Friday, March 02, 2007
The sound of coffin nails being driven home
Today's announcement that the RRW program has been awarded to LLNL was one more coffin nail in the LANL casket. It has now been clearly demonstrated that the one unique, indispensable, irreplacable talent claimed by LANL supporters, i.e. nuclear weapons design expertise, is no longer needed by the sponsor. It has been dispensed with, replaced.
What's left for LANL to do? Pit production? Probably not: the DAF (Device Assembly Area) at the Neveda Test Site is just sitting there, empty, all 300,000 square feet of it. The middle of the NTS is a more logical place to house plutonium foundry operations than LANL.
Reprocessing spent reactor fuel rods? There are no train tracks going up the hill. There are train tracks leading into Savannah River and Oak Ridge. In case you missed the implication: spent reactor cores are shipped by train.
Doing really cool simulations? Of what? Who is going to pay more than $400,000 per staff member to develop code when there are dozens of organizations out there that can do it better, faster, and cheaper?
The way I see it, the shutdown of LANL is on, or even a bit ahead of schedule. June 1st will mark the next phase in the LANL SRP (Staff Reduction Program). That date marks the first year anniversary of LANS at LANL, as well the official start of LANL employee at-will status, which also coincides nicely with a largish budget shortfall.
Does anybody want to predict the schedule for completion of the LANL shutdown? My bet is that within 7 years the only workers at (the former) Los Alamos National Laboratory will be the cleanup crews.
A message from your friendly LANS (aka LLNL) management:
What? You people were expecting good news for LANL? Get real! Those days are gone forever. Now get back to work while you still have your temporary jobs.
If any one of you makes a mistake among LANL's 10,000 staff or sub-contractors, we'll come down hard on all of your heads regardless of who is responsible. Got that, you butt-heads and cowboys?
Actually, we'd prefer that most of you would leave the premises right now, as we don't really need your services and it would make our "mop-up" operations at LANL that much easier.
We find it amusing that most of you desperately hang on to your pathetic jobs regardless of how much we lower LANL's morale. Since we don't really like managing a bunch of losers, we've devised an escape plan for our executive team which will allow us to move back to cushy new jobs at LLNL once our work at LANL is complete. We can do this because we've recently seen to it that LLNL is where all of the future growth in new research for the the weapons complex will now take place. But, hey, can you blame us? We're true-blue UC'ians, and we don't really give a shit about Northern New Mexico (other than owning nice vacation homes in Santa Fe).
In no time at all we should be able to lie and cajole our way into growing the RRW design project at LLNL into a bloated, multi-billion dollar project just like we did with the NIF. Sweet!
But, hey, enjoy your new pit factory, LANL looooooooosers.
No doubt about it. Any future left at LANL will probably be in the production area, with Bechtel and BWXT both profiting from this change in LANL's mission.
That's what every worker in this country has to do. And that's the only way you'll dig out of this hole.
It was clear that they were not pleased with the decision, and they have vowed to continue the RRW effort in the RRW-2, which will be for the Air Force.
Some folks from X Division (the NW Design division at LANL) asked questions about how the decision was made and what panel had concluded that the LLNL design was "more certifiable." The answers given were essentially "no answer." There was mention of the Nuclear Weapons Council and many other "advisors", but no one ever said that the NWC actually made the decision as it was announced.
Glenn Mara (PAD-NWP) said that he did not think there was any political mischief, just that LLNL had perhaps done a better job in its marketing. They said what the audience wanted to hear - "certifiable without testing," while LANL focused on the advances in safety, security and manufacturability. X Division staff stated to me that they felt that both designs were equally certifiable. They also expressed reservations about the LLNL package as a whole that are best discussed offline (and behind a fence). They do not agree that the LLNL design is "more rooted" in the Nuclear Test history.
Anyway, there are a bunch of disappointed people at LANL and it may be difficult to get enthusiasm back up to try this hard again.
I suggest that you take your skills and find an employer somewhere on this planet who cares.
You all signed a contract when you hired on at LANS that spelled out your at-will employment status. If you haven't signed another piece of paper indicating otherwise, you will be at-will employees come June 1.
With pit production being the major NW effort at LANL, the LDRD budget will be hard to justify.
The fun is over!
Those staff members who are permitted to remain, as the shrinking budget allows, have a few years left in which to continue practicing denial. It will eventually become inescapably obvious that LANL really is destined to be shut down by Congress.
But not just yet. It takes time for the reality of one's work place being phased out to fully sink in.
Why would any young scientist or engineer want to build a career here? There are none to be built. If you want a good job and a choice, it is time to face reality and get your resumes out there.
It seems quite clear when we were shut down so long, that the "visible" impact was minimal, even though we and our programs suffered irreversible damages. Admiral Butthead was running a dry run to see what the consequences would be, if LANL were to shut down. He was on a mission, and it was accomplished. Did anyone in the governement complain that he was impacting our mission, of which we would never recover? No! This is how LANL will be slowly dismantled and "Rocky Flattened"(term from another Blog entry). The LANL dismemberment will take far less that (5) years. 10,000 workers were laid off from Savannah River Site in less than (2) years.
If they were honest about the LANL dismantlement, chaos would result in the flood of exiting personnel and foreclosures. They want you to leave, no one is being asked to stay. They think a steady stream out is better than a flood.