouds of smoke emanating from an oil refinery or a power plant that got Bodman's old company, Boston-based Cabot Corporation, those accolades. It was the 54,000 tons of toxic emissions that his company's refineries released into the air in the Lone Star state in 1997 alone that made Cabot the fourth-largest source of toxic emissions in Texas. Cabot is the world's largest producer of industrial carbon black, a byproduct of the oil refinery process.
Bodman personally contributed $1,000 to Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and $20,000 to Republican committees in the 1999-2000 election. Bodman is the wealthiest member of the Bush administration. His net worth is estimated to be between $42 million and $164 million, the bulk of it in Cabot stock, deferred compensation and other benefits. In 2000, the year Bodman left Cabot to join the Bush administration as deputy commerce secretary, Cabot accounted for 60,000 of the more than half a million tons of toxic emissions released into the Texas air, according to report by the Texas State Summary of Emissions. A loophole created in the 1972 Texas Clean Air Act exempted or "grandfathered" industrial plants built before 1971 from new and stricter pollution controls. But in the mid-1990s, companies such as Cabot were supposed to curb the pollution coming from their refineries. Environmentalists demanded that then-Governor George W. Bush rein in the polluters and close the so-called grandfather loophole as the air in Texas became smoggier. Instead, in 1997, Bush asked two oil company executives to outline a voluntary program that allowed the grandfathered polluters to decide on their own exactly how much to cut the pollution at their plants. The oil execs summoned a meeting of two dozen industry reps at Exxon offices in Houston and presented them with the program.
In a memo obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, one executive wrote that "clearly the insiders from oil and gas believe that the Governor's Office will 'persuade' the (Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission) to accept what program is developed between the industry group and the Governor's Office." And the program was accepted. "And two years later, this joke of a program was enacted into law by a bill written by the general counsel for the Texas Chemical Council, who also lobbies for energy and utility companies. The bill was denounced by newspapers across the state," according to a March 5, 2000, report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
According to people familiar with the legislation, Sam Bodman was part of the original working group that drafted legislation that Bush signed into law. That legislation basically permitted Cabot and other companies to continue to emit the same level of - and in some cases more - toxic emissions as they had been emitting years earlier.
Bodman's response to Friday's global warming report ensures that companies like Cabot can continue to emit carbon black at an accelerated rate. Moreover, as long as he is energy secretary, Bodman said Friday, he will continue to oppose federal measures to force a reduction in greenhouse gases. Doing so, Bodman said, will save jobs.
Jason Leopold is a former Los Angeles bureau chief for Dow Jones Newswire. He has written over 2,000 stories on the California energy crisis and received the Dow Jones Journalist of the Year Award in 2001 for his coverage on the issue as well as a Project Censored award in 2004. Leopold also reported extensively on Enron's downfall and was the first journalist to land an interview with former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling following Enron's bankruptcy filing in December 2001. Leopold has appeared on CNBC and National Public Radio as an expert on energy policy and has also been the keynote speaker at more than two dozen energy industry conferences around the country.
Excerpt from email to an Anonymous Contributor from Senator Bingaman. -->
"I certainly do not condone recent statements by Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Bodman blaming 'arrogant' scientists for the Lab's security problems. I believe that any comprehensive evaluation of security situation at LANL should include assessments of the respective roles played by DOE , National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and Los Alamos National Security (LANS), and should not unduly focus on a handful of employees at any one of these agencies. I believe that the organizational relationship between NNSA and DOE may be to blame for recent incidents at LANL as much as any other factor."
--Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
(No word from the other, R-NM, Senator. Yet.)