Sep 29, 2007
Saturday, September 29, 2007
LANL's Future In Weapons At Center of Fight
By John Fleck
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Should Los Alamos National Laboratory someday become the nation's
"permanent" plutonium bomb manufacturing center?
That is one of the major policy questions behind the fight currently
under way in Congress over the lab's budget.
The House of Representatives has passed a spending plan for fiscal 2008
with big cuts to the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Members of the Senate are
While much of the public attention surrounding proposed cuts to Los
Alamos' budget has focused on the potential for big staff cuts at the
Northern New Mexico lab— as many as 2,500 jobs may be at stake— big policy
differences lurk behind the budget fight.
The biggest share of the cuts the House wants to make at Los Alamos—
roughly $200 million— are targeted at plutonium manufacturing.
An alternative Senate spending plan, touted as a way to save Los Alamos
jobs, would restore nearly all of that money.
"This is obviously much more than a jobs issue," said Greg Mello, head
of the Albuquerque-based Los Alamos Study Group, an anti-nuclear weapons
Uncertainty over plutonium manufacturing at Los Alamos has lingered
unresolved for 15 years, since the Rocky Flats bomb plant in Colorado was
During the Cold War, Los Alamos made only a small number of pits for
research and testing. But with Rocky Flats closed, Los Alamos has been the
only place in the country capable of making pits.
In the years since, the federal agencies in charge of Los Alamos have
repeatedly tried and failed to build a Rocky Flats replacement.
Simultaneously, they have been upgrading Los Alamos' ability to manufacture
small numbers of bomb parts.
Los Alamos' plutonium capability has always been billed as a bridge to
the future when the Rocky Flats replacement is completed. But the latest
round of budget battles appear to have killed that project off once again.
The House's response to the uncertainty over the future of plutonium
manufacturing was to cut the budget. Otherwise, the House Energy and Water
Appropriations Subcommittee concluded in a June report, Los Alamos would end
up as the undeclared but de facto permanent plutonium manufacturing site.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., speaking at a July gathering at Los Alamos
National Laboratory, said he believes that's already happened.
The Senate, in a riposte largely engineered by Domenici, is trying to
restore the funding cut by the House.
The $200 million difference between the two plans will be one of the
largest pots of money and most significant policy differences on the table
in coming weeks as House and Senate negotiators try to hammer out a
compromise spending plan for the 2008 federal budget year.
Half the money would go to ongoing small-scale pit manufacturing work at
Los Alamos. The House subcommittee, in its June report, argued that the
spending made no sense without a clearly articulated long-term pit
The other half of the money represents a down payment on a new lab at
Los Alamos to support future plutonium manufacturing work— the Chemistry and
Metallurgy Research Replacement building.
The House subcommittee report language was blunt. The project, the
subcommittee concluded, "has no coherent mission to justify it unless the
decision is made to begin an aggressive new nuclear warhead design and pit
production mission at Los Alamos National Laboratory."
The Senate spending plan provides the funding for the new building. And
Domenici, in comments he made in July, was frank about the new lab's
importance for plutonium manufacturing. But he also argues the new plutonium
lab is important even if Los Alamos does not have the bomb-plant mission. In
a statement Friday, Domenici called the lab "integral" to work maintaining
existing nuclear weapons.
The dispute puts Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., in a difficult position. He
has been working with Domenici to block deep budget cuts at Los Alamos. But
while supporting a limited pit production mission at Los Alamos, he said he
opposes large-scale manufacturing there.
"I don't think it's appropriate for Los Alamos to become the de facto
pit production center for the entire weapons complex," he said in a recent
Bingaman's suggestion involves some funding for pit manufacturing work
now ongoing, but consideration of a delay in construction of the new
"I think having some manufacturing funding there for Los Alamos is
appropriate because that is an ongoing activity," Bingaman said.
Sep 28, 2007
(09-28) 17:55 PDT LOS ALAMOS -- Federal officials Friday affirmed a $3-million fine they had proposed to levy against the University of California for a serious security lapse last year at the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico.
The "final notice of violation" was filed by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, which issued a preliminary notice of the fine in July.
The fine followed an incident in which an employee of a subcontractor downloaded more than 1,000 pages of classified documents, including data on nuclear weapons design, on a thumb drive and took them to her mobile home, where they were discovered in a drug raid targeting another resident.
UC officials had objected to the fine, saying they had followed proper procedures.
But the National Nuclear Security Administration found that the university exhibited "a fundamental, and disturbing, misunderstanding of the proper approach to security matters."
Asked Friday if UC has decided how it will respond to the final notice, university spokesman Chris Harrington said, "We are still reviewing the document. We just received it today."
UC, which managed and operated the lab from 1943 to May 2006, has 30 days in which to pay the fine or challenge it.
The security breach was discovered in October 2006 - after UC's exclusive contract for the lab ended and was replaced by a partnership consisting of UC, Bechtel International, BWX Technologies and Washington Group International. The illegal download also occurred after UC's exclusive management ended, but the National Nuclear Security Administration found that UC's failure to institute required safeguards led to the breach.
E-mail Charles Burress at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Hang Huynh
Chemist, High Explosives Science and Technology Group
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, New Mexico
My Hang Huynh is a scientist working at the boundary of organic and inorganic chemistry to devise novel techniques for synthesizing highly energetic compounds. Energetic compounds such as explosives are employed in a wide variety of applications but pose hazards in two respects: thermostability and environmental contamination. Huynh has developed a new class of reactions based on constituents such as azides and alkynes that address both issues. The thermodynamic properties of substances she has synthesized make them remarkably stable under a wide temperature range, and their structure allows the substitution of toxic heavy metals such as lead or mercury with more benign elements like copper and iron. Moreover, the methods that she has developed highlight the potential for nitrogen-based reaction centers to serve as the backbone in the synthesis of complex molecules, challenging the orthodoxy of synthetic approaches based on covalent carbon bonding in organic chemistry. Huynh's advances also promise to improve the safety of workers, such as miners and military personnel, who are chronically exposed to energetic materials. In addition, the large amount of inert nitrogen gas generated in the detonation of her novel compounds suggests the possibility of new safety applications, including fire prevention in malfunctioning jet engines and improved air bag design.
My Hang Huynh received a B.A. (1991) and a B.S. (1991) from the State University of New York at Geneseo and a Ph.D. (1998) from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Since 2002, she has been a chemist in the High Explosives Science and Technology Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Her papers have been published in such journals as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Inorganic Chemistry, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Fellows Program Overview
The MacArthur Fellows Program awards unrestricted fellowships to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.
The MacArthur Fellows Program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations. In keeping with this purpose, the Foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. They may use their fellowship to advance their expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if they wish, to change fields or alter the direction of their careers.
Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential. Indeed, the purpose of the MacArthur Fellows Program is to enable recipients to exercise their own creative instincts for the benefit of human society.
The Foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports from MacArthur Fellows, and does not evaluate recipients' creativity during the term of the fellowship. The MacArthur Fellowship is a "no strings attached" award in support of people, not projects. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $500,000 to the recipient, paid out in equal quarterly installments over five years.
Area safety and security officials listened to an informative, entertaining and at times hilarious presentation by Los Alamos Site Office Manager Donald L. Winchell Jr. Thursday evening. The Los Alamos Public Safety Association hosted Winchell at their monthly meeting at the Posse Lodge.
Winchell launched into a humorous account of life growing up in Los Alamos. As he described various childhood antics, he jokingly said it was "other kids" and not himself who were involved.
Winchell spent his summers between 1967-1969 working at Los Alamos National Laboratory in radio chemistry and 30 years in the U.S. Navy before returning to LANL in August 2004. He worked most recently as a technical staff member and operations support division group leader. Winchell told the group that prior to joining the laboratory, he was vice president and deputy general manager for operations of Johnson Controls Northern New Mexico, LLC, which provided maintenance and infrastructure support to laboratory facilities.
Winchell took the helm of the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Site Office on July 8. He supervises some 100 federal employees who oversee the contract management of security, quality assurance, and environmental, safety and health issues at LANL.
Since taking over, Winchell has focused much of his attention on revitalizing the federal oversight and management role of the site office.
"It is clear to me that the success of DOE is NNSA and the success of NNSA is the success of Los Alamos," Winchell said. "We are the guts of the nuclear weapons program. I think people are beginning to understand that the key to the whole program is Los Alamos."
He mentioned there is a lot of environmental cleanup to be done. "Our generation didn't cause this issue but we're going to clean it up," he said. "This is not an insurmountable problem, it will just take time and money."
Winchell told the group of some 30 members that he is encouraged by the things he sees. "One thing is absolutely clear: Los Alamos is going to be here a long time."
The Los Alamos Public Safety Association (LAPSA) was formed in 2006. The nonprofit organization is comprised of senior police, fire and emergency management personnel, the Magistrate Court judge, and security officials from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Protection Technologies Los Alamos.
Police Chief Wayne Torpy, the organization's president, explained the reason for the association.
"What we really wanted to do was have everyone get to know each other outside of crisis," he said.
Torpy praised Winchell for hitting the ground running in getting things done during his short time on the job.
Fire Chief Doug McDonald has known Winchell for several years and introduced him to the membership. "We are so fortunate to have you in the top dog position at LASO," McDonald said. "You have a DOD discipline, a private discipline and so many different disciplines that it's wonderful."
Winchell was born in Maryland, raised in Los Alamos, graduated from Los Alamos High School and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in engineering physics from Oregon State University.
He retired from the Navy in 1999, following assignments that included service on four nuclear attack submarines, including command of USS DRUM. From 1989 to 1991, he commanded Submarine Squadron 22 in La Maddalena in Sardinia, Italy. Other tours included program management of a defense liaison division project, assistant chief of staff for material and logistic support for the Atlantic Submarine Force, executive officer of the Atlantic Nuclear Propulsion Examining Board and assignment to the Bureau of Personnel.
Monday, October 1st
National Hispanic Cultural Center
Bank of America Theatre
Albuquerque, NM 87102
9:30 am - 11:30 am and
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Wednesday, October 3rd
Los Alamos High School
Dwayne Smith Auditorium
Los Alamos, NM, 87544
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Thursday, October 4th
Cities of Gold Casino
10 Cities of Gold Road
Pojoaque, NM, 87506
9:30 am - 11:30 am
Friday, October 5th
The Lodge (formerly the Sheraton)
750 North St. Francie Drive
Santa Fe, NM, 87501
9:30 am - 11:30 am and
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Presidential candidate Bill Richardson: Cut nuclear weapons budget by 53
Gov. Bill Richardson: Increase the nuclear weapons budget by 4 percent
Friday, September 28, 2007
Guv Bill Vs. Candidate Bill; Nuke Budget Cuts, Boost Both Endorsed
By John Fleck and Jeff Jones
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writers
Bill Richardson the presidential candidate says the U.S. nuclear weapons
budget should be slashed.
Bill Richardson the governor is fighting to prevent cuts to the same
program— which is one of the largest employers in New Mexico.
Gov. Richardson on Tuesday sent a letter to eight members of Congress
protesting a proposed 3.2 percent cut in the budget of the National Nuclear
Security Administration, which funds work at Sandia and Los Alamos national
labs in New Mexico. Together, the two nuclear weapons labs employ 22,000
people, most of them in New Mexico and the majority of them working on
nuclear weapons programs.
The threat to cut the labs' budgets, the governor wrote, "would signify
cuts to these most important national security resources."
As a Democratic presidential candidate Wednesday in New Hampshire,
Richardson issued a defense budget proposal that called for a 53 percent cut
in the same NNSA budget. The resulting $5 billion savings in nuclear weapons
spending are part of his plan to cut the defense budget by more than $57
billion a year.
The nuclear weapons budget cut, Richardson's presidential campaign
statement said, "will enhance our credibility as we lead global negotiations
to reduce the number of nuclear weapons."
Richardson campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds said the two positions are
not in conflict.
"The letter sent from Gov. Richardson's office, urging the Senate and
House Appropriations Committee to maintain funding levels at Los Alamos
National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, fully complements the
proposal to refocus the Pentagon's budget and modernize the military,"
Reynolds said in a written statement.
Reynolds noted that the letter to Congress encourages spending at the
labs for border security, health research and renewable energies. "We wanted
lawmakers to realize the importance of retaining the many qualified
scientists and workers at the labs no matter what the mission may be in the
future," Reynolds said.
With his governor's hat on, Richardson is wading into a bitter fight
over Congress' annual Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which funds the
labs' nuclear weapons work as well as water and energy projects.
The House wants to cut the nuclear weapons budget, which could cost more
than 3,000 lab jobs. The Senate wants to increase the nuclear weapons
budget. In his letter, Richardson endorses the Senate's proposed spending
When it comes to his presidential campaign, his overall defense-cut plan
could pay vital political dividends.
The plan is in large part a spitting image of defense cuts being sought
by a political group aiming to play a major role in the Iowa presidential
caucuses— a make-or-break state for the governor's presidential push.
The Iowa Priorities Caucus Project, which is working to turn out 10,000
voters for the January caucuses, is advocating many of the same cuts
outlined by Richardson the presidential candidate.
Caucus Project state director Peggy Huppert said Thursday that
Richardson's new plan is, at least so far, the "most comprehensive statement
from a candidate addressing our issues."
Huppert said she believes presidential politics played a role in
Richardson's decision-making but added, "I also believe he thinks it's the
When asked what role politics played in the new defense plan, Reynolds
said the plan "is in lock step with Governor Richardson's long record of
building fiscally responsible budgets and eliminating waste and
The Iowa Priorities Caucus Project has become a well-known fixture at
Iowa political events this year, traveling around that state to ask all of
the presidential hopefuls— both Republicans and Democrats— their positions
on the defense budget.
The Caucus Project's plan to trim $60 billion in Pentagon spending is
based on a defense proposal by former Reagan administration official
Lawrence Korb— the very proposal that Richardson draws heavily from.
Many parts of Richardson's plan are identical to the Caucus Project's
plan for slashing the nation's nuclear stockpile from 10,000 warheads to
1,000 warheads, ending new nuclear-weapons programs, canceling a class of
submarines and scrubbing the CV-22 Osprey aircraft program.
The Caucus Project also supports ending the F-22 Raptor fighter jet
program, while Richardson is calling for a smaller order of those jets than
that the military has called for.
A bloc of 10,000 voters could make up as much as 10 percent of the
turnout for the Iowa caucuses, and the Caucus Project plans to endorse a
candidate on Nov. 9.
Meanwhile, Richardson's plan to "modernize the military" drew fire
Thursday from the New Mexico Republican Party.
The GOP— in a news release headlined "Alert: Bill Richardson Throws New
Mexicans Under the Bus!"— accused Richardson of trying to put thousands of
defense jobs on the chopping block and of pandering to a "far-left national
Reynolds in a statement said Richardson "continues to be the
hardest-working advocate for New Mexico and its residents. His record speaks
Sep 27, 2007
The National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy said in a statement Thursday that "the first W88 nuclear warhead to employ a replacement pit officially was certified for entry into the United States nuclear weapons stockpile."
"An essential piece of every U.S. nuclear weapon, the pit is typically made of plutonium and acts as a trigger, allowing a weapon to function. NNSA recently restored its ability to manufacture pits in small quantities," the statement said.
“Rebuilding this W88 was an enormous undertaking that took NNSA over a decade and required the tremendous scientific and engineering expertise of the entire nuclear weapons complex,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “I am proud that we were able to get the job done and accomplish this great feat with the W88.”
The NNSA said that the W88 warhead "was able to be re-assembled, certified and accepted into the stockpile with a replacement pit without conducting an underground nuclear test. Certification was possible because of NNSA’s powerful experimental tools, supercomputers, and improved computer models."
The NNSA said that the restored W88 warhead was put together at NNSA’s Pantex Plant and that it was "the first nuclear weapon to use a replacement plutonium pit."
"In July, NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory produced the first pit for the stockpile in 18 years. The warhead also required a replacement gas transfer system that was manufactured at NNSA’s Kansas City Plant and filled with gas at the Savannah River Site. The gas transfer system is essential to assure a weapon’s performance," the agency said.
“Any replacement component added to a system as complex as a nuclear weapon presents a tremendous challenge. As we extend the lives of our current aging warheads, and continue to move further and further from the original tested designs, this process becomes increasingly complicated,” D’Agostino said.
The major construction project known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility held another semi-annual meeting Wednesday, under terms of a formal agreement for air-quality permitting.
Although a scheduling conflict was said to have limited attendance by some of the "Interested Parties," the public interest groups named in the settlement, several representatives were present and a vigorous question-and-answer period ensued during the last half of the presentation.
The meeting at the Best Western Hilltop House contrasted with previous meetings by the strong showing of personnel directly related to the project itself who outnumbered representatives of public interest groups.
Their specific answers enabled some questions and concerns that came up during the meeting to be resolved on the spot.
Groundbreaking on the CMRR adjacent to the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory took place in early 2006. Excavation was carried out for both buildings of the project, although funding through completion is still contingent. Construction began in May and heavily reinforced concrete walls are now rising for the first phase, known as the Radiation Laboratory/Utility office building (RLUOB)
Programmatic and political questions swirl around the project, which has been funded in a Senate committee's appropriation bill, but not funded at all in an appropriation bill passed by the House.
Answers related to budget uncertainties, and long-term purposes and intentions for the facility were in short supply as the officials emphasized the status and goals of the immediate construction activities.
Tom Whitacre, the radiological laboratory project manager, said RLUOB would be a five-story, 186,000-square-foot office building, containing 350 offices and training space with a total cost estimated at $126 million. This first phase of the project is about 25-percent finished, he said, and the full CMRR is at about the 5-percent mark.
Trish Williams-Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group asked about reports that CMRR budget estimates had "passed $1.5 billion on the way to $2 billion total."
A project flyer printed for the groundbreaking ceremony lists the budget at $745-$975 million over eight to 12 years.
Steve Fong, the federal project director for the CMRR, said there were only firm estimates for first-phase RLUOB so far, because the Nuclear Facility, the larger and much more expensive structure, is "still in design."
Questions focused on some of the seismic, air-quality and quality-assurance issues that had been raised previously.
Don Brown, a former quality assurance official at the lab, thought the process should address and attempt to resolve concerns that had been raised previously. He had additional questions related to the qualifications of the contractor to work on nuclear facilities and training for auditors and on-site inspectors.
A concern about design-build contract for the Nuclear Facility, pressed by the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board, was apparently resolved.
Fong said the program sponsors decided last November to revise the plan for a simultaneous design and build contract to a more conventional construction process, in which the design process would precede the bidding for the construction contract.
Scott Kovac of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Cameron Sadaf of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety who had provided a five-page list of questions in advance, received answers for several of those during the meeting.
Previous concerns about new and continuing investigations related to increased earthquake risks at the laboratory were partially addressed during the formal presentation.
A May 2007 Geotechnical Engineering Report and a June 2007 Probabilistic Seismic Hazard analysis have been completed and will be made available next spring. A Seismic Mapping of the Nuclear Facility Excavation is still in process but will be completed and provided to the designers before final construction.
The CMRR project's 2003 Environmental Impact Statement estimated that 1,645 curies of fission noble gases would be released annually by facility operations, according to Sadaf. Her question about the emission source and monitoring plan for that air quality issue went unanswered.
Journal Staff Writer
The U.S. Department of Energy made a "mockery" out of open-records laws by taking nearly two years to provide requested information concerning Los Alamos National Laboratory to a government watchdog group, a federal judge has found.
The judge ruled last week that DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration violated the Freedom of Information Act by creating a "convoluted" review process for determining what can be released to the public.
In a sharply worded ruling, U.S. District Judge Bruce Black found that the agency offered "no rationale" for the complex method of handling information requests "or the inevitable delay it guarantees."
The federal law is intended to allow citizens to learn what their government is doing. Government agencies have 20 days after receiving an information request to provide the records or notify the party making the request of a denial.
In December 2004, Nuclear Watch New Mexico submitted a request to the NNSA's Albuquerque office for copies of Los Alamos' Ten-Year Comprehensive Site Plans for 2002 through 2005.
The lab and other NNSA sites compile the comprehensive site plans annually and include information on existing programs and missions, as well as plans and goals for future facilities, weapons work, land-use and operations.
When the plans were not delivered, the group sued for their release, alleging a "pattern and practice of unlawfully withholding agency records" by the NNSA.
The redacted records were not released until June 2006, more than 17 months after they were requested.
NNSA's Albuquerque office is responsible for handling information requests for itself and five other NNSA site offices, including Los Alamos and the Pantex Plant in Texas.
NNSA has argued that an extensive, multilayered review process was needed to ensure that sensitive information was redacted from the documents.
Nuclear Watch executive director Jay Coghlan said the group would continue to insist that NNSA provide documents in a timely manner.
"We won't tolerate the months and years of delays and suppression of information that NNSA is guilty of," Coghlan said in a statement.
Black wrote in his ruling that he would schedule future hearings on possible remedies for the violation.
Coghlan responded, "We look forward to real remedies that require prompt disclosure of information under citizens' right to know."
Slashing the number of nuclear warheads by 90 percent. Cutting the nuclear weapons budget by more than half. Eliminating the nation's newest warhead.
Gov. Bill Richardson's presidential campaign Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to "modernize the military" and save more than $57 billion a year in the process.
Among the collateral damage would be several projects with major ties to New Mexico. In addition to cuts in nuclear programs— the lifeblood of New Mexico's national labs— Richardson's plan would reduce the number of F-22 Raptor fighter jets the U.S. plans to buy, cancel the CV-22 Osprey and scrub the Airborne Laser Program.
The effect of the proposed cuts on New Mexico is not clear, but they would be substantial. Los Alamos and Sandia national labs, which employ 22,000 New Mexicans, get the bulk of their funding from the nuclear weapons program.
Concerning some of the cuts, campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds said, "The governor is aware this may have an impact in New Mexico. ... We're looking beyond parochial politics with an emphasis on the greater good for the country."
His plan also proposes reducing the number of warheads from 10,000 to 1,000; slowing the Army's development of unproven future combat systems; and canceling a class of submarines.
The campaign released a two-page sketch of Richardson's defense reorganization plan Wednesday, promising more details when Richardson gives a "major" policy speech on the matter next week at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Reynolds said Richardson envisions using some of the estimated savings of $57.14 billion a year to beef up U.S. military special forces and intelligence agencies and re-equip National Guard troops in need of new gear due to the ongoing war in Iraq.
Reynolds said some of the savings also would go to improve health care and education at home.
Sep 26, 2007
Gov. Bill Richardson got serious in a letter to members of the Congressional Appropriation Committees Tuesday with regard to the looming funding crisis facing New Mexico's two national labs. FY 2007 ends Sunday and many jobs may depend on the budget's outcome.
"As governor of New Mexico, I am writing to you to express my deep concern over the proposed appropriation for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), which would signify cuts to these most important national security resources," Richardson stated in his letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Robert Byrd, D-Nev., House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey, D-WI, and six other Congressional Committee chairmen and ranking members.
"I urge you, while working on the FY08 Energy and Water Appropriations bills, to take up the Senate funding levels that will allow the labs to continue their vital scientific work. In addition, as the end of the funding year nears, I respectfully request that you fund the Continuing Resolution at FY07 levels to allow (LANL and SNL) to continue their mission without interruption until Congress completes its work on the FY08 funding bill."
LANL spokesman Kevin Roark addressed Richardson's letter during an interview this morning.
"We greatly appreciate the strong support from Gov. Richardson," Roark said. "He has clearly been a champion of the national security capabilities at both laboratories for a long time. The letter very succinctly describes the capabilities of both labs and we greatly appreciate the kind words."
Richardson stated in his letter that LANL and SNL are a key part of America's national defense and vital to New Mexico's economy. He added that while both laboratories have had a traditional responsibility to assure the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear deterrent, they have evolved to add new areas of innovation from assessing border and transportation security to improving health, energy and infrastructure security, and from countering nuclear and biological threats to supporting the physical security of first responders and America's armed forces at home and abroad.
"While the U.S. Congress continues to deliberate on the future needs for nuclear weaponry and nuclear power, I believe all parties recognize the threat posed by loose nuclear material in a post 9/11 world, and the ongoing need to be able to assess the national security threat presented by countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons," Richardson said in his letter. "With over six decades of experience, (LANL) is consistently called upon to access and analyze nuclear tests, such as those recently conducted by North Korea."
The governor told committee members that LANL also plays a critical role in recovering sealed radio-active sources and keeping the materials used in the nuclear "dirty bombs" out of the hands of terrorists and has retrieved more than 15,000 sources of radioactive material from medical and educational facilities.
The governor added that the labs' security research is also developing techniques to defeat roadside bombs and countermeasures to nuclear and biological terrorist threats.
"The 12,488 LANL employees and the 8,600 SNL employees include some of the best and most highly awarded scientists in the world," Richardson stated. "LANL scientists have produced over 16,000 peer reviewed technical articles in the last 10 years, the highest of any Department of Energy national lab."
Richardson mentioned that the labs are expanding the borders and limits of science and engineering. He said while America's leadership in math and science has slipped, SNL has two of the 10 fastest computers in the world - Red Storm and Thunderbird - adding that LANL is developing the world's first computer capable of processing one million billion calculations per second.
Richardson told committee leaders that LANL scientists have helped complete the 100th genomic sequence and helped discover how hepatitis-C virus replicates itself in human liver cells. He explained that LANL operates the world HIV database that more than 10,000 researchers draw on in their efforts to find a cure for HIV.
"But perhaps the area that holds the greatest promise for (the labs) is in the development of renewable energy." Richardson said. "LANL is currently using cutting-edge nanotechnology to develop highly efficient solar cells. This breakthrough could revolutionize the solar energy field by making solar cells economically competitive with fossil fuels in producing electricity."
He added that LANL is an international leader in fuel cell research critical to developing a hydrogen economy and is working with companies to improve technologies for enhanced and clean use of fossil fuels and expanding energy conservation efforts - reducing dependence on foreign oil.
Richardson called LANL and SNL "international leaders in nanotechnology" and said they are developing light, "super-strong" materials to make more efficient use of energy resources for automobiles and aircraft.
"LANL and SNL each have unparalleled facilities, whose loss or reduction would impede scientific progress across our nation," Richardson said. "The current appropriation would mean a dramatic cut for (both labs), and a significant step backwards in assessing global nuclear threats and reducing loose nuclear material. The current appropriation would also lose an opportunity to reassign the best scientists in the country onto the toughest scientific problem of our time - moving our nation to a renewable energy future."
As Congress continues its transition to a post-Cold War and post-9/11 strategy, Richardson urged committee leaders not to "shortsightedly curtail innovation and scientific advance at America's leading national labs."
He called on them to maintain the labs' national security missions and to challenge its scientists to help build America's renewable energy future.
"They've faced tough challenges before and have risen to meet them," Richardson said. "I urge you to call on these scientists to take on this new mission."
September 26, 2007
Spending measure buys Congress more time for final appropriations bill
Workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory got a six-week break from steep budget cuts as congressional leaders worked out a temporary spending bill that funds the lab at last year’s levels.
The measure, called a continuing resolution, allows Congress more time to work out a final appropriations bill for the 2008 fiscal year, which begins Monday.
There will be no layoffs in the next six weeks, but that was the case anyway, a lab spokesman said. The measure was crafted by House and Senate leaders, and would cover 12 appropriations bills that have yet to be enacted into law. It will likely be voted on later this week.
The resolution “provides us with some much needed breathing room and of course we greatly appreciate the hard work of our senators, especially Sen. (Pete) Domenici,” lab spokesman Kevin Roark said.
Domenici is the ranking Republican on the Senate subcommittee that pays for energy and water projects nationwide.
“This buys us time to redouble our efforts to put together... a funding bill that will allow our nation’s nuclear complex to continue critical nuclear deterrent efforts and to minimize the layoffs at LANL and Sandia contemplated under the House-passed bill,” Domenici said.
One worst-case scenario at Los Alamos, as requested by government agencies, could result in 2,500 layoffs.
“This is as good as we could have hoped for in the near term,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said. “It maintains the status quo while we fight to ensure that our labs are funded as close as possible to President Bush’s budget request.”
Roark added this measure does not substantially change the lab’s planning process. “We still need to see what kind of spending bill comes out of Congress in November,” he said.
The continuing resolution expires Nov. 16.
U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said he was pleased with the resolution but again encouraged the lab to diversify its mission.
Lab director Michael Anastasio has previously told workers the budget could be flat at best or a $350 million cut at worst. The lab’s current budget is more than $2.1 billion, and 12,115 workers are employed there. Of that total, 9,046 work for Los Alamos National Security LLC, which operates the lab for the government.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 986-3073 or email@example.com.
Sep 25, 2007
For many residents of Los Alamos, who may have noticed the growing uncertainties that have popped up around the nuclear weapons complex and are beginning to wonder, "What the heck is going on?" - it may be time to get an expert opinion.
Jack Jekowski will give a talk titled "The Transformation of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Past, Present and ... Future?" at a meeting of the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security (LACACIS), to be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the United Church.
Jekowski, a founding partner of Innovative Technology Partnerships, has given a great deal of attention over the last few years to plans and proposals for structural changes in the complex.
In an interview Monday, Jekowski traced some of the current complications, at least in part, to a disconnection between policy and planning that may have left appropriators in the House of Representatives feeling less than enthusiastic. During the last two years, the National Nuclear Security Administration has drawn up plans for transforming the complex, aiming for what the administration's 2002 Nuclear Posture Review called "a responsive infrastructure," Jekowski said.
These were steps that the administration believed needed to be taken to modernize the nuclear stockpile over the next 25 years. They were measures intended to make the complex more efficient and reliable, while also preserving the human capital and expertise upon which the nation's nuclear capability relies.
But NNSA relied more on their own internal plan for what they called Complex 2030, rather than the prescription that came out of a study they requested. That was the more independent and "outside-the-box" study known as the Overskei report, after its chair David Overskei.
"When all the dust settled and the power base changed with last year's election, more strength ended up with the congressional perspective," Jekowski said. "NNSA did what Congress asked them not to do; they moved forward with a plan based on internal perspectives," rather than the more independent and creative approach of the Overskei committee.
The NNSA plan, Jekowski said was more of a compromise between the status quo and some of the ideas for transformation.
"The dramatic proposal (in the House appropriation bill) to reduce funding is a response to the fact that NNSA chose this middle ground," Jekowski said.
It's hard to know the players without a program. Similarly, it's hard to know how to interpret the current budget crisis, without some knowledge of the relationship between policy and politics.
Jekowski said another dimension of the discussion has to do with the context of the rest of the world and is of particular relevance to LACACIS. This part of the discussion is about whether enough work has been done to reassure the global community that the Reliable Replacement Warhead and the changes in the nuclear complex will promote the world's desire for non-proliferation, or whether it will drive new players into the nuclear arena.
CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor
Despite her scarred face, neck and hands, a soft kindness emanates from Shigeko Sasamori, 68, as she describes living through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Just six-years-old at the time, the first grader talked with classmates a mile-and-a-half from the point of impact.
"The day was so beautiful," Sasamori said of Aug. 6, 1945. "The sky was so blue. I heard the plane. I said to my classmate, 'Look at that pretty plane.' Then I saw something white and I said, 'Look at that pretty cloud.'"
Sasamori didn't realize that "pretty cloud" was a parachute carrying a bomb that would level her city. She remembered being suddenly blown backwards, rendered unconscious.
When she regained consciousness, she recalled thinking something had happened around her immediate area.
"I did not know that all the houses in the entire city were flattened," she said, adding that a baby's screams brought her back to fuller consciousness. "I did not know my face and hands were burned - I did not feel it, too much shock maybe."
Sasamori, speaking with a Japanese accent, gave an inspirational presentation at the Los Alamos Holiday Inn Sunday. She is one of just a few remaining atomic bomb survivors. As her talk progressed, increasingly gruesome details surfaced.
"People were burning alive, they couldn't get out of their building," Sasamori said. "People can see them inside the broken down building yelling, 'Help, help,' but no one has equipment to cut them out. I've been told burns are the worst pain. People who looked up at the bomb - their eyeballs melted out of their heads. The city began to smell so horrible, so many people hurt and dead. People's backs were black ... White worms got into the people's bones."
Sasamori remembered "dying every minute" and recalled her mother painstakingly nursing her back to health. All medical supplies were destroyed. Her mother treated Sasamori's mutilated skin with soybean oil. She remembered people coming by and expressing surprise that she was still alive.
That day and in the following days, months and years, Sasamori lost relatives, friends and classmates. Some died on the spot; others later succumbed to radiation induced illnesses.
Her story is featured in the new documentary "White Light, Black Rain," subtitled "The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Sasamori is one of a few survivors interviewed about her personal experience. Nearly 10 minutes of the film were previewed on Sunday. The film depicted Sasamori coming to America in 1955, as one of the "Hiroshima Maidens", for whom reconstructive surgery was provided. She said she has undergone at least 30 plastic surgery operations.
Experiencing the destruction of an atomic bomb, Sasamori said, has led her to value all human life. "I became a nurse and feel maybe God gave me a mission to tell how important (it is) to don't kill, don't bomb," she said. "I'm sure everyone has a good heart. The difference is some people cover up the good heart making nuclear weapons."
Sasamori said she is afraid to live in Los Alamos because "they are making nuclear weapons here and have disposal pits." "I felt needles in all my skin when I heard that," she said. "The government is using innocent people to work here. I would like to say to the people here, 'Get out.'"
Sasamori lives in California. She called her survival a miracle and said she doesn't want anyone to experience such horror.
She vows to fight for nuclear disarmament as long as she is alive and able. She shared plans to invite mothers everywhere to march on the White House, carrying their infants, to tell President Bush to honor the disarmament treaty and halt nuclear weapons manufacturing.
"God gave me life to do this," Sasamori said.
Following Sasamori's presentation, sponsored by the Los Alamos Study Group (LASG), Executive Director Gregory Mello briefed the audience on current disarmament struggles.
Mello, an LASG founder, specializes in outreach to the public, Congress, and the international disarmament community, as well as environmental review and litigation preparation emphasizing Los Alamos National Laboratory.
LANS has plans to conduct a RIF at LANL. This FAQ is their way of letting you know that.
1. Could you explain the current budget situation and the impact of a continuing resolution?
A. Continuing Resolution (CR) is a stopgap funding measure passed by Congress to continue operations until regular appropriations are enacted. A CR can continue for any length of time (though typically it is for a relatively short period), but DOE will allot only enough money to cover the period of the CR. This can create a "cash-flow" issue if the amount to be funded in the CR is defined at a level less than the previous year or below planning levels. This means that LANL must curtail its spending during a CR to match the amount being allotted to the Lab from the DOE.
In summary, the impact of the CR is two-fold. First, the use of a CR means that a final appropriation has not been passed and thus a final budget can not be determined. Second, the terms of the CR may result in a level of funding that is less than current or planned levels and may also be different than what a final appropriation provides. All of this points to continuing budget uncertainty as long as a CR is in place.
2. Is LANL the only laboratory impacted by the Congressional FY08 budgets?
A. No. All NNSA sites within the DOE weapons complex are also affected by the Congressional budget uncertainties for FY08. As Director Anastasio highlighted in his September 6, 2007, memo to LANL employees, NNSA Administrator Tom D'Agostino's note, which went to all NNSA sites, said: "Since we have no ability to estimate how long we may have to operate under these conditions [the uncertain budget], we have to anticipate that it will be for an extended period of time. This situation unfortunately will cause some significant impacts to our sites' operating budgets and could affect our workforce."
3. What is the latest information on whether LANL will experience a workforce restructuring process?
A. The Laboratory is considering all options and searching for viable alternatives to a workforce restructuring. But, as Director Anastasio noted in his September 6, 2007, memo to the workforce "as a hedge against the uncertainties of the budget and its timing, we need to begin planning for a possible restructuring of our workforce." As part of that planning process we have submitted a general 3161 workforce restructuring plan to NNSA for their approval and adoption. As indicated in Jan Van Prooyen's recent memo that plan is a high level general plan, establishing the general framework within which any restructuring of the workforce at LANL would be implemented. You can read Mike's memo here and Jan's memo here.
4. What is Section 3161?
A. Section 3161 of the National Defense Authorization Act requires a Workforce Restructuring Plan to be developed whenever workforce restructuring occurs in the nuclear weapons complex. The primary objective of Section 3161 is to mitigate the negative impact on employees and communities whenever workforce restructuring takes place. Section 3161 is invoked when the Secretary of Energy determines that a change in the workforce at a Defense Nuclear Facility is necessary. The process begins by developing a Workforce Restructuring Plan after consulting with all stakeholders.
[See WARN Act Resources for further information.]
5. In the event of workforce restructuring, I understand the Laboratory would have to submit a General Workforce Restructuring Plan before submitting a Specific Workforce Restructuring Plan. What is the difference between the general and specific plans?
A. Before any restructuring can be implemented at the Laboratory, a Specific Workforce Restructuring Plan will be developed, as necessary, to outline specific restructuring activities associated with any reprioritization of work scope. The following excerpt explaining the two types of plans is taken from the recent Jan Van Prooyen memo updating workforce planning: Section 3161 establishes the planning process for a possible workforce restructuring and requires the creation and submission of a workforce structuring plan.
There are two types of plans required by Section 3161. Initially, a high level general plan, establishing the general framework within which any restructuring of the workforce at LANL would be implemented, is submitted to NNSA for their adoption. As has been discussed, this plan does not contain any specificity and is largely for the purpose of providing notice to employees and the community that a specific plan is being developed. Following the general plan, a specific plan is submitted that describes in detail how a workforce restructuring would actually be accomplished.
6. Where could I find the Workforce Restructuring Plan?
A. Once established, the draft Workforce Restructuring Plan will be posted on the LASO web site for a comment period that is scheduled to last seven days. The plan and any relevant associated documents will also be posted on this site.
7. What would be the difference between any potential Laboratory's workforce restructuring efforts and the Workforce Mobility Program?
A. As part of any potential workforce restructuring efforts, the Laboratory would be required to develop a Workforce Restructuring Plan. A Workforce Restructuring Plan for the Laboratory during times of budget concerns and uncertainties addresses how the Laboratory will assess and realign, where necessary, those skills essential to successfully complete its current and future mission and, as a corallary, those job categories where the Laboratory has surplus employees. A restructuring plan, in general, would include a description of all of the programs, tools, and resources that would be made available to the workforce and to management to make decisions that would ultimately align the Laboratory workforce with mission requirements.
The Laboratory's Workforce Mobility program has been in place since January 2007, and is not currently a part of the workforce restructuring planning efforts. The Workforce Mobility program is a tool designed to facilitate the movement of employees from organizations experiencing funding concerns to those organizations that are experiencing growth and need additional staff to meet their deliverables. The program, as designed, is focused on providing a mobility service to a very narrow population of the workforce. If LANL were to proceed with the implementation of a Workforce Restructuring Plan, the Laboratory might look to expand the workforce mobility concept to include a broader segment of the workforce.
8. How can I receive updated information about workforce restructuring efforts, and is there a comment period to provide input into such process?
A. Laboratory management is sensitive to the importance of timely, accurate communication during this challenging time and is committed to keeping staff informed of developments during any potential workforce restructuring efforts. The Laboratory has developed this web page to provide accurate, official information as it becomes available. This Question & Answers' section, for example, will be updated regularly to include new employee inquiries.
Additionally, the Laboratory will continue to keep employees informed through various channels, including all-employee meetings, periodic written communications, Links, and the online Daily Newsbulletin.
As always, employees are encouraged to address issues concerning their day-to-day work with their immediate supervisor.
[Last but not least, you can always turn to LANL: The Rest of the Story.]
9. I have heard that the Laboratory's management team has started identifying positions for separation. Is this true?
A. No. In order to plan for and develop a Specific Workforce Restructuring Plan, a number of scenarios need to be thought through and data needs to be gathered. As part of this process, LANL's senior management has been asked to participate in the first of likely many data gathering exercises. This first exercise was to identify job functions by organization that cannot be realigned because of critical mission delivery requirements. Every planning or data gathering exercise requires a target and, similar to a budget planning exercise, this workforce planning exercise was based on a target of 7 percent reduction. Again, the purpose of this initial planning exercise is to gather data so that the Laboratory can have a better understanding of the impacts of a potential workforce restructuring.
10. Why are LANL employees receiving annual merit raises, as approved, if the budget is so tight?
A. Each year the Laboratory receives approval from DOE/NNSA for a salary increase authorization that considers factors such as what proposed salary increases would cost the Laboratory and what it would take to keep the salaries at the Laboratory competitive. The Laboratory's senior management team has thoughtfully considered the implications of granting salary increases in light of FY08 budget uncertainties. Ultimately, the team decided that it is important to recognize and reward the many employees whose contributions have helped us achieve our mission during the past year and to remain competitive for employee retention. It is important to remember that even when decisions must be made to address immediate budget concerns and uncertainties, the Laboratory must also endeavor to make decisions that will not impact the long-term health and viability of the Laboratory and its workforce.
We now return you to your regular programming.
Sep 24, 2007
In the area of conduct of engineering, LASO has not established and appears to have no plans to establish a safety system oversight program that meets the requirements of DOE M 426.1-1A.Among the responsibilities for safety system oversight personnel listed in DOE M 426.1-1A is this:
Report potential or emergent hazards immediately to DOE line management and FRs, and stop tasks, if required, to prevent imminent impact to the health and safety of workers and the public, to protect the environment, or to protect the facility and equipment and immediately notify the on-duty or on-call FR.The obvious question being who, if anyone, is currently performing this function? Perhaps the only thing more incredible about the Biennial Review is the assertion that, "LASO has improved its performance in recent months."
It's frightening to imagine how it could have been any worse.
In addition to the reader comment below, the story was covered here by Raam Wong of The Albuquerque Journal.
Subject: LOS ALAMOS SITE OFFICE CRITICIZED
LOS ALAMOS SITE OFFICE CRITICIZED IN INTERNAL SAFETY OVERSIGHT REVIEW
A National Nuclear Security Administration internal review has turned up several deficiencies in the safety oversight and assessment processes at the Los Alamos Site Office. According to a draft copy of a Chief of Defense Nuclear Safety review released last week by the Project on Government Oversight, many of the safeguards to ensure implementation and maintenance of the nuclear safety management rule at Los Alamos National Laboratory were "not implemented effectively" and that "continued improvement in most functional areas" was warranted.
While acknowledging that the site office has recently improved its performance, the Aug. 9 "Headquarters Biennial Review of Site Nuclear Safety Performance Los Alamos Site Office" found that only four of the 14 nuclear safety oversight and assessment processes reviewed met expectations: packaging and transportation, quality assurance, criticality safety, and radiation protection.
According to the review, there were five areas of significant concern, including oversight of contractor training and maintenance. Also cited were:
- Significant gaps that exist in meeting National Nuclear Security Administration requirements in the areas of formality of operations, engineering, maintenance, training, quality assurance, and safety basis;
- Staffing in several key areas found to be lacking, including conduct of engineering, contractor training and qualification, safety basis, facility representatives, maintenance, and fire protection;
- Key federal personnel that are not trained and qualified because of a "self-described personnel “churn" at the site office; and
- Assessments that have not been conducted to find out why federal oversight failed to ensure adequate implementation of nuclear safety requirements at the lab.
NNSA Working To Improve Oversight
NNSA officials would not comment on the draft report specifically, but a spokesperson said one of new NNSA chief Thomas D'Agostino's top priorities is increasing federal oversight of the labs. "We take safety and security very seriously," NNSA spokesman John Broehm said. "There are a lot of different things he'll be doing as new administrator to take care of that." The draft report went on to recommend that the Los Alamos Site Office receive external assistance from the NNSA. "The number and significance of the identified issues are of particular concern given the current state of flux within LASO," the report says. "The manager was recently selected, several key positions are in an acting status, and numerous staff functions are understaffed."
Sep 22, 2007
Monitor Assistant Editor
A public meeting Sunday sponsored by the Los Alamos Study Group brings to Los Alamos a rare and remarkable individual.
Shigeko Sasamori is one of the few remaining survivors of the first atomic bomb explosion over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. She came to the United States in 1955, as one of the highly publicized Hiroshima Maidens, a group of Japanese women for whom reconstructive surgery was provided a decade after the war. She says in the film that she had 30 plastic surgery operations, "maybe more." She was adopted by "Saturday Review" editor Norman Cousins and made a career in the U.S. as a maternity nurse.
Her story is featured in a new (August 2007) documentary, available on DVD and throughout this month on the HBO Signature channel. The film "White Light, Black Rain" was directed by Steven Okazaki, who won an Academy Award in 1990 for "Days of Waiting," a film about one of the few Caucasians to be interned with Japanese-Americans during the war.
As featured in this new production, subtitled "The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki," Shigeko Sasamori is one of a handful of survivors interviewed in depth about her personal story -- where she was, what she saw and what she suffered after the "pillar of fire" engulfed her.
The contentious ending to the World War II, involving as it did the only use of atomic weapons in war, is of fundamental interest, not least to the people of Los Alamos, who have inherited part of the legacy of those events.
[Time and location of the event are here.]
"My guess is the people at this Santa Fe rally can probably all fit in the same car. That way they'll save on gas."
September 22, 2007
Supporters of Los Alamos National Laboratory encounter criticism at Capitol rally
Supporters of Los Alamos National Laboratory took an unusual step Friday and held a public rally at the Capitol, arguing that a well-funded lab is good for national security and science missions.
Some lab critics showed up, too, to say that a well-paid Los Alamos will support the manufacturing of plutonium pits, which are the triggers for nuclear warheads.
``We believe science is something worth fighting for,'' said Srinivasan Srivilliputhur, a materials scientist at the lab.
He said of the critics from the Los Alamos Study Group at the rally: ``We have been demonized. We are dedicated scientists working to protect this country.''
At issue is the federal budget for fiscal 2008. The version passed by the House of Representatives would reduce nuclear weapons programs nationwide by $396 million, with most of the cuts at LANL and Sandia National Laboratories. One worst case scenario at Los Alamos would result in 2,500 layoffs. The Senate has not passed a budget.
However, New Mexico's senators are pushing to fund the lab at last year's levels in a continuing resolution that's likely to be passed by Congress before the new federal budget year begins Oct. 1. The continuing resolution would let the government operate at basic levels while Congress hammers out a final spending bill.
Staffers from Los Alamos first predicted that the levees would break in New Orleans, provided explosives detectors to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and worked on models that track potential pandemic flu, said Ron Dolin, an engineer who worked on those projects.
Dolin and Srivilliputhur were joined by about 14 other scientists who held signs with slogans like ``LANL Stops Terror'' and ``Save Our Science.''
``We cannot afford to disarm ourselves unilaterally,'' Srivilliputhur said.
Representatives of the study group held a banner that read ``Stop the New Bomb Factory.''
The Senate version of the budget spends $251 million more on pit production than the House version, said Greg Mello of the group.
``Most of the jobs in question are plutonium warhead (pit) production-related jobs,'' Mello wrote in a flier. ``In practical terms, today's rally to `save LANL jobs' is mostly a rally to save plutonium pit production-related jobs.''
Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico also said the idea that science would be saved by maintaining the current budget is disingenuous because the proposed cuts are in the weapons program.
Santa Fe County Commission Chairman Harry Montoya spoke in support of the lab, as did State Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 986-3073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sep 21, 2007
SANTA FE - The citizen's advisory board had a lot more to work with this week, as it took up a major recommendation for an expert panel to review the laboratory's groundwater monitoring program.
The board now has 15 members and 14 nominees, two more than the normally authorized number, although a few of the members will depart in the spring and the individual nominees must still pass a review by Department of Energy headquarters.
The Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board, called CAB, is federally chartered to provide recommendations to DOE on issues related to environmental management and legacy waste.
With so many participants, the CAB resembled a ministerial meeting with long tables arranged in a large rectangle in the Jemez Complex of the College of Santa Fe Wednesday.
"We do have a large board," said newly re-elected Chair J.D. Campbell after the meeting. "It takes time for new members to get acquainted, not only with the acronyms but the work and issues at the lab."
Nominees participated with members in an extended discussion of the evening's main event, which was deciding whether or not they should recommend that DOE retain a group of national experts in scientific, technical and policy fields related to groundwater. Among the panel's purposes would be to provide independent peer review and advice for the LANL groundwater project.
Although a nearly finished draft with three recommendations had been worked out by the CAB's Environmental Monitoring, Surveillance and Remediation Committee before the meeting, a fourth recommendation was added to the document during a break before the formal discussion, requesting in the interest of public understanding and confidence that some of the meetings and all of the panel's comments would be open to the public.
During a presentation earlier in the meeting, New Mexico Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief James Bearzi indicated that he supported the independent group, although he did not promise always to agree with them.
George Rael, the DOE official in charge of the local program and Susan Stiger LANL's Associate Director for Environmental Programs, who made separate presentations to the CAB were also asked for their thoughts.
Rael recalled an example of a successful peer review panel at Sandia National Laboratories in the mid-1990s.
"We don't have all the expertise," he said, adding that it would depend on how the panel was structured and that perhaps it didn't need to be a "standing body."
Stiger said her experience on a range of such groups, "from peer review to advisory panel" was that "some worked and some didn't."
She said the work called for "a toolbox" with a range of these kinds of tools.
"One size doesn't fit all," she added.
In the enlarged board with many new participants, the issue went around the room a few times.
One current member in particular, Gerald Maestas of Espanola, a retired manager from LANL, resisted the recommendation.
"LANL can get the help they need without this recommendation," he said.
The board's is required to reach its recommendations by consensus, and there were several moments when consensus seemed elusive.
Helping the discussion along, newly elected Vice Chair Fran Berting, a Los Alamos County councilor, explained that the board members didn't have to agree fully with something, in order to be a part of the consensus.
"Yeah, I'll live with it," Maestas said, opening the way to an approval.
"It took a long time for everybody to be heard and not everybody thought they had that much to contribute," Campbell said after the meeting. "There were many questions raised and a lot of information requested."
He said the water issues, including the laboratory's response to recommendations made earlier this year by a panel of the National Academies of Science, would continue to receive a lot of attention in the coming months.
Independent peer review of the LANL groundwater-monitoring project was one of 17 recommendations of that committee.
New ways of exploring the mountain's waterworks
WCRR packs first hot drum]
Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman urged Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to continue funding Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs in full until a final budget is hammered out.
There is concern that almost $400 million in proposed cuts for the nation’s nuclear weapons labs could effect New Mexico's own labs.
Dozens of people showed up for a rally in Santa Fe Friday to protest the cuts. Others protested the lab nuclear programs.
The House wants to cut up to $350 million from the labs' operating budget, which could cost hundreds of jobs.
Many on Capitol Hill want the nation's labs to switch from nuclear weapon-making to a focus on alternative energy or high-tch industry.
Some at the “Save our Science” rally, as Friday’s event was called, said that would be a big mistake.
“Scientific research at Los Alamos and Sandia has brought world peace…and protected our planet,” LANL scientist Dr. Srinivasan Srivilliputhur said.
Protestors at the rally said they would like to see the labs stop developing nuclear technology. They would like to see the labs develop what they call “useful” technology.
“There are a lot of brilliant minds up there. And they ought to be applying themselves to helping the world,” activist Ann Murray said.
Others said they just want congress to continue funding the labs and its 12,000 employees—whatever the mission may be.
The U.S. Senate still has to vote on two energy bills which are expected on the president’s desk by October 1.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Sens. Work to Delay Lab Cuts
By John Fleck
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation pushed this week for a
stop-gap federal budget plan that would delay deep cuts in spending at New
Mexico's nuclear weapons laboratories.
But the effort is entangled in a broader battle over how to handle
Congress' failure to pass fiscal year 2008 spending plans.
Thousands of New Mexico jobs at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs are
at stake, as well as the future of a major nuclear weapons manufacturing
effort at Los Alamos.
Both Sandia and Los Alamos are preparing worst-case contingency plans
for dealing with the possibility that as many as 3,000 of their 22,000
employees could lose their jobs.
The new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1— in just 10 days. But Congress
hasn't completed any spending bills, and partisan bickering has broken out
in Washington over what to do about the problem.
In the long term, the battle is over deep divisions between the House of
Representatives, which wants to cut the nuclear weapons program, and the
Senate, which does not.
This year's nuclear weapons budget is $6.3 billion, including $1.5
billion at Los Alamos and $1 billion at Sandia. The House is proposing a 9.4
percent cut in 2008. The Senate wants to increase the budget 3.3 percent.
The specific effect of cuts on each lab is unknown.
Proposed House cuts, in addition to eliminating thousands of jobs at
Sandia and Los Alamos, would put the brakes on a plan to expand the
manufacture of plutonium nuclear weapon parts at Los Alamos.
But all eyes are on the short term now— what to do come Oct. 1 to fund
things while a final spending plan is worked out.
New Mexico's two senators Thursday pushed for a short-term solution that
would allow spending to continue at this year's budget level, avoiding the
need for cuts until at least mid-November while members of the House and
Senate try to work out their disagreements over the nuclear weapons budget.
That approach would provide "some stability while the appropriations
process plays out," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and Sen. Pete Domenici,
R-N.M., wrote in a letter Thursday to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But one of their colleagues, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has a very
different idea. In a plan unveiled Wednesday, DeMint proposed that stop-gap
funding be made at a lower level.
Under DeMint's proposal, until final budgets are worked out each federal
program would be funded at the lowest of (a) the House's proposed spending
level, (b) the Senate's proposed spending level, or (c) the current year's
For the labs, that would mean the deep House cuts would take effect
immediately, though they might be undone later by the final House-Senate
Domenici said in a telephone interview Thursday that he would fight
DeMint's proposal. But other observers said it wouldn't be surprising to see
DeMint's plan win the day, given that Congress has used that approach in the
"That's a reasonable expectation," said Stephen Slivinski, a budget
analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute.
While Congress scrambled to meet its deadline, lab officials scrambled
to come up with contingency plans.
Until budget numbers become final, lab spokesmen say they won't know how
many jobs might need to be cut. But the labs have launched the first steps
of the legally mandated job-cutting procedure, preparing draft work force
Those plans will include the process to be used for possible job
reductions, said Sandia spokesman Rod Geer.
Once approved by the secretary of energy, the plans go through a public
comment period and a 120-day clock starts ticking before anyone actually
loses his job.
That means the first forced job cuts at Los Alamos and Sandia could not
come until early next year.
Sep 20, 2007
From/MS: Jan A. Van Prooyen, A100
Date: September 20, 2007
Subject: Workforce Planning Update
Two weeks have passed since the all employee meeting regarding FY08 Budget uncertainties where the Director announced I would lead a team focused on planning efforts around potential workforce restructuring. As part of that planning process I have led a LANL team in working with DOE/NNSA to meet the requirements of Section 3161 of the Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993.
Section 3161 establishes the planning process for a possible workforce restructuring and requires the creation and submission of a workforce structuring plan. There are two types of plans required by Section 3161. Initially, a high level general plan, establishing the general framework within which any restructuring of the workforce at LANL would be implemented, is submitted to NNSA for their adoption. As has been discussed, this plan does not contain any specificity and is largely for the purpose of providing notice to employees and the community that a specific plan is being developed. Following the general plan, a specific plan is submitted that describes in detail how a workforce restructuring would actually be accomplished.
I submitted a proposed general workforce restructuring plan regarding LANS and its integrated subcontractors reporting to the Los Alamos Site Office and performing work at the Laboratory and our satellite locations (Nevada and Carlsbad) to NNSA yesterday.
The submitted plan is based on guidance our site, along with a number of other sites throughout the NNSA complex, have received. It will now be reviewed by NNSA and once approved posted on the NNSA website. It is my understanding that this posting will begin the official notice process. We will also post the approved plan on our website. Given the high level and general nature of this plan, I anticipate a relatively quick approval.
We will continue to keep you apprised of activities regarding our planning process. In that vein, I anticipate an information website being posted in the near future. Please remember however, that we are still in a planning phase, and you like us, have many questions that don’t yet have answers. Having said that, it is our intention to maintain open and effective communication with you and stakeholders of the Laboratory.
The great dust-up
Group pursues more investigation of accumulated particles
ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor
PICURIS PUEBLO, N.M. - The New Mexico Environment Department is organizing a follow-up project on a watchdog report last July that found radioactive dust particles outside Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Bill Bartels of the state bureau that provides oversight of the Department of Energy said he had consulted with LANL officials to begin developing "data quality objectives" for distinguishing between natural occurring radon levels and reported lab-related radioactive particles in dust samples from homes, businesses and environmental sources adjacent to the laboratory and in the surrounding communities.
Bartels discussed the early steps of the project at a meeting of the Community Radiation Monitoring Group Wednesday held in the "Big Room" of the Picuris Tribal government building. Some two-dozen people, including a number of representatives from tribal environmental departments and groups, were present.
The main purpose of the meeting was to hear from Marco Kaltofen of Boston Chemical Data, the author of the study conducted late last year and released July 10. He was joined in the teleconference by Tom Carpenter, nuclear oversight director for the Government Accountability Project and publisher of the report.
The unresolved status of the report continues to raise concerns outside the perimeter of the laboratory and a number of strong feelings and alarms were expressed at the meeting.
Kaltofen reviewed the study and reiterated some of its key findings. He highlighted his analysis that of approximately 80 samples several indoor dust samples had higher radiation levels than surrounding soils. Six or seven of the highest radiation levels were found in dusts, and "significant" plutonium 239/240 detections were found, he said, adding, "just background doesn't account for the findings."
Responding at the time, DOE and laboratory officials said the claims in the report did not match the data. They attributed the radioactivity to fallout from atmospheric testing and naturally occurring background.
In a two-page reply, the laboratory welcomed input on ways for improving its "extensive monitoring regimen," that currently includes radiation sampling from soil, groundwater and vegetation.
While not disputing the data, the lab's response expressed "concerns that the conclusions drawn or implied are erroneous."
When Kaltofen was asked about his results in July, he said he was disappointed by the laboratory.
"I would have expected some new testing and new data from them prior to releasing conclusions," he said in an e-mail to the Monitor. "The point of the study is that these particulate vectors remain unexplored by LANL."
Among other comments, Kaltofen acknowledged that NMED had said a larger number of samples was needed, a point with which he agreed.
He and Carpenter both emphasized the budgetary limitations under which they worked on the original screening project and the uncertainty of future funding.
During the meeting Wednesday, Kaltofen said he would share his samples with the laboratory and agreed to consult on the follow-up work. He outlined needs for a follow-up report, if another visit were possible, but encouraged LANL and NMED to conduct routine indoor dust sampling as part of their routine responsibilities.
Bartels said his proposed dust study would depend on what question needed to be answered.
Sheri Kotowski of the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group said, "What I'm seeing already happening is the citizen's excluded from the conversation."
Bartels said, "You have to let us think and do some work and then we'll come to the public."
The Community Radiation Monitoring Group meets monthly for the purpose of understanding and communicating public health issues related to radiation from airborne materials that result from activities at LANL.
This is why Nanos and LANS do not like WFO. There is this accountability thing.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Cash Capped for LANL Sensor
The Associated Press
NASA has capped funding for a remote sensor being developed by Los
Alamos National Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.
"We didn't stop their work, but they're vastly overpriced, and we have
not been able to curtail that," said Alan Stern, head of science at NASA in
NASA told the project "you have to finish with the money you have,"
Stern said Tuesday.
The remote-sensing laser instrument known as ChemCam is 70 percent over
the original price proposed, he said.
Roger Wiens, principle investigator for ChemCam, said last week the
sensor is more than 90 percent complete. A French company has delivered the
laser, which has been under testing for several months, he said.
Stern said that if the project cannot finish with the money it has, it
might be able to find funds elsewhere. But, he said, "I'm out of resources."
The lab was chosen in 2004 to develop the instrument to accompany the
mobile laboratory, which will look for environments that can support life on
the surface of Mars.
ChemCam is to be delivered to the spacecraft late next spring, Stern
said. The launch is two years away, said Stern, associate administrator for
NASA's science mission directorate.
"We have missions that get into trouble," he said. "This is the third
time this mission has needed more money, and we could not pay all the
One way to cut costs was to cap ChemCam, he said.
Most of the instruments for the Mars mission are ready and within
budget, "but this one and a couple of others aren't, and we had to treat
them all similarly," Stern said.
Gussie and Pinky,
I thought you might be interested in some 'factual' budget data as found on www.thomas.gov.
Senate Energy and Water committee Markup:
Appropriations, 2007 $9,216,013,000
Budget estimate, 2008 $9,386,833,000
Committee recommendation $9,564,545,000
Appropriations, 2007 $6,275,583,000
Budget estimate, 2008 $6,511,312,000
Committee recommendation $6,489,024,000
Status: [not official] full Senate hasn't voted
House Energy and Water committee Markup:
NNSA "The Committee provides $8,786,881,000 for the NNSA, a reduction of $599,952,000 below the budget request and a reduction of $294,132,000 below the current year level."
Weapons "The Committee's recommendation provides $5,879,137,000, for Weapons Activities, a reduction of $632,175,000 below the budget request and a reduction of $396,446,000 below the current year level."
Status: [not official] full House voted and sent to Senate
New Mexico's U.S. senators both see the range of possibilities for the LANL budget to be narrowing slightly, two weeks into their fall work calendar.
In an interview with New Mexico radio reporters Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said that a continuing resolution was likely, adding that he thought it would extend funding at current levels for a month or more.
Then, an energy and water bill would be folded into an omnibus funding measure that Congress would try to pass "in late October or early November."
There has been uncertainty about whether a continuing resolution to keep the department in business after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 would use the House version of the bill, the Senate appropriation committee version, the administration's request or some other arithmetic.
Current levels might enable the laboratory to avoid the deep cuts threatened in the House bill, although a number of policy disagreements would have to be resolved some other way.
Notably, the itemized funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program is zeroed out in the House Bill and reduced by a third in the unfinished Senate bill.
As he has said before, Bingaman did not rule out cuts.
"I think there'll be cuts," he said. "I don't think they'll be as dramatic or drastic as the House of Representatives has proposed."
A spokesperson for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said his understanding was that the continuing resolution at current levels was not finalized.
"The senator has not gone so far as to say that would be rolled into an omnibus bill for all of '08," noted Domenici's press secretary, Chris Gallegos.
"He (Domenici) is still working to get the Senate to take up their energy and water bill in early October, which would then set the stage for getting a conference agreement out of the Senate and House bills."
He added that with four of the 12 appropriations bills now passed there was still hope that a negotiated agreement between House and Senate conferees would be preferable to an omnibus bill at current levels.