Saturday, March 10, 2007
That was way back then; this is now. And Harold's words apply to the current RRW case, too, even if he doesn't fully realize it: We competed with Livermore, and we wiped them out, at least as far as the Navy is concerned, but NNSA had their minds made up ahead of time to give the RRW to Livermore. That's why there's more than just "bitter words" this time -- there's national security at stake. Congressional and Senatorial staff: Pay attention; it's time to investigate!
Livermore lab's selection to build new H-bomb spurs torrent of bitter words from some at sister lab Los Alamos
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated: 03/08/2007 07:57:37 PM PST
Inside the top-secret passages of the nation's nuclear weapons labs, scientists talk of a renaissance, a glorious return to inventing hydrogen bombs after a 20-year hiatus. But at one lab -- Los Alamos, the place most linked in history with nuclear bomb design -- such talk is less a celebration than a snarl.
For more than a year, leading bomb scientists at Los Alamos tried ignoring tumult at the lab over security problems and new, corporate management, and instead poured themselves into designing a paradoxical bomb -- one so reliably destructive that the nation would need fewer of them.
For inspiration, Los Alamos' weaponeers invoked the Manhattan Project and devised what could have been the world's first wholly new, multistage warhead without resort to nuclear explosive testing. Some suggested this new "reliable, replacement warhead" or RRW could be the lab's future, its salvation from years of troubles.
But in the week since the Bush administration tapped competing scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to design the first nuclear warhead in a replacement arsenal, scientists at Los Alamos have recoiled angrily and flung accusations in anonymous Internet postings that the warhead design competition was tainted by politics and doomed to failure.
Over at the latest incarnation of a public lab blog, "LANL: The Corporate Story," Los Alamos director Michael Anastasio -- a former Livermore bomb designer -- is pilloried as a traitor to Los Alamos and its weaponeers. He is cast as an instrument of a long-running conspiracy to shut down the famed birthplace of the bomb.
Elsewhere, Los Alamos staff wishes openly for Livermore's failure in developing the new warhead for the Navy's submarine-launched missiles.
"Well, as an embarrassed LANL RRW team member, I believe our task should become to do all that we can to kill this program we (far more than LLNL) created," wrote one commenter who claimed to have worked on the Los Alamos design. "The sooner the Navy scuttles this, the better."
Another scientist added: "LANL don't lose hope yet! Even though RRW officially went to LLNL, LLNL has a long history of proposing and winning programs only for LANL to pick up the program and complete the job. My opinion is that LANL should sit back and watch as LLNL falls on their face technically once again."
Such rivalries and jealousies are a hallmark of nuclear bomb design, American style. Years ago, a Livermore designer put it this way: "The Russians are the competition, but Los Alamos is the enemy."
But even veterans of the Cold War, when Los Alamos and Livermore bomb physicists fought bitterly for the right to design the latest nuclear explosive for the military, don't remember reading or hearing such naked venom.
"To be sure the people who worked hard in the competition would be disappointed," said Phillip Coyle, a former Livermore associate director and weapons testing chief. "I don't recall ever seeing this kind of correspondence."
Former Los Alamos director Harold Agnew was taken aback.
"We competed with Livermore, and we wiped them out, but you didn't hear them crying," Agnew said. "Once in a while they did win something, and we didn't cry about it. There was never any cry-babying on either side."
The big difference, of course, is that Cold War designers often addressed their counterparts in starchy telegrams and memos. There was no e-mail, much less the anonymous wilds of the blogosphere.
Paul White, a former weapons designer who is chief of national security planning and policy at Los Alamos, said, "The most disgruntled find a way of venting in that kind of venue."
And there was a lot to vent because Los Alamos has been under extreme scrutiny from Congress and transition to new management.
"So in that atmosphere with everybody sort of hypersensitized, news of the RRW competition strikes a little harder," White said.
In the Cold War, there also was plenty of work to go around. Not so today. The first of the new warheads, designated RRW-1, is intended as replacement for the most numerous nuclear explosive in the U.S. arsenal, a Los Alamos design called the W76. Other RRWs are proposed for every bomb and warhead in the U.S. arsenal but the next design competition is more than a year away and highly dependent on the success of RRW-1.
That's one reason why Livermore scientists dropped their usual inclination toward novel, feature-packed bombs and turned to a well-tested warhead from 20 years ago as the basis for their design.
When federal weapons officials at the Defense and Energy departments reviewed the two designs, Los Alamos won higher marks for innovation, ingenuity and another goal of the replacement warhead -- exercising a full range of scientific and production skills.
But Livermore's design was judged more likely to be finished by 2012, meeting the target date for manufacturing the first warheads, according to Marty Schoenbauer, acting head of weapons programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration.
"The Livermore design had a shorter distance to go," he said.
And for those keeping count, official, conflicting reason #2 for why LANL lost RRW was given. Recall, D'Agastino and crew said the first time around the LLNL design was "more conservative" and "gave higher confidence in the ability to certify."
Apparently, Marty didn't get that list of talking points, as he said both designs "we're equally certifiable", but that the LLNL proposal needed less development (duh, it wasn't nearly as transformational), and that "it had a shorter distance to go to get to the finish line" and "that was the tiebreaker".
You can pick this logic appart to the extreme: if the only goal was delivering a reliable, certified system to the Navy in the shortest time and with the least needed development, you don't need RRW at all! It's called the 76-1, and the Navy just took delivery of the first unit.
Transformation isn't free. Either you want to transform the deterrent or you don't. Revolutionary safety and security *will* require some development.
Another point that steams me is that the LANL team offered these ideas as modular: you could include them if you wished, or delay/delete them if you wanted a quicker implementation. We got no credit for the good ideas, and now we're penalized for offering options (with NNSA now saying the development of those OPTIONS work against our proposal).
What a joke.
# posted by Anonymous : 3/07/2007 6:54 PM
A lesson in NNSA math. Marty said, LANL was judged ahead in safety & security (presented as the number 1 and 2 criteria to the design teams), more transformational, and equally certifiable. So it was a tie! Huh? That's right, … in the no-lab-left-behind math class, there is no such thing as an inequality. So kids, we need a tie breaker. Hmm, how about we judge em based upon the ability to meet a delivery date that is years before the Navy wants the first unit. This must just be a ridiculously bad dream. Can these guys be this dumb? They can’t even tell the same story over the course of 96 hours. Makes you wonder if they are just making things up as they go or are they really this incompetent?
Let's take stock and try to predict how this is going to turn out. NNSA ignored Congress' desire for transformation by making an archeological choice of a legacy design over one that allows them to modernize their complex. Oops #1. They flipped off the customer (Navy SSP) by giving them a design that offers essentially nothing beyond the 76-1 (from a team the Navy wisely does not trust). Oops #2. They slighted the taxpayer by offering an inferior safety/security approach. Oops #3.
Now who is arrogant?
Come on Congress, wake up!
# posted by Anonymous : 3/08/2007 7:46 PM
What can we do? Vote. Vote the corruption out
A congressional investigation is definitely in order (and, I believe, has already been requested).
By every account that I've heard, LANL won the technical competition. Also by every account that I heard, NNSA (and our beloved LANL-cum LLNL director Anastasio) influenced the decision process in order to be able to declare LLNL the winner.
A congressional investigation is definitely in order (and, I believe, has already been requested).
3/09/2007 10:23 AM
If that is the case the EWOK should lose his golden parachute and don some cuffs!
"Also by every account that I heard, NNSA (and our beloved LANL-cum LLNL director Anastasio) influenced the decision process in order to be able to declare LLNL the winner. 3/09/2007 2:23 PM "
I think that all of you need to examine the post on this blog. When people dare NNSA and DOE to shut the place down, constantly show their dismay with whomever is running the place, and final post the words of an obviously disgruntle employees who implied that , "before he'd work on RRW with LLNL he'd sabotage the project" ; had better hoped that comment like this didn't fall on wide open ears. As you can see, it did, and in the end LANL got nothing. I'll bet that these three post cooked your goose. Having observed the last few weeks and seeing what National Laboratory was awarded the multi million dollar project, I honestly feel that the doors of opportunity at LANL are well on their way to being welded shut forever . For those of you who rolled with the punches during this transition and avoided the flogging of NNSA, DOE, LANS and the UC, I say congratulations for your patients and understanding. The unfortunate reality is that by the actions of a few, the masses will suffer.
As far as Anastasio goes of being a traitor as expressed on this blog and getting a pair of handcuffs, well I think there will be a lot more heading that way before he does. If nothing else, something worse can happen as a result of this. A lot of well paying jobs could quicker go away in the blink of an eye, putting a lot of people out to pasture with no hopes or dreams.
My question to all of you is, "was it worth it"?
Does anyone truly believe that the feds can't get access to the owner of this blog or the ISP that sponsors all of the blogs. In some cases I know that none of us don't care and I am sure that the feds can distinguish the difference between venting and threats. After review of the URL listed above I will absolutely be more careful in how I say what I want to convey.
Just got this little bit of information from friend. I wonder how long it will be before LANL The Corporate Story will be on their radar screen
3/10/2007 8:05 AM
Oh come on, the FBI is run far worse than LANL. They could not even get Wen Ho Lee. I am sure they could not find a poster on the blog.
3/10/2007 11:58 PM
Would you like to bet that they already know the names, providers and IP address of everyone who "visits" this site and I am "sure" it can be done without leaving a trace that the common everyday job blow could find, but then again why would they care if you did see that they were visiting, unless they wanted to gather a profile on each person that voices his or her opinion here. Then they would sit back and carefully compile the information and use it to their advantage when the time came.Hell maybe they'll even give that information to LANS where it will be used to determine which employees will go out the door first. I don't put anything past them. It's all good to know information when one works in a facility like LANL.