Saturday, March 31, 2007
LANL Security Probe Will Not Be Delayed
A powerful congressional committee has rejected a request from New Mexico lawmakers to delay a government inquiry into Los Alamos National Laboratory security problems. House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., last month asked the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the feasibility of moving classified activities to other national laboratories "where there is a better track record with respect to security."
Earlier this month, Sens. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., wrote to committee leaders, asking that the GAO hold off on the investigation for six months to allow lab managers time to implement new operating and security procedures. Dingell and ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, rejected the request this week, saying that the GAO study "will not interfere with any steps (LANL managers) may be taking to improve security."
"The national security failures at Los Alamos are a matter of the utmost urgency," Dingell and Barton wrote in a letter dated March 27. Dingell has asked GAO to evaluate how LANL can reduce and consolidate the volume of classified material and the "security footprint" of the lab. His request followed January's congressional hearing in which lawmakers grilled LANL and Department of Energy officials over the lab's most recent security breach the discovery of hundreds of classified documents in the home of a former lab contractor.
Domenici said in a news release issued Friday that he is disappointed with Dingell's decision to move forward with the investigation. "However, if this GAO investigation goes forward, I believe it should focus on evaluating cost-effective security solutions at the lab, as opposed to solely focusing on punitive and unproductive assessments that would only lend themselves to breaking up the lab," Domenici said.
Their accusations and demands that work be removed from Los Alamos are a principal factor in the decision by NNSA to award the RRW contract to LLNL. Frankly, given this environment created by these 2 Congressman, I can understand why Secretary Bodman and Tom D'Agastino had no choice but to give the RRW contract to anyone but Los Alamos.
The damage to national security is direct. In so doing, the nation was not given the RRW option which truly revolutionizes transformation, safety, and security. Given what we now know is possible in nuclear weapon design, that intrinsic safety and use control is both achievable and consistent with a no-more-testing certification objective, I would suggest that any future weapon has an obligation to incorporate these features. Unfortunately, this opportunity has been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.
The political witch-hunt championed by these 2 Congressman has resulted in damage to our national security that enemies of our country could only hope to achieve.
FROM: Brad Lee Holian
SUBJECT: Reliable Replacement Warhead decision
DATE: 5 March 2007
TO: Senator Jeff Bingaman
United States Senate
Dear Senator Bingaman:
It is with considerable urgency that I write to you about the recent decision regarding the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) that was handed down on March 2, 2007, by the National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy. In that decision, the design put forward by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) was chosen over the one from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Paramount among the myriad problems that privatization has caused LANL is this matter of the RRW and its impact upon the nation’s nuclear security; so let me focus on that issue alone.
I believe that there are several significant concerns about weaknesses in the Livermore design that ought to be addressed in Senate hearings. In order to help you sort out some of these issues, I believe that your committee would be well advised to subpoena two witnesses from Los Alamos to testify: Joe Martz, the RRW team leader, and John Pedicini, the principal designer. (By subpoenaing them, you can protect them from potential reprisals.)
The issues that these two LANL gentlemen can address before your committee are as follows:
(1) Contrary to misstatements by NNSA’s chief, Tom D’Agostino, the Livermore design is not more “conservative” than Los Alamos’s. In order that the RRW satisfy the security and safety requirements of the Navy, both designs that were submitted were equally far from any Cold War nuclear warhead that was tested before the moratorium imposed by the first President Bush in 1992.
(2) Unlike the LANL design, the LLNL design does not meet the Navy’s security and safety requirements, that is, safety from accidental detonation (including from a nearby explosion), whether deliberate or accidental, under all imaginable transportation, terrorist, or wartime scenarios.
(3) The process by which the RRW design was chosen was deeply flawed, since the members of the committee (five from the military and two from NNSA) that performed hours of in-depth technical reviews over 18 months, voted overwhelmingly for the LANL design. Since the RRW is intended for placement aboard submarines, which carry by far the largest number of nuclear weapons in the arsenal, the Navy’s wishes ought to have been paramount, but they were overruled by NNSA’s political, rather than technical considerations.
(4) LANL’s new design, while not tested in its entirety in an underground explosion at the Nevada Test Site, is far from being “untested.” In fact, a number of experiments were performed on various facets of the design, including a non-nuclear implosion, diagnosed by radiography. Both the LANL and LLNL teams carried out independent computer simulations of each other’s RRW designs. Los Alamos’s computer simulations correctly predicted the marginal behavior of the Livermore design, and the successful behavior of their own; Livermore’s simulations erroneously predicted the “failure” of the Los Alamos design. On the other hand, the LANL team’s calculation of the implosion experiment, carried out prior to the actual experiment, correctly predicted the results, while the LLNL team’s calculation did not. This calls into question not only the capabilities of the Livermore designers, but the computational tools they use.
As a result of this troubling set of observations about the RRW competition between Los Alamos and Livermore, it would be appropriate and wise to receive sworn testimony from Joe Martz and John Pedicini. It would also be useful to subpoena the members of the Project Officers’ Group (POG), the only decision-making body that oversaw all technical aspects of the RRW competition, to ascertain under oath how they voted.
The ultimate goal of reducing the world’s nuclear arsenals cannot be accomplished without a reliable deterrent—both physical and intellectual—and I believe that the Los Alamos design (and the team that created it) is the only way to achieve that highly desirable end.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter of utmost importance to national security.
—Brad Lee Holian
Santa Fe, NM
[Disclaimer: I am an employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory, but I speak to you as a concerned American citizen. The opinions I’ve expressed in this letter do not reflect those of the management of LANL (LANS, LLC), nor of NNSA or DOE.]
I received the following response from Bingaman (dated March 16, 2007), but to date, nothing from Udall:
Dear Mr. Holian :
Thank you for contacting me regarding the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) recent selection of a design by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).
Following the award announcement, my staff traveled to NNSA headquarters for a detailed briefing on the Livermore design and why it was selected. While classification issues prevent me from commenting on the specifics of the selected proposal, it is my understanding that the Livermore design was believed to offer scientists a greater degree of certainty without additional testing. With this said, I have forwarded your letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee with the request that they consider the issues you've raised during their oversight hearing with the NNSA. Additionally, I plan to meet with members of the Armed Services Committee following that hearing to ensure that they are comfortable with the overall selection process. Please be assured that I have followed the development of the RRW project very carefully; I will do what I can to ensure that the recent award to LLNL does not negatively impact the morale or quality of science at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
Again, thank you for writing. Please continue to keep me informed regarding matters of importance to you and your community.
United States Senator
* The weapons program at LANL will go into a steep decline (funding and morale), followed in due course by a decline in other, more basic research efforts at LANL. The LANL Pit Factory (Rocky Flats South) will remain, but only for a couple of years, before it, too, will slowly wither away.
* LLNL will be the intellectual center of the DOE weapons complex for the future, but not for long: that "future" will also begin to decline, since LLNL is behind LANL by two years in the inexorable (irreversible) mad rush to privatization.
* The RRW will never be built, but it will be funded -- for only about two more years.
The Cold War has ended; the Manhattan Project has faded from memory.
The handwriting is on the wall; you see it before you.
--Pat, the Dog
That would be "nothing." There is almost no morale at Los Alamos.
The Laboratory's punitive culture with repeated cycles of retaliation and suppression has been picked up and enhanced by LANS.
LANL management continues to bludgeon the staff with far-reaching penalties for management failures, then wonders why few come forward with essential information for heading off problems before they occur.
The ones who do come forward have been summarily ignored.
Yet LANL management must continue to wonder why, while doing the same thing over and over again after each security incident, they keep meeting with the same results.
Those on the Blog who believe all LANL staff are cowed and spineless in the face of this management by retribution are wrong: some are fighting back.
The problem is that LANS policies for handling security and safety investigations, and discipline that might be appropriate as a result, are much more vague and subject to management abuse and manipulation without consequence than the much despised UC/LANL policies that have come before them.
If the nuclear power industry operated with the politically driven, reprisal-based incident investigation and employee discipline systems LANL uses, we'd probably see a much higher rate of serious and dangerous situations as the employees struggled to either hide errors precipitated by defects in management or operations to avoid the inevitable blame being placed back on them, or struggle to get the attention of the deaf and blind bureaucratic machinery put in place to cover management's rear.
Anastasio has been well regarded by people I've talked with at LLNL. For the life of me I can't understand why, and some of those LLNL people don't understand what happened to him on the way to Los Alamos.
For those of you seeking career advice, don't come to LANL. It's a terrible place to work, run by politically manipulated, spineless, parasitical senior managers incapable of doing the right thing.