October 29, 2007
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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.