Oct 29, 2007

The Decline and Fall of a Nuclear Weapons Laboratory?

Another bit sent in today by a reader.



October 29, 2007

Action Alert #79

(Subscription information is at the bottom. Please forward to others if you wish.)

1. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in a world of hurt
2. Weekly seminar seminar series in Santa Fe and Albuquerque announced
3. Please consider renewing your financial support of the Los Alamos Study Group
(You can contribute by credit card or electronic check here.)

This week: "Los Alamos in Crisis -- The Decline and Fall of a Nuclear Weapons Laboratory?"

Dear colleagues and friends –

1. LANL is in a world of hurt.

Questions of policy aside, right now I would like to alert you to just two of the latest ways LANL is hurting. There are obviously more; for an overview of the current crisis at LANL please consider coming to the public discussions to be held on Wednesday and Thursday of this week in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, about which more below.

First, today the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General (IG) released a blockbuster report detailing widespread overcharging by LANL's principal subcontractor KSL, partnership of former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), the Shaw Group, and Los Alamos Technical Associates (LATA). (KBR became independent of Halliburton in April of this year.) The dollar amounts being questioned by the IG are in the tens of millions of dollars annually. Clearly many people at KSL and LANL have been involved, including managers. The overcharging has been going on a long time and both the University of California (UC) and Los Alamos National Security (LANS) have known about it. The problems -- not all of which are in the IG report -- are not yet corrected.

Second, most fissile material operations at the plutonium facility in TA-55, including pit production, have been suspended since late September pending further reviews of criticality safety. Some of the pertinent details and history are available at the Study Group web site, here. Congressional staff have been briefed since then, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating the situation further. The production shut-down may extend until January 2008, combined with a two-month outage previously planned, or else there may be a brief operational restart this fall, depending on resolution of some of the issues involved.

More broadly, LANS has now admitted that LANL's TA-55 nuclear facility has been operating outside accepted nuclear industry safety standards. In our view the nuclear safety situation at LANL is not improving and may be getting worse.

These two issues, both of which have deep roots, comprise just a fraction of the serious management and policy issues LANL is now facing.


See http://www.lasg.org/ActionAlerts/ActionAlerts2007.htm#AA79 for the rest of the article.


Anonymous said...

Let's see if we can tally up the score for LANS just from today's breaking news. It appears as if LANS has

1) been cooking the books on safety and security stats since they took over,
2) been operating TA-55 outside of industry-standard criticality safety limits, and
3) been colluding with other managers over at KSL to continue a long-held tradition of over-charging DOE for work performed (or not performed, as the case may be).

Yep, no doubt about it: LANS is here for the long haul -- DOE picked the kind of contractor they feel comfortable with: corrupt and inept.

Anonymous said...

What's brown and sleeps four?

A KSL pickup truck!

Greg said...

Oops. Forgot to reference the statement that "LANL's TA-55 nuclear facility has been operating outside accepted nuclear industry safety standards." You can find that, along with other interesting tidbits, at http://www.dnfsb.gov/pub_docs/lanl/wr_20071005_la.pdf.

Greg Mello

Anonymous said...

Yeah, when the reservior was open it was common to find a KSL truck up there.

bit it is no shock that along with overcharging KSL has a large amount of time fraud.

It's just SOP.

Anonymous said...

There was no KSL when the reservoir was open.

JCNNM maybe?

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

How short are the memories.

The Zia Company.


Anonymous said...

Just goes to show you how often our managers leave thier office. Those of us that have to traverse the county to attend all the meetings the managers hold, are used to being behind a KSL truck driving 20 miles below the speed limit and watching them pull into the local Minut Mart to load up on snacks. We then get to go back to our office and see the KSL charges to a job that was closed and supposed to be finished last year.

Anonymous said...

Will somebody explain to me why in HELL Greg Mello is being allowed to be a contributor to these theads?
He has never wanted anything of LANL except it's omission from the face of the planet, and letting him in to an EMPLOYEE site to try and slime his way around us is stupid.
He's part of the problem people, and his history of saying anything to generate negetivity towards the place where we work is well known.
If we're circling the drain, we ought to at least have some dignity as we go down without letting the parasites feed off us.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...


Greg's article is on the blog because I felt it belonged here.

There are parasites involved with LANL, but in my observation, most of them reside behind the gates, not outside of them.

I've noticed that those who complain the most stridently about folks who point out problems at LANL are those who have the most to hide.

If you don't like this, complainer, maybe you'ed be happier reading LANS's LANL Home Page, or perhaps that of our mother organization, DOE.


Pinky and The Brain said...

If Gussie had not posted it then I would have. Thanks, Greg.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 7:43 PM. Let's hide all the serious problems that many of the staff see occurring at LANL. That way they'll all just go away. I like it! By God, it may just work! And to help this thing along, how about we add in some under-the-table cash to keep pesky people quiet. And, of course, if something does leak out to the public, always remember... deny, deny, deny. KSL? Who are they? Do they work at LANL? Never heard of them before.

Anonymous said...

The achievements made by LANL staff are all that more impressive considering the completely inept and incredibly expensive management that LANL staff suffer under.

If DOE doesn't quickly move to rectify this LANS travesty, Congress needs to step in.

Anonymous said...

The only way to fix the problem is abolish the DOE. (Very shortly after its creation, it was apparent that a grave mistake had been made, but there has never been a will and way to get rid of the parasitic, incompetent bureaucracy.) One periodic routine job I am very familiar with that the support services contractor (Pan Am, JCNNM, KSL) performed with one person for year, to comply with changed DOE orders, suddenly required 3 persons, one to do nothing other than fill out all the added paperwork. I'm sure the cost didn't rise by just a factor of 3. That no doubt has occurred all over the lab. By the way, this particular change occurred before the Bechtel consortium took over.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear! KSL has been overcharging- and not doing their work! Lucky for the lab, the public will never understand the truly big scams like the various children of the Neutral Particle Beam or the CO2 laser nonsense. All the public scandals until now are insignificant compared to the nonsense programs that wasted public money until they died away.

Anonymous said...

Greg is dreaming if he thinks this is the decline and fall of LANL. It is the transformation of LANL to a pit fabrication facility. So Greg, the best things about LANL are rapidly disappearing to be replaced by a manufacturing mission that is sure to greatly increase all the things you fear. You think Los Alamos glows in the dark now... just wait. Are you happy now? Be careful what you ask for.

Anonymous said...

Greg lives on a different planet than the one I know. His vision is dangerous.

Where are all the people with weapons expertise going to work if they get RIF'd? Probably not for the US weapons program.