Aug 3, 2007

Nuke Lab, Broken Down


Here's one from "Wired" that Pinky just passed on.

More fodder for those who like to claim that every uncomplimentary story about LANL is penned by "LANL-hating Santa Feans".

--Gussie

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Nuke Lab, Broken Down
By Noah Shachtman


Los Alamos' local alt-weekly has a great primer on the politics, economics, security, and strategic significance of the atom bomb's birthplace. Here's a snip:

Despite talk of turning toward a focus of renewable energy, the numbers tell a different story. In 2007, remember, only 3 percent of the lab’s work was related to energy and other programs. Meanwhile, the 2008 Energy Department budget request for “energy efficiency and renewable energy” at Los Alamos comes to just over $1 million (The request for money related to biomass, for instance is $50,000—close to half the 2007 request.)


Changing the mission of the lab would also change how the lab is funded each year, Monahan adds. As a nuclear weapons laboratory, Los Alamos has always received “entitlement appropriations,” he says. “It’s been just like Medicare or Social Security—every year [Congress] is going to appropriate for it.” Finding that same steady funding for things like renewable energy will be more difficult—particularly given the lack of federal action on energy independence and alternative energy.

After the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended, Greg Mello spent eight years as a consultant, trying to figure out diversification plans for California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories and Los Alamos. “Finally, we were forced to throw up our hands; everything was blocked,” he says, “and there were no examples in the United States of any such conversion.” In the end, he came to believe it was neither desirable nor possible to diversity the mission of Los Alamos.

Coghlan believes that as long as [Sen. Peter] Domenici... whose support of LANL over the years earned him the moniker “St. Pete"... remains in office, all discussions of a change in mission are moot.

“He views it as guaranteed appropriations on into the indefinite future, and he’s not about to put up with speculative ideas about other possible missions when he knows he can get that money through plutonium pit production,” he says. “He’s shutting the door on possible future missions at Los Alamos in any real meaningful sense.”


(High five: Rest of the Story)

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Alternative weekly paper reliable? That's like saying Bush doesn't lie and Clinton didn't cheat on his wife.

Anonymous said...

"Alternative weekly paper reliable? That's like saying Bush doesn't lie and Clinton didn't cheat on his wife. "

Whereas the info that comes out of LANL PA is known to be completely beyond reproach and trustworthy.

Anonymous said...

Has everyone gotten amnesia? The National Labs were heavily involved in energy research and renewable energy in the 1970s and early 1980s, until Pres. Reagan pulled the plug. Funding was at least 40% non-weapons. Our mission was weapons, yes, AND energy research and many other non-weapons projects.

If our brilliant scientists from that period were capable of working in more than one narrow area at a time, why can't the current scientists do the same?

Is the new management pushing our scientists out in favor of Pit Production or some other non-science-related work?

Anonymous said...

"Is the new management pushing our scientists out in favor of Pit Production or some other non-science-related work?"

By golly, I think 5:41 is starting to get the picture.

Anonymous said...

Well, duh! Of course they are. Who is doing anything about it? Everyone planning to desert the sinking ship?

Who's taking the risk of fighting back?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we want all you neurosurgeons at this hospital to go be dermatologists. Hop to it! Yep, "mission change" will be easy, just like it was in the 70's. Harder yet is changing back when Osama blows the big one, or Kim finds a delivery vehicle. The truly talented neurosurgeons will be long gone.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to go back to pre-80's to find a different research mix at the lab. Anyone remember Star Wars? During the 80's, Star Wars was a big portion of the lab's funding. Somehow, as we moved into the late 90's, LANL became completely addicted to a mainline dose of nuclear weapons funding. Our management has worked hard to make sure that LANL is now a nuclear weapons work junkie. Like a junkie, we won't be able to kick this habit without feeling a lot of pain.

Anonymous said...

Gussy,

Don't they have internet capabilities in Santa Fe. Why couldn't someone write this from there? The peace and love idiots who have moved to Santa Fe should join up with the Rainbows and take a bath. We New Mexicans are getting pretty sick of them thinking they represent Santa Fe.

While your at it, take the transplants who have taken the hills away and put castles, with you.

Your posting is not proper. Send it to the Alibi in Albuquerque...

Anonymous said...

Poster 6:25 PM, stop with the inane bogey-man scenario using Kim and UBL to justify RRW funding. We have thousands of nukes on the shelf and some of them will work when they are needed. LANL and LLNL did an excellent job of design back in the 70's and 80's. Kim and UBL have nothing to add to the RRW argument. If anything, we should be taking funds out of the nuclear weapons budget and putting them into the non-proliferation budget to help insure that Kim and UBL have no success at getting a "one-off" nuclear hit at the US.

Anonymous said...

"The peace and love idiots who have moved to Santa Fe should join up with the Rainbows and take a bath." - 6:38 PM

Nice homo-phobic, gay-bashing jab, idiot! Lumping the gays along with the anti-nuke crowd as "dirty people" takes some real stupidity and a large measure of bigotry. I hope you don't actually work at LANL, for God's sake.

Anonymous said...

"The peace and love idiots who have moved to Santa Fe should join up with the Rainbows and take a bath." - 6:38 PM

Nice homo-phobic, gay-bashing jab, idiot! Lumping the gays along with the anti-nuke crowd as "dirty people" takes some real stupidity and a large measure of bigotry. I hope you don't actually work at LANL, for God's sake.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

6:38pm:

Noah Shachtman does not live in Santa Fe. Here is his site:

http://www.noahshachtman.com/about.html

Regarding what is appropriate material for the blog -- as much as I value your opinion, I gently suggest that you might be better-qualified to be the editor of your own blog.

--Gussie

PS: In case the effort of copying the above link into your browser is too much effort, 6:18, here is a summary of Noah's accomplishments.

Noah Shachtman, editor of Wired's "Danger Room" blog, writes about technology, national security, politics, and geek culture for The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and others. Since 1998, he's been reporting for Wired News and Wired magazine – defusing roadside explosives with a Baghdad bomb squad, sneaking into the Los Alamos nuclear lab, chasing down suspects on Chicago's West Side, investigating a triple-homicide in Tacoma, WA, and undergoing experiments by Pentagon-funded scientists at Stanford. Now a Wired magazine contributing editor, Shachtman has also written articles for The Village Voice, Slate, Salon, Esquire, Popular Science, The New York Post, Popular Mechanics, The American Prospect Online, The Forward, The New York Times Magazine, and The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He's been interviewed by the Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS radio, NPR, BBC radio -- as well as by newspapers, radio programs, and television stations across the country. Before turning to journalism, Shachtman worked as a professional bass player, book editor, and campaign staffer on Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. He lives in New York City and Venice Beach, California with his wife, Elizabeth.

Anonymous said...

Isn't he the same Wired writer who visited a few years ago, interviewed scientists about science, and wrote an article about mouse traps and how he wandered into an abandoned area of the lab and thought he had entered some sort of top secret area? If so, this guy is an idiot.

ron said...

"Isn't he the same Wired writer who visited a few years ago, interviewed scientists about science, and wrote an article about mouse traps and how he wandered into an abandoned area of the lab and thought he had entered some sort of top secret area? If so, this guy is an idiot."

Yes, he is that same person. I share your opinion. I am one of the people he interviewed. I lost all respect for him after reading the article he wrote about LANL. Everyone I know who talked to him felt badly used once his article was published, but we certainly learned a hard lesson about talking to the press -- it's almost always a waste of time. I find it hard to believe anything he says, given what he wrote about LANL, esp. concerning that nonsensical "sneaking into the lab" claim.

Had you met him, you would probably find it difficult to picture him "chasing down suspects".

He does quite a good job of advertising himself, however.

Ron

Anonymous said...

6:57 pm:

"Nice homo-phobic, gay-bashing jab, idiot! Lumping the gays along with the anti-nuke crowd as "dirty people" takes some real stupidity and a large measure of bigotry."

Well gee, aren't we a little bit sensitive? Since when does "the peace and love idiots who have moved to Santa Fe" equate to a "homo-phobic, gay-bashing jab"? Unless you know something I don't?

People who insist on seeing "bigotry" when simple derision and laughter is the intent are doomed to terminal pissedoffedness (or whatever). Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe he saw mishandled classified information and assumed he was behind the fence?

Anonymous said...

6:28 pm:

"Anyone remember Star Wars? During the 80's, Star Wars was a big portion of the lab's funding. Somehow, as we moved into the late 90's..."

Well, yes, and the "somehow" was Paul Robinson (then LANL director of weapons in the mid-80's)) telling the Lab, in open colloquium, that he would not allow the Lab to get any further embedded in Star Wars at the expense of it's primary mission, i.e., weapons. A courageous move, and at the time a correct one, since the public support for SDI was minimal and many sensed the iminent fall of the Soviet Union.

LANL has always been, and will always be, a nuclear weapons laboratory. If it ceases to be that, it will cease to be LANL, and the subsequent organization and its employees will be like whomever now mans the antiaircraft batteries at Pearl Harbor. Until, of course, they're needed again.

Anonymous said...

5:41, 6:28, estimates are that more than half the current LANL regular staff has come here since the beginning of 2000.

6:25, all things considered, I suspect both neurosurgery and dermatology would be more lucrative and rewarding than being a scientist. Best story I heard this summer was from a young person who told me they were interested in science until they worked in a bio lab for a year as a grad student after graduating from college in '06. They saw that someone else 10 years older than them who had a PhD was doing the same thing in the lab they were doing. They promptly applied to med school and were accepted. Needless to say, they start med school this fall.

Anonymous said...

Alternative weekly paper reliable? That's like saying Pete Domenici still has a functioning brain.

Anonymous said...

6:38PM said "We New Mexicans are getting pretty sick of them thinking they represent Santa Fe."

Really? I was born and raised in Santa Fe, have worked over 30 years at the Lab, and I tend to agree with some of the concerns being raised by those critical of the Lab's legacy. I guess you could say "we New Mexicans" are like everybody else...we all have our own opinions in other words.

Anonymous said...

Poster 10:47 PM, you apparently missed (or didn't understand) this part of Mr. Bigot's quote:

"..should join up with the Rainbows and take a bath."

The "Rainbows" are the gays and lesbians. They frequently use a multi-colored rainbow as their banner. Got it?

Anonymous said...

"A courageous move, and at the time a correct one, since the public support for SDI was minimal and many sensed the iminent fall of the Soviet Union."

Poster 11:09 PM, no one sensed the imminent fall of the Soviet Union in the early or mid 80's. You are re-writing history with that foolish comment.

And as far as support for SDI, the support for nuclear weapons currently looks very iffy, too. In fact, I guess you could say that RRW is like the SDI of the 80's, except with far less support from both the public and both sides of Congress. No one accept Bush and NNSA are pushing for a big nuclear weapons program these days, not even DOD.

Anonymous said...

8/3/07 6:57 PM and 8/4/07 11:46 AM:

Rainbow Family, you dipshit(s). This is the crew that gets together to express their love of peace and the environment by trampling all over the National Forest once a year.

Anonymous said...

11:58 am:

"no one sensed the imminent fall of the Soviet Union in the early or mid 80's. You are re-writing history with that foolish comment."

The 1109 poster you berate said "mid-80's." Gorbachev, detente (1986), the nationalism movements beginning in 1986 in the eastern republics, "tear down this wall" (June 1987). Sounds like mid-1980's to me.

Anonymous said...

Nice homo-phobic, gay-bashing jab, idiot! Lumping the gays along with the anti-nuke crowd as "dirty people" takes some real stupidity and a large measure of bigotry. I hope you don't actually work at LANL, for God's sake.

8/3/07 7:00 PM


I read the same comment and did not get the same message as you. Where id thaat come from?

Here, you are just as bad if not worse. You are also making hateful hurtful statements, but implying that because you are gay it is ok.

I don't care what you are. You could be a talking chicken. Hateful hurtful statements are not ok.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"Alternative weekly paper reliable? That's like saying Bush doesn't lie and Clinton didn't cheat on his wife. "

Whereas the info that comes out of LANL PA is known to be completely beyond reproach and trustworthy.

8/3/07 2:45 PM

I made no such comment or implied no such connection. I just commented on the fact that an article from an alternative paper was accurate.

Anonymous said...

8/3 6:50 pm:

"6:25 PM, stop with the inane bogey-man scenario using Kim and UBL to justify RRW funding. We have thousands of nukes on the shelf and some of them will work when they are needed."

Well, your comment may be correct, but is irrelevant. If the "bogey-man" scenario occurs, the very same people who design weapons for the US will be called upon to do "atribution" because, duh, they are the ones who understand the advancement of nuclear weapons design expertise in developing states, or non-states. Attribution is essential so that we don't incnerate the wrong folks in returm.

Anonymous said...

Get real, 7:59PM. We don't require a new multi-billion dollar RRW program just so that we can do "attribution" if a nuke hit occurs. All we need for "attribution" is a few well seasoned scientists. It can be done cheaply.

I sense some of the weapons scientists at LANL are really getting desperate for reasons to defend their weapons welfare budget. Regardless of what they want, even St. Pete says it's headed downward. Better start preparing for it now.

Anonymous said...

1:59: I doubt many people around here are too familiar with the Rainbow Family gatherings. Even when I read the reference to "Rainbows", I was a bit unsure whether you meant the unshowered masses that camp out in national forests every year (this year out near Fallsville, Arkansas), or those with rainbow bumperstickers popular in the Santa Fe area. Don't be too mad if people missed a rather esoteric reference.

(For those who care, Rainbow family has a web page at http://www.welcomehome.org/)

Anonymous said...

And meanwhile you'll keep them interested in working at LANL... how?

Anonymous said...

1:10 AM

My bad. I guess I expected this highly educated population to occasionally read a local paper. A handful of Rainbows were arrested in the Carson National Forest just last week.

Anonymous said...

Nah. The elite locals aren't interested in much that happens off the Hill. It's all about them, don't you see, and if it happens off the Hill, it's not about them.

John said...

Hey 8/4/07 5:29 PM,

Try reading 8/3/07 6:57 PM's post one more time. That author never identifies as gay but you assumed as much. You should be aware that some straight people defend gays and gay rights.