Apr 12, 2008

Laboratory answers safety questions

April 11, 2008
Response to NNSA Special Report Order on glovebox safety delivered

The Laboratory responded Thursday, on schedule, to a Special Report Order from Tom D'Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, that was delivered to the Laboratory on January 4, 2008. The Special Report Order is focused on details of two separate glovebox accidents from January 2007 that involved worker injuries and radiological exposures.

The Special Report Order directed the Laboratory to respond with information on any corrective actions taken as a result of inquires into the circumstances of the accidents, and to outline current exposure dose estimates. The order also directed the Laboratory to provide information related to lessons learned, management assessments, improvements to nuclear safety, and any significant changes to glovebox operations.

In his cover letter to D'Agostino in response to the Special Report Order, Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio said, "I share your strong commitment that our corrective actions must be effective, and this commitment remains one of my highest priorities. [Los Alamos National Security] is implementing a formal corrective action plan that, when fully executed, will improve our ability to protect workers from glovebox hazards and will provide assurance that workers are following the processes and procedures designed to protect them. Many actions in this plan are now complete."

In the response the Laboratory acknowledges that, "the need for improvement cannot start with reactive activities associated with an accident. Rather, proactive activities such as a vigorous performance assessment program are critically important in finding and addressing precursor issues before they result in safety events. [The Laboratory] thus understands the human and financial toll on the institution that results from adverse safety events, and is placing its resources on those processes that will assist in avoiding these events."

The response provides detailed information to NNSA demonstrating that all identified causal factors have been addressed by one or more corrective actions. It contains the most current revision to the corrective action plan, a schedule that identifies the organizations involved in and resources required to complete the actions, and a description of the closure process. The response also outlines the root causes of the accidents, and how the Laboratory looked for similar conditions Labwide and took appropriate actions. Current dose estimates and medical treatment information is provided in the response, along with the each worker's status. Both injured employees have returned to work.

In conclusion the response states that the Laboratory understands what happened and why, and has taken appropriate corrective actions based on the causes of the two events, and has processes in place to assure both the effectiveness and sustainability of those corrective actions; and that the Laboratory understands the significance of these events, the impact they have had on the involved workers and their families, the challenges they have presented to the Laboratory and the reasons for NNSA's concerns. It further states that Anastasio and his senior management team pledge that progress toward improving the Laboratory's nuclear safety performance must continue and that the Laboratory can not assume that the task is complete.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's just not credible that LANS can correct these kinds of safety issues. LANS takes $175M per year from the LANL budget to pay for their management fee and other costs. UC took $8M per year. This extra $167M that now pays management bonuses IS the funding that would have paid for improvements in engineered safety barriers, safety training, and would have paid for the maintenance staff to keep these safety systems operating within specifications.

Sorry LANS. Sorry NNSA. Everyone knows the truth. Well, everyone except our Congressional members who have declined to step in and fix this impending disaster.

Anonymous said...

That's a very nice rant, and I don't disagree with the general sentiment, but what do LANS-related costs have to do with glove box safety?

LANS does not "take" $175M. As I understand it, that is the total cost to DOE of a maximum possible fee and NM gross receipts tax. I think that bonuses come from another pot. If true, that makes it worse.

Let's say LANS-related costs result in 10% less programmatic money. A fraction of programmatic money is spent on safety. From my vantage point, it looks like the fraction is increasing, leaving less money for technical work.

Anonymous said...

OK! Here's the plan.
We screw up a lot of stuff. Have
a few safety and security incidents.
LANS gets a small fee next year
and the money saved goes to fund safety improvements.

Anonymous said...

It would be simpler to not screw things up and for LANS to invest a portion of their fee in diversification. Nah. Come to think of it, that could never happen. I guess 2:10's plan is better.

Anonymous said...


LANS takes a fee of up to $79M per year. The rest of the $100M extra costs that LANS brought with them do come in the form of GRT and extra pension costs. UC, being a nonprofit organization, didn't have to pay these costs. UC cost $8M/year, LANS costs $175M/year. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

As DOE did not plus up the LANL budget to pay for these LANS costs, some of this exhorbitant increase does translate to less money available for programmatic work, but since LANS didn't significantly raise the overhead rate, most of these costs comes out of the overhead budget. That's why LANS had to lay off 500 contractors. What did you think these contractors were doing, science?

Anonymous said...

from Anonymous at 4/12/08 2:37 PM
"It would be simpler to not screw things up and for LANS to invest a portion of their fee in diversification."

RIGHT! Sure this is going to
happen. You can pull the management fee from their cold dead fingers.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, DOE/NNSA has decided to collect the entire fee. Thus if LANS doesn't qualify for it in its entirety, the rest of it will be kept by DOE/NNSA. It will NOT be reinvested in LANL.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows the truth. Well, everyone except our Congressional members who have declined to step in and fix this impending disaster.

Fix it??!!! Congress is the entity that
CAUSED that problem.

It was Congress that demanded a private,
for-profit, structured contract.

Congress wanted to have someone to
punish by withholding fees whenever
there is a security breach, or other

Congress was fed-up with UC being
indemnified because they were a
non-profit public entity.

Anonymous said...

Mike is an idiot and so are the so-called science-ADs and Wallace. What scientific leadership - all this for some bonus bucks. How pathetic.

Anonymous said...

6:20 pm: "Mike is an idiot and so are the so-called science-ADs and Wallace. What scientific leadership - all this for some bonus bucks."

"Idiots"?? Wow, you are obviously oblivious to the fact that most people work for MONEY. Do you think LANL upper managers care more about your definition of "leadership" than they care about their paychecks (including contract fee)? Big paycheck, big retirement, and a reputation (in the circles that count to them) as effective "leaders." Where's the downside for them? Not "idiots," just looking out for Number 1. And, they've created a situation where the folks who actually do the work they take credit for, and get paid for, can't do a thing about it. "idiots" indeed. Not hardly.

Anonymous said...

Salaries for most employees at LANL have grown stagnant and will probably remain that way for many years. Meanwhile, LANS' upper echelon doled out huge salary boosts in their favor with the creation of the LLC. They are currently banking on juicy 20% bonuses for being NNSA's sweet little bee-yach.

As you work harder and harder to help meet all those contract performance items so you can keep your job, 6:20 PM, those "idiots" you speak of get to take the credit and most of the future monetary rewards.

Idiots? I think not. Look elsewhere for the hordes of idiots in LANL's midst.

Anonymous said...

6:20, your opinion is meaningless to anyone who matters. It's all about PBIs, baby.

Anonymous said...

"It's all about PBIs, baby." - 9:37 AM

PBIs are **EVERYTHING** at today's LANL. They trump all other issues -- good science, worker moral, lab efficiency and high costs, etc.

Your position and salary are now closely hooked to what you do to help the PBIs along. If the PBIs get high scores then NNSA can crow about complex "improvements" and LANS upper level management can get fatter salaries. Nothing else matters.

'Nuf said?

Anonymous said...

9:45 am: "PBIs are **EVERYTHING** at today's LANL. They trump all other issues -- good science, worker moral, lab efficiency and high costs, etc."

Absolutely true. The corporate big shots on the LANS Board are driving this bus. In theory, Mikey is the President of LANS, but in reality, he knows he's a mere corporate pawn, not like he thought it would be when he came from Livermore to be the savior for LANL. Money cures a lot of misgivings, however. Even so, it's mere weeks before he is gone, I predict. Same with the other Livermites in AD positions. Like any fundamentally decent folks, they don't need this crap.

Anonymous said...

Let's just get it over with and let Bechtel rename LANL to "Los Alamos Production, Construction, Restoration, and Pits" (LAPCRAP).

It's becoming increasingly clear who really controls the future direction of this lab.