Dec 7, 2007

Public Asks LANL to Pause Nuclear Operations Due to Safety Concerns

Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board held a public hearing recently about safety and security issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Board heard from Department of Energy (DOE) and LANL about steps they have taken to address these issues. In two cases, LANL plutonium and waste operations were "paused" in order to address safety and security issues. The Board also heard from the public who were concerned about the number of outstanding safety and security issues and urged DOE and LANL to take more safety pauses in order to adequately address them.

The Board is charged with reviewing and evaluating the content and implementation of standards related to the design, construction, operation and decommissioning of DOE defense nuclear facilities. The Board is also responsible for investigating those facilities that the Board determines has adversely affected or may adversely affect the health and safety of workers and the public.

In February 2007, the Board wrote a letter to DOE setting out five actions that would substantially improve safety at LANL. The actions included strengthening DOE safety oversight; improving the safety documents that allow for operation of nuclear facilities; and developing and implementing effective safety programs across all LANL nuclear operations. The final two actions involved eliminating known hazards, such as the problems with shipping radioactive and hazardous waste from LANL's radioactive waste dump at Area G to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP); and increasing federal management over new projects to support expanded plutonium pit production.

William Ostendorff, a Principal Deputy Administrator at DOE Headquarters in Washington, DC, stated that under the latest Complex Transformation proposal, LANL would become the nation's plutonium pit production and manufacturing facility.

The Board is concerned that while DOE is proposing to expand operations at LANL, the necessary staff to oversee key areas, such as engineering, operations and health and safety, are not in place and it may take years to ensure that qualified people are serving in those positions. There is additional concern about conducting essential work in aging facilities that have not been properly maintained.

Recent examples of paused operations include the suspension of nuclear materials operations in the plutonium facility due to continuing problems with the criticality safety program and significant problems with worker training and certification. Criticality refers to the smallest amount of nuclear material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.

Another example is the recent suspension of operations at Area G when other criticality safety problems developed in preparing waste for shipment to WIPP.

Many who provided public comments were appreciative that the Board held the hearing in Los Alamos. They questioned how current operations could continue, let alone be expanded, at LANL with all the problems cited by the Board. Several speakers strongly suggested that LANL pause defense nuclear operations in order to address the myriad of safety and security problems.

A complete transcript and video recording of the hearing will be available on the Board¹s website at Public comments will be accepted until January 5, 2008.

This has been the CCNS News Update. For more information about this or other nuclear safety issues, please visit our website at

-- Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety 107 Cienega Street Santa Fe, NM 87501
Tel (505) 986-1973 Fax (505) 986-0997 --


Anonymous said...

Suspend nuclear operations?????

Does that mean that we will have another standdown?

Great! I have been working too hard of late and I could use another six months of sitting on my ass and taking web-based training.

Of course, the cost of the standdown will be charge to the LANS management fee (NOT!).

Another lab-wide standdown will be the absolute end of WFO.

Anonymous said...

Hey yeah!

Let's stop work simply becasuse CCNS says so.
That's what they've been after across the board along with all the other Fanta Se groups for years. Our existence has always violated their moral sensibility.

The hearings were also a good excuse for Joni Arends, et. al., to make noise and justify their funding.T his IS the time of years when all these groups have to show they've done SOMETHING to their backers so they can keep doing what they do.

The sharks are circling, particularly these days with the smell of blood in the air.

Anonymous said...

LANL only has itself to blame, although it will undoubtedly blame everyone else but itself. Until all the management holdouts from the old UC regime are removed (beginning with Anastasio and his right hand man Marquez), I say shut the damn place down! And if LANS doesn’t have the gumption to throw out the UC trash it inherited, well then bring in someone else to run the damn place. Enough is enough!

--20 Years & Volunteered To Leave

Anonymous said...

Oh great, 8:28.

You've worked for the lab 20 years, took the voluntary big severence package, and NOW you're screaming "Shut 'er down!"

Thanks, buddy.

Anonymous said...

It's time to shut down and focus on what we are doing...before they shut us down, at least we may have a fighting chance. The last thing this Lab needs now, is to have it's neighbors screaming and yelling to Congress....want to really see JOB cuts .......

Anonymous said...

To the 450 who decided to take the SSP, it looks like you made a very wise choice in deciding to leave LANL.

Anonymous said...

To the 450 who decided to take the SSP, it looks like you made a very wise choice"

Sounds like it. 450 sailed away with the life boats. The rest are clinging to the sides, hoping the rest of the ship doesn't go down.

Anonymous said...

I am sad to see this news. When the DNFSB holds public hearings about issues of concern from citizens it is not good. When a DOE facility becomes a big enough pain they will make the pain go away-- literally.

It is amazing to drive by the Rocky Flats site and no longer see it there. Apparently it was much easier for DOE, and more profitable for the contractor, to take a facility apart and haul it off then try to change the minds of those concerned.

I thought I would retire from Rocky Flats, despite what the public and the federal government thought about Rocky Flats. Heck, I was confident that it would take at least 15 years to D&D the Flats even after DOE decided to shut it down. I was wrong. So hopefully, I am wrong and DOE doesn’t see Los Alamos as being a big enough pain to warrant a death by renaming it “Los Alamos Environmental Technology Site.” Do what you can to prevent that from happening, it is no fun—that I know for sure.

Anonymous said...

"It's time to shut down and focus on what we are doing"
You mean like writing "sharp" on the scissors? Get real. LANL is so goddamn safe we can't get any work done.

Anonymous said...

or putting red tape on sharp objects in gloveboxes or putting a red sharp stickers on tape dispensers?

Anonymous said...

LANL has become a "work-free safe and secure place."

Anonymous said...

or better yet, in my neck of the woods, we have signs on doorways leading down to stairwells. Something about beware of fall hazard. LOL!

Anonymous said...

How about "Working for LANL, risk of job loss."

Anonymous said...

Too bad that none of the members of the DNFSB actually have a real job! They do these road shows to justify their existance yet offer no value to the process. Perhaps if the government would zero out their budget, and use that money to improve safety, then things would be better.

In terms of everything that they say, it is only their opinion, with little fact to substantiate the basis for what they say. It is much easier to be a critic instead of actually solving problems.

Hope they got their chilie fix for the year, their Christmas shopping in, and hope that they go back to Washington, right useless reports and leave those who have to work the ability to do their work.

Anonymous said...

The problem is not that we do not really try to do our work safely, it is that DOE, NNSA and LANS/LANL management have put into place such inane and unreasonable rules that no one can comprehend their definition of "SAFE"... So, do we suspend nuclear operations, do we shut down LANL? I hope not, 'cause I want to keep my job.

A good example of the assine knee-jerk reaction to a safety issue is currently playing itself out at DARHT. A fairly new facility which has yet to comission its 2nd axis to full operations, has a substandard fire protection system, such that they now have people doing continuous fire watch patrols around the facility...Kind of scary isn't it...

Anonymous said...

Have to wonder if there is anything that can burn at DARHT where they have the fire watch. Five or 6 years ago LANL got approx. $10 million for sprinkler systems. A fair amount of that piping and associated sprinkler heads were placed in a building whose concrete and steel could not possibly have sustained damage with what little combustible material was present. But, it didn't really hurt anything or negatively affect worker safety, and it kept some folks, mostly from Albuquerque, in work for awhile.

Anonymous said...

"..such that they now have people doing continuous fire watch patrols around the facility" - 5:56 PM

You don't understand. Incessant testing of the LANL fire alarms and continuous fire watch patrols around LANL facilities helps keep the KSL guys fully employed. Now that LANS has drastically cut back on almost all facilities maintenance, it's the only way left for KSL to game the system for money.