Mar 26, 2008

CMRR project update leaves unanswered questions

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

A much-discussed topic in recent days and months, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) facility, had another public airing Tuesday night.

This time the semiannual meeting was at Fuller Lodge. About 30 people attended, mostly employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the Department of Energy (DOE), as well as others affiliated with the project, but also several representatives of the “interested parties,” the seven public interest groups named in a legal settlement in September 2005.

By the end of the evening, members of the “interested parties” expressed disappointment that the four pages of questions they had prepared and submitted well in advance were not more fully answered during the two-hour meeting.

The agreement under the auspices of the state environmental department spelled out the terms by which an air-quality permit was granted to the first two phases of the CMRR project, which have to do with the Radiological Laboratory/Utility Office Building (RLUOB) the smaller of the two buildings under construction and its utility area.

RLUOB has a projected cost of $164 million and aims for occupancy and operations in 2010.

Tom Whitacre of the DOE site office gave a project overview of the RLUOB construction, now considered 40-percent complete, with an emphasis on progress during the fall and winter seasons. Work on the structural steel columns that will support the top three floors has now started at the site.

Further attention was given to describing the quality assurance program on the project in response to questions at the last meeting.

The air-quality permit for the second building, the far more complex Nuclear Facility (NF), would normally be submitted about a year before the start of construction, according to Bill Blankenship, LANL’s air quality official on the project.

Rick Holmes, who heads the CMRR project for LANL said the schedule for construction of the NF are in the 2010-2016 time frame. He said the $74.5 million received for the RLUOB project this year would fund this year’s work, purchase and install equipment, and underwrite the final design authorization on the NF.

He said it was “just decided” to propose a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) goal for the NF.

The RLUOB already has a goal of a silver certification under the Green Building Rating System, but the proposal for the NF would be a first for a major nuclear facility.

Holmes said it was “a very big thing.”

CMRR is many things to many people, as the wide-ranging yet legally constrained discussion attested. For the laboratory, CMRR is the long-awaited replacement to its aging predecessor, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR) facility, more than 50 years old, virtually on life-support and with a safety authorization basis set to expire in 2010.

For laboratory critics, including the parties to the air quality permit settlement, the CMRR is at the front of a larger issue about whether the country will move toward or away from international agreements on nuclear disarmament.

Another $100 million is included in the administration’s budget for the CMRR project this year. A clear-cut success or failure of that piece of the appropriations process may mark a decisive moment for the larger project.

For the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration, the CMRR is a key facility in a long-playing effort to transform the nuclear weapons complex into what they have envisioned as a smaller, safer, more efficient and sustainable formation.

A stream of visitors – from Congress and DOE and lately tours of community leaders – have visited the CMRR construction site in recent weeks as a part of a major public-relations effort by the laboratory in support of the project.

Holmes was asked how the budget for the project had grown from $600 million in 2004 to more than $2 billion now.

He said the original budget was not updated until 2006, when he began working on the project.

“The cost of materials has escalated dramatically,” he said, along with quantity of materials and normal productivity increases.

A response to preliminary seismic reports, which increased precautionary building standards by 50 percent, meant that walls, once specified to be 3 feet thick are now 4.5 feet, he said.

The matter of the seismic report, which has indicated a greater earthquake risk at the site than had been foreseen, was supposed to be a major topic at the meeting. At the previous meeting, an engineering report and a hazard report were said to have been completed and were promised for the next meeting.

But Steve Fong, the federal project director of the CMRR said the document had been delayed again and now would not be ready until later in the spring, which seemed to indicate it would not be available for discussion for another six months.

Joni Arends, of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, provided a reminder of the legal framework under which the meeting was taking place. She insisted on a more definite plan than the vague promise to answer still-unanswered questions that the “interested parties” had submitted before this meeting.

“I would like the questions to be answered within 30 days,” she said. “We were asked to submit (our questions) 30 days in advance of these meetings.”

Fong said he would try to make the date for the next meeting a little earlier.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now this is very interesting...

Go to: careers.bechtel.com

Select "US Government Services" from Business Units and hit SEARCH.

Then, on the next page that comes up, select "NM, Los Alamos" and hit GO.

You'll see about 18 jobs that Bechtel is hiring for right here at LANL. All of them seem to involve construction type positions. They must be gearing up for the big Pit Factory. This could end up being a very profitable project for Bechtel if they can buy off some Congressmen.

Anonymous said...

Can't the world's Best and Brightest come up with a better acronym than RLUOB? Perhaps it's another sign of the decline at LANL.

Anonymous said...

10:39 PM, that's an interesting but not particularly foreboding observation.

Now go to the LANL jobs page and look up postings #215215 PCA3 (5 openings)
and #215214 PCA2 (7 openings). There's 12 of your 18 Bechtel postings.

So the mother ship is just helping recruit external candidates for LANL job openings. This is good, might actually get a qualified person hired into Procurement for a change.

Anonymous said...

In fact, they are all current LANL openings.

Anonymous said...

I thought the idea was to reduce the number of employees at LANL due to the constrained NNSA budgets. And will these new hires be Bechtel employees or LANS employees? Perhaps there is not much difference anymore.

Anonymous said...

CMRR project update leaves unanswered questions???

The answer is pretty clear: "F" you. And that goes out to the community, the region, the state, and the workers.

Anonymous said...

LANS/Bechtel needs to hire a bunch of lower cost employees this year so they can complain about having too many workers next year and start a big RIF. This will allow them to get rid of bunch of older high cost employees during the RIF.

If they tried to hire a bunch of low cost employees right after a big RIF it wouldn't look good and could cause them some political trouble. This way, no one is the wiser.

Sneaky, huh?

Anonymous said...

Hey, they don't need to wait until next year for the riff, how about in 2 months, thats when you will hear of upcoming funding shortages in various groups and programs. Non Pit funding will take some heavy hits.

Anonymous said...

What are you hearing, 1:41 PM in regards to funding? I thought LANL's funding for next year was looking ok. Not fantastic, but at least ok. On the other hand, LLNL appears to be getting ready to lay off a bunch of their regular full-time staff.

Anonymous said...

I know of several groups who are having funding peoblems, several folkes who are hanging around on "Unfunded Overhead" and employees who are not covered will have to be dealt with in a few months.

Anonymous said...

The plan was to get rid of the "expensive" science types so that the little tin soldiers can come here, make big buck with their bonuses and destroy the caliber and quality of science at this institution.
After all, look at who is running the science directorate and what they are spending their time on...As for the "big pit factory", just think of all of the LDRD funds that will be diverted for useless and second-rate science! When did Los Alamos ever advance something novel?

Anonymous said...

So LDRD funds will be diverted from current useless and second-rate science to different useless and second-rate science.

I fail to see the problem.

Anonymous said...

"So LDRD funds will be diverted from current useless and second-rate science to different useless and second-rate science.

I fail to see the problem."

I am sorry but your comment completely lacks merit. The LDRD program in almost all cases supports outstanding science. This is easily varified by the universal standards used in science namemly, publications, impact, citations, and external reviews. I think the scintific community carries a bit more weight in this manner than you.

It appears that you do not "get" science or how it works, yet you make comments on it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the "scintific community," but outside of physics, LANL is not considered a scientifically significant organization.

Anonymous said...

8:54 pm: "outside of physics, LANL is not considered a scientifically significant organization"

"Outside of physics"??? There IS nothing outside of physics. At least, nothing "scientifically significant."

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you were kidding, 9:45, but well played either way.

Bravo!

Anonymous said...

"I don't know about the "scintific community," but outside of physics, LANL is not considered a scientifically significant organization.

3/30/08 8:54 PM"

What??? Just out of curiosity but what planet are you on? You cannot possiblity be a scienists at LANL or any other place for that matter.

You do about know about the HIV work done at lab? You did hear about that right? Bette Korber and crew. How about chemsisty,
applied mathamatics, materials science, and geology.

You have no idea what you are talking about. Have you ever been to any scientific organization outside of LANL. I really doubt you work at LANL. You comment is so outrageously ignorant that it sounds like it camme from Chris Mechels.

Anonymous said...

"HIV work done at lab"???

All LANL does is collate other people's results. So what. A librarian or secretary could do it.

Anonymous said...

"All LANL does is collate other people's results. So what. A librarian or secretary could do it."

False! (Big Buzzer Sound).

Again you show that you do not know what you are talking about. Do you actually know what we do at LANL. Just go look up some publications. Untill then STFU.

Again what planet do you live on?

Anonymous said...

Pull you head out of Terry Wallace's ass, quit reading press releases, and look at the HIV science for yourself.

Anonymous said...

" and look at the HIV science for yourself."

Exactly my point!!! (Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding). If you do this than you will see how ingnorant the 8:16AM comment is. I really wish people would know something about science before they spout their crap. Although their comments are disheartening I am pretty sure they they are not comming from anyone who works at the lab or who is even a scientist.

Anonymous said...

what has LANL really done for HIV science aside from Korber getting tons of money shoved her way for data mining?

Anonymous said...

8:16/11:47 (but not 6:53) here. I agree with 6:53, and would re-emphasize the complete and utter unimportance of this data mining.

Anonymous said...

7:36, with data mining nobody has to worry about injuries aside from trips, slips, falls, and carpal tunnel. This makes Wallace-the-stupid happy. He can score a big bonus while pretending to be a supporter of science at LANL.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

what has LANL really done for HIV science aside from Korber getting tons of money shoved her way for data mining?

3/31/08 6:53 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:16/11:47 (but not 6:53) here. I agree with 6:53, and would re-emphasize the complete and utter unimportance of this data mining.

3/31/08 7:36 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:36, with data mining nobody has to worry about injuries aside from trips, slips, falls, and carpal tunnel. This makes Wallace-the-stupid happy. He can score a big bonus while pretending to be a supporter of science at LANL.

3/31/08 8:11 PM"

These posts are all from the same idiot. Again you have no idea what the hell you are talking about. Do you know what they do? It is not data mining. This crap has to be from Mechels or someone just as insane. Again if you need proof look up the work on HIV done at LANL. Look it up!

Where does this idiot come from?
Oh ya a bitter ex-LANL who was so incompetent that they had to fired and now all they do pollute the world with their insane bile.

Anonymous said...

1:01 pm: "they are not comming from anyone who works at the lab or who is even a scientist."

Or can spell or use correct grammar?

Anonymous said...

I have not posted previously on this thread, but I must agree that what Korber does looks like data mining. Granted, data mining of an apparently highly sophisticated flavor.

Perhaps instead of just ranting about how ignorant everyone else is, maybe

3/31/08 10:57 AM
3/31/08 1:01 PM
3/31/08 9:05 PM

could write a couple of coherent paragraphs explaining exactly what LANL's (and more specifically Bette Korber's) contributions to HIV research have been.

Incidentally, here's what she says about herself:

"Bette Korber is a Laboratory Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. She obtained a Ph.D. in Immunology from Caltech in 1988, and was a Leukemia Society postdoctoral fellow in retrovirology at the Harvard School of Public Health before joining the Theoretical Biology group at Los Alamos in 1990. At that point, she turned from the lab bench to theory and analyses. She has co-led an HIV sequence and immunology database project at Los Alamos for the past decade. In part using the global data in the HIV database, and in part working with experimentalist collaborators from around globe, she has co-authored over 150 scientific papers... Scientifically she most enjoys working in interdisciplinary collaborations to help understand and interpret complex experimental data..."

Anonymous said...

Oh, its you 9:05. No one, in the history of LANL, has ever ever ever been fired for incompetence.

But many have been hired for that reason. ;)

Anonymous said...

Korber is just one of the people who work on HIV at LANL. There is also Alan Perelson. I do not think this work is data mining.

Decay characteristics of HIV-1-infected compartments during combination therapy

Author: Perelson, AS ; Essunger, P ; Cao, YZ ; Vesanen, M ; Hurley, A ; Saksela, K ; Markowitz, M ;
Journal: Nature (London); 1997; v.387, no.6629, p.188-191

I believe this paper was
one of the breakthroughs that led to the drug cocktail treatment that has saved thousands of lives.

Anonymous said...

"I believe this paper was one of the breakthroughs that led to the drug cocktail treatment that has saved thousands of lives."

That is some paper, to have led to drug cocktails for AIDS two years before it was published. See

http://www.advocate.com
/exclusive_detail_ektid22958.asp

Anonymous said...

I know a bit about this but please someone correct me if I am wrong. I think this paper explained why some of the initial drug cocktail
experiments worked. Understanding why this
approach worked allowed for
far more effective treatments to be made so it really was a revolutionary work in the field. Also I think the paper was most cited Nature article of that year.

It is not my field however when I visit other institutes and run into people from immunology and biology they always mention the work done by the
theoretical biology group.

I also heard that some of the people in these groups at LANL that have worked on HIV have gotten great offers at placed like Harvard so
I am guessing that this is some very serious work.

Anonymous said...

All this on significant HIV work at LANL aside - what in the world does HIV research have to do with the LANL mission, and why is this work even being done here? It's certainly not relevant work for the NNSA mission.

Anonymous said...

Simple. In case the nation needs an AIDS bomb.

Anonymous said...

"All this on significant HIV work at LANL aside - what in the world does HIV research have to do with the LANL mission, and why is this work even being done here? It's certainly not relevant work for the NNSA mission."

So, you approve of the pit factory, then? Remember when it used to be LASL?

Anonymous said...

Spoken like an arrogant, true-blue weapon scientist, 8:57 PM.

Yes, indeed, let's fire all the staff at LANL who don't help build bombs and circle our wagons around the future Pit Factory. You and LANS Director Mikey seem to be of one mind.

You should be able to thrive at the new and improved "mission focused" LANL. That is, until the weapons budget is heavily cut. Then, I suspect you'll start bitching loudly about how unfair it is that you lost your job while those doing useful and diversified science still found sources of funding to continue with their research.

Anonymous said...

"those doing useful and diversified science still found sources of funding to continue with their research"

There are no significant sources of funding for non-weapons work, outside of LDRD which is a tax on weapons work.

Big talk from you welfare queens, but you could never last 5 minutes without the weapons programs.

Anonymous said...

"
There are no significant sources of funding for non-weapons work, outside of LDRD which is a tax on weapons work."

I think the HIV people mentioned get NIH money.

Anonymous said...

4/1/08 10:35 PM, your point is what, exactly?

That LASL was a thriving center of HIV research?

Anonymous said...

"So, you approve of the pit factory, then? Remember when it used to be LASL?"

1) Yes, I do. In fact, in the early years prior to Rocky Flats, LASL WAS the pit factory.

2) Yes, I used to work at LASL.

Way back in the '50s and '60s quite a bit of what is now WFO was for the DoD. Some of the work - battlefield nuclear power reactors for instance - was synergistic with capabilities at LASL intimately tied to the weapons mission. Later WFO - nuclear space propulsion - was similarly tied. That's the type of WFO the Lab should continue to pursue.

"Spoken like an arrogant, true-blue weapon scientist, 8:57 PM."

No, I never was a weapons scientist, just a lowly engineer. I worked across many different areas of the Lab over the years - weapons testing, facilities, construction, waste management, maintenance, accelerators, etc. You don't have to be a weapons scientist to believe the Lab should focus on a limited set of core competencies and try to excel in those pursuits. At some point, the broad spectrum of work dilutes the capabilities of the organization to excel in any, and support operations become very inefficient.

Anonymous said...

"Then, I suspect you'll start bitching loudly about how unfair it is that you lost your job while those doing useful and diversified science still found sources of funding to continue with their research."

Well, that leads to another pet peeve of mine. For an enlightening exercise in inefficiency, delve into researching the true cost to the Lab (not just in dollars) to support a multitude of small teams of researchers, working off of relatively small chunks of outside funding scrabbled together from many small-ticket sponsors, just so they can work on pet projects and stay employed from month to month. And a great percentage of that research can be done (and is done) at almost any university or private research institution.

One measure of the inefficiencies involved is the tremendous number of cost accounts and program codes to be tracked to account for all the pocket change floating around. In one division I know of, there were literally hundreds of monthly transactions on the books shifting $1k here, $2k there around between accounts. Many transactions were in the several hundred dollar range. The shuffling was frequent and constant. And this was just for shuffling funding around - that didn't involve transactions for paying salaries or buying materials and supplies.

Anonymous said...

"For an enlightening exercise in inefficiency, delve into researching the true cost to the Lab (not just in dollars) to support a multitude of small teams of researchers, working off of relatively small chunks of outside funding scrabbled together from many small-ticket sponsors, just so they can work on pet projects and stay employed from month to month. And a great percentage of that research can be done (and is done) at almost any university or private research institution."

Do you have Proof? Of course not, you never do have proof. Sounds like Mechels bs to me. I actually know something about this and the external programs bring in a lot of money into the lab. Just look at what they get from NIH which is is taxed. Do some simple math and you will see how this all works out. Sorry that you are getting bitch slaped on the blog lately but when you make nonsensical statements over and over thats what you get.

Anonymous said...

4/3/08 12:01 AM, no that's definitely not Mechels, and you're obviously not listening. The overall economics of large versus small programs is a valid and interesting topic for discussion. Large programs (say, Pit Manufacturing as LANL's most appalling example) breed a level of waste and internal bureaucracy that could never be supported by a small project. (What other production agency in the complex submits weekly reports to headquarters as a routine practice?)

Small projects, particularly proposal-driven ones, don't have the luxury of non-productive time and internal overhead activities, which makes clunker systems like Concur and iProcurement are so maddening. But the economics are ugly in a different way - starting with the significant investment on the PI's part to just get money in the door. And, as 7:52 pointed out, the sheer infrastructure it takes to manage thousands of program codes spread over dozens of "fenced" B&Rs.

Then again, large programs aren't insulated against such insanity as 7:52 describes. Again I'll pick on Pit Manufacturing. A $150M program that's splitting the hairs to such an artificially fine level that many work packages are valued at 0.1-0.5% of the overall program. To put this in perspective, imagine you're building a half-million dollar house, and you make the plumber write a work package for the purchase of the toilets. The installation of the toilets would be another work package, independently budgeted, tracked and reported to a separate program manager. And when the framers accidentally charge a couple of hours to the toilet installation code, the contractor calls the framers' boss and asks for the charge to be corrected.

This is patently ludicrous and excessive and non-value added, but the contractor and homeowner are so impressed with the sheer volume of paperwork this system creates that they pat themselves on the back every month for how well they are "controlling" the construction project, and meanwhile nobody notices that the damned house still isn't getting built.

Anonymous said...

A large amount of the externally funded work (WFOs) done at LANL involves national security efforts that cannot be performed at universities. This external work also helps pay the lab's bills, including those for the expensive weapons complex.

In many respects, WFO is footing the bill for the weapon's side of the house. The average FTE rates would not be anywhere near $450 K per year but for the huge overhead required to support our weapons complex at LANL. Maybe that means that LANL is not a cost effective place to do WFOs. Conversely, it could also imply that the shrinking weapons work is placing a big boat anchor around the feet of LANL. We all know that weapons work is about to significantly shrink. More WFO work is the only hope I can see for saving this lab from a serious decline.

Time is quickly running out for LANS to make LANL more efficient and lower our costs so we can aggressively grow the project base with additional national security WFO projects. Many of the staffers involved in WFO work at LANL have already given up and left for greener pastures. This is not an auspicious trend.

Anonymous said...

"4/3/08 12:01 AM, no that's definitely not Mechels"

Thanks,4/3/08 8:03 AM -

I'm somewhat offended by the insinuation I'm Mechels. And yes, my statements are a synopsis of a snapshot taken of selected LANL accounts a while back - from real data.

I also agree with your comment concerning the extremes utilized by many large projects in breaking down the code of accounts into a multitude of tiny packages - which brings up another pet peeve of mine, the term "project controls". What happened to project planning and project management? I used to manage multi-million dollar projects successfully with only a handful of program codes. It all depends on how creative you are in tracking costs from all of the feeder systems (information mined from Data Warehouse) - Support Services Subcontractor work packages, procurement system, time and effort, etc.

Anonymous said...

Rather than just speculating, if you want to see a list of some of the papers that a biological researcher has published, go to Pubmed, and type in their name and first initial, and a key word regarding the part of their work you are interested in.

For example you could go to the PubMed web site, and search on Korber B HIV, or Perelson A HIV. Perelson and Korber both do theory and analysis, often but not always in collaboration with experimental groups.