Oct 30, 2008

Lab To Offer Jobs to Subcontractor's Workers

By Raam Wong, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

Los Alamos National Laboratory plans to offer jobs to hundreds of workers now employed by KSL Services, the lab's largest subcontractor, before its contract expires in December.

The move means Los Alamos will be handling its own building maintenance, trash collection and other “support” services for the first time in its history. It will also be the first time that workers under collective bargaining agreements are employed directly by the lab.

The lab intends to offer jobs to most, but not all of, KSL's nearly 900 employees, according to Mike Mallory, the lab's principal associate director for operations and business services.

Los Alamos is ending its association with KSL because a number of the managers who came in with Los Alamos National Security — the lab's corporate manager that took over in 2006 — have experience in support services, Mallory said. He added that there have been “safety questions” about KSL's work, but he did not elaborate.

Mallory said the plan is to sign contracts next week that would offer KSL's 625 unionized employees jobs at the lab. Another 214 nonmanagement and nonunion KSL workers have also been offered employment, and 211 have accepted, he said.

There are also 58 KSL employees who have “manager” in their title. Of those, LANS has determined that 20 of them aren't really management and have reclassified the employees, Mallory said. Another 20 of the “manager” positions have been eliminated.

KSL has held its five-year, nearly $800 million contract since February 2003, when it replaced Johnson Controls Northern New Mexico. The contract had the option of five single-year extensions.

The lab will assume support services on Dec. 1, while KSL's contract expires Dec. 31.

Mallory said the union employees' benefits will remain the same, while nonunion employees will keep their vacation time but not their sick time.

Lab officials have previously said the decision to assume KSL's responsibilities was unrelated to a Department of Energy investigation last year that found KSL routinely overcharged for its work, with taxpayers picking up the multimillion-dollar tab.

KSL billed taxpayers for work not done and materials not needed and often charged more than 20 percent above the original cost estimate, according to the results of that investigation.

KSL is a joint venture of KBR, Shaw Group and Los Alamos Technical Associates. KBR — the former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root — is the majority owner and manager of KSL.

Mallory spoke Wednesday before the Legislature's LANL oversight committee. Lab director Michael Anastasio was scheduled to attend but canceled his appearance due to illness. The committee hopes to schedule a follow-up meeting with Anastasio in December.

Defense chief promotes nuclear deterrent

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

In a major address at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on nuclear weapons, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that America would continue to need a nuclear deterrent.

“Simply put, we cannot predict the future,” he said. “Even as we strive to live up to our noblest goals, as (Andrew) Carnegie did, we must deal with the messy realities of the world in which we live.”

Gates said that even Carnegie, the American philanthropist who dedicated the final years of his life to the cause of World Peace, found himself encouraging President Woodrow Wilson to declare war against Germany before World War I.

“As long as human nature is what it is – as long as the tragic arc of history continues its course – we cannot eliminate the need to be prepared for war any more than Andrew Carnegie was able to eliminate war itself,” Gates said.

Gates speech was delivered against a backdrop of a reduced numbers of nuclear weapons under the Moscow Treaty with Russia, a period of military incompetence in the mishandling of nuclear weapons and flat budgets across a nuclear weapons complex that is committed to reducing its footprint.

Gates swore in new Secretary of the Air Force Mike Donley on Oct. 17 to replace the top Air Force official who was fired in June for failing to respond to warning signs about a decline in nuclear expertise over recent years.

“You are well aware of problems over the last year or so with the Air Force’s handling of nuclear weapons,” Gates told the Carnegie audience, listing some of the steps that have been taken to restore trust.

He was referring two incidents, one involving the unwitting airborne transfer of live nuclear weapons from North Dakota to Louisiana in August 2007, and the other concerning electrical fuses used to detonate strategic nuclear missiles, which had been shipped to Taiwan in error and went unnoticed for several months.

A series of high level studies and corrective actions have followed, including the preparation of a “Nuclear Enterprise Roadmap,” released on Friday, that called for the establishment of a Global Strike Command and a Headquarters Air Force staff agency to handle Air Force nuclear assets.

“The Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base (in Albuquerque) is being revitalized and expanded – with focus on sustainment and clearing up ambiguous chains of command that have created problems in the past,” Gates said Wednesday, discussing what he expected to be a “long term process” with further high-level reviews due in December.

Nearly two years ago a Defense Science Board report on issues related to the nuclear weapons programs recommended that the national security leadership should “declare unequivocally and frequently, that a reliable, safe, secure and credible nuclear deterrent is essential to national security and a continuing high priority.”

As he has in other speeches and policy papers recently, Gates reiterated his support for the Reliable Replacement Warhead for which, he noted, funding was cut completely this year.

“Let me be clear: The program we propose is not about new capabilities –- suitcase bombs, or bunker busters or tactical nukes,” he said. “It is about safety, security and reliability…and it deserves urgent attention.”

During follow-up questions, he said, “We just have to work harder in trying to make clear to members of Congress that the RRW is not about new capabilities but about safety, reliability and security; and as long as we have a stockpile, we need to have it viable in all those categories.”

It remains to be seen how much weight the Secretary of Defense’s thoughts on the matter of nuclear policy will carry at the end of the current administration. His speech identified unfinished business and carry-over priorities that may well fuel next round of national debate.

[See also Gates Sees Stark Choice on Nuke Tests, Modernization.]

Oct 28, 2008

21st Century Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to talk about the evolution of the concept of nuclear deterrence and the implications of the aging of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and infrastructure and the lack of expertise in current personnel.

The event is sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The speech will begin at 1:00 PM EDT and can be viewed on C-SPAN.

Note: The audio, video, and transcript are now available on the Carnegie Endowment website.

Oct 27, 2008

Random Drug Testing at Sandia

Hi Frank,
Here is the new drug testing notice for Sandia. I can't tell you how excited this makes me to be working at this place -- there is no number that small -- but on the plus side, it makes it really easy to not give a shit if I get fired.

I am no longer answering my phone. That will of course make this all the more interesting. I am of course continuing to accumulate job offers -- takes the edge off the threats in this message.

I guess you might as well leave my name off this for now -- my bosses get a little exercised every time I tell them I'm ready to walk.

Random Drug Testing at Sandia

If you are called - The process
  • Verbal notifications will be made to randomly selected cleared employees and contractors during duty hours. A selected person must report to a designated collection site the day they are notified.
  • The verbal notification will include directions to the nearest collection site.
  • You will receive a verbal notification while on duty via telephone. Once verbal notification is made, no excuses will be accepted for failure to report to the collection site before close of the business day. For Members of the Workforce that do not work at a Sandia location where there is a collection center, information on where to report will be given at the time of notification. These individuals who do not work at a Sandia location will have 24 hours to report to a collection facility after notification.
  • Drugs being screened include marijuana, cocaine, opiates, phencyclidine, and amphetamines. Some prescription medications fall in these categories; confirmation that a person has illegally used prescription medications will result in positive test result as well.
  • Urine specimens will be sent to a Federally certified private laboratory for assay.
  • Failure to report to an approved collection center on the day of notification, or refusal to provide a specimen, will result in measures equal to those for a positive drug test.
  • If a lab result indicates the presence of drugs in a specimen, those results will be provided to the Medical Review Officer (MRO). The MRO will seek information about the results, including the use of prescription medications.
  • The MRO will determine whether a result is reported as either positive or negative.
  • The immediate consequences of an MRO-confirmed positive drug test include the worker's badge being confiscated and the person being removed from his or her TDP duties. Other disciplinary actions, following due-process procedures, may include termination.
  • A sub-contractor whose result is confirmed as positive will be removed from the performance of the Sandia contract immediately.
  • Per 10 CFR 707 Section 707.14 Action pursuant to a determination of illegal drug use. An individual who has been notified of a positive test result may request a retest of the same sample at the same or another certified laboratory. The individual shall bear the costs of transportation and/or testing of the specimen. Sandia Labs will inform employees of their right to request a retest under the provisions of this paragraph.

Oct 23, 2008

LANL, state launches new Web site

This just made the KOB news this morning. They are having a ribbon cutting at 10AM this morning. I guess that they did not want advance notice to avoid too many people showing up.

Thanks Anonymous. Has anyone tried to use the RACER website yet? I'm not quite ready to call it worthless, but I put a few hours into trying it and I can safely say the public has no more information about contamination from LANL than it did yesterday. I wonder what this cost...

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy, the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Community Foundation have launched a new Web site.

The site allows users to view environmental data from the northern New Mexico lab online from any personal computer.

Environment Secretary Ron Curry says with the data, New Mexicans can be better informed about impacts from the lab on the environment.

Curry said the lab was directed to provide funding for the Web site project after it failed to disclose in a timely manner chromium contamination in the regional aquifer in 2004.

The online data system is called RACER, for Risk Analysis, Communication, Evaluation and Reduction. It provides lab information from before, during and since the Cold War.

Decline in Calpers Assets May Lead to Increased Employer Contributions

U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Loses at Least $3 Billion

The California Public Employees' Retirement System, the nation's largest public pension fund, said recent investment losses from the financial crisis could cause cities, counties and other state employers to pay more money to the pension fund, starting for some in July 2010.

Calpers said that assets have declined by more than 20% from the end of the June 30 fiscal year through Oct. 10; total assets as of Oct. 20 were about $193 billion. It would lead to an estimated increase in employer contributions to the fund of 2% to 4% starting in July 2010 for some employers, and for the rest in July 2011, unless those losses are reversed, according to a Calpers memo.

The increased contributions would be greater if the fund's assets decline further by the end of the fiscal year of June 2009. However, the contributions would be smaller, or even nothing, if the fund reverses those losses.

The declines are taking a toll on Calpers funding status, which is the fund's assets divided by its liabilities. That ratio would be down to 68%, based on the market value of its assets, unless Calpers reverses the current level of declines. Analysts suggest that the ratio for healthy pension funds should be at least 80%. At the end of the June 2008 fiscal year, Calpers was 92% funded. It was at 102% funded at the end of June 2007.

A spokeswoman said that Calpers now puts aside 14% of the fund's assets to serve as a cushion during bad times, and as a result any employer contribution increases will be less than they were during previous downturns.

Calpers said employer pension rates for fiscal 2008-09 won't be affected by recent market losses. The rates were based on investment returns from earlier periods, so the effect of this month's market downturn won't be known until investment returns are determined for the fiscal year ending June 30.

"No large change in investment performance in one year will directly translate into the same level of change in employer rates in a single year" because losses or gains are applied over a 15-year period, said Kurato Shimada, chair of Calpers's benefits and program administration committee.

Separately, a House committee said the U.S. Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation lost at least $3 billion in stock investments in the 11 months through August.

Documents obtained by the House's Education and Labor Committee show the agency invested a "significant portion of its funds in mortgage-backed securities," according to a statement by the committee.

It is likely that losses will be "substantially worse" after September results are reported, the committee said.

PBGC is a government agency that insures private pension plans, manages failed pension plans, and pays benefits to workers in those plans.

The committee says the losses came in the agency's "trust fund," which holds the assets of terminated plans that have been turned over to the PBGC. The agency, acting as trustee, then pays out benefits to workers.

Charles Millard, head of the PBGC will testify before the House Education and Labor Committee Friday regarding the "agency's financial problems that may threaten the retirement security of millions of Americans," according to a statement by the committee.

The committee said Mr. Millard "rebuffed a committee subpoena in July that demanded the agency to turn over documents regarding a report into the agency's mismanagement and lax governance practices."

Write to Craig Karmin at craig.karmin@wsj.com and Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com

Oct 22, 2008

Nuclear Deterrence Skills

The following is the executive summary of a 148 page report by the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence Skills.
[Download the full report here.]

Executive Summary
The Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence Skills was chartered to assess all aspects of nuclear deterrent skills—military, federal, and contractor—and to recommend methods and strategies to maintain a right-sized, properly trained, and experienced work force to ensure the viability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent through 2020.

As long as anyone in the world has or can acquire nuclear weapons, America must have nuclear deterrence expertise competent to avoid strategic surprise and respond to present and future challenges. There are many kinds of threats that demand national leadership, but no threat can put the nation’s existence at risk as quickly and as chillingly as nuclear weapons. To say this is not to dismiss the seriousness of other threats. It simply acknowledges that since the dawn of the nuclear age, security from nuclear attack has been in a class of its own, and major national decisions on nuclear deterrence issues have been reserved for the President of the United States.

Nuclear deterrence expertise is uniquely demanding. It cannot be acquired overnight or on the fly. It resides in a highly classified environment mandated by law, it crosses a number of disciplines and skills, and it involves implicit as well as explicit knowledge. Nuclear weapons expertise is necessary to design and build nuclear weapons, to plan and operate nuclear forces, and to design defense against nuclear attack. It is also necessary to analyze and understand foreign nuclear weapons programs, devise nuclear policies and strategies, deal with allies who depend on the American nuclear umbrella, prevent and counter nuclear proliferation, defeat nuclear terrorism, and—in the event that a nuclear detonation takes place by accident or cold, hostile intent—cope with the catastrophic consequences.

America’s nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons expertise resides in what this study calls the “nuclear security enterprise.” This enterprise includes nuclear activities in the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy, Intelligence Community (IC), and the Department of Homeland Security.

During the Cold War, the bulk of the nuclear security enterprise consisted of the U.S. nuclear weapons program and force posture devoted to deterring the Soviet Union. The skills acquired for those activities provided a robust base from which the United States not only could conduct nuclear deterrence, but also could devote expertise with nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism issues. However, nuclear deterrence was the principal focus.

Today, deterrence of major power nuclear threats and the prospects of global war have receded in national priority while nuclear proliferation terrorism and defense have become urgent concerns. Today’s nuclear security enterprise devotes the energy and attention to proliferation and terrorism issues that once were reserved for nuclear offensive forces. It is in that context that this task force reviewed nuclear deterrence expertise.

Principal Observations

The task force is concerned that adequate nuclear deterrence competency will not be sustained to meet future challenges. A national strategy for the nuclear security enterprise has not been emphasized and, as a consequence, there is disillusionment within the workforce that could lead to decline in the remaining critical skills. Existing and emerging weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats and adversary intentions are not well understood. Intelligence assessments lack the needed focus and expertise.

The perception exists that there is no national commitment to a robust nuclear deterrent. This is reflected in the downgrading of activities within Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) policy and the Joint Staff, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the U.S. Air Force, and congressional action on the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW).

Management and the work force in the defense industry and in nuclear weapon contractors believe that “sustainment” programs (e.g. life extension programs) will not retain the skills necessary to competently solve major problems with existing systems or to initiate new programs should the need arise. Pessimism exists about follow-on nuclear deterrence systems becoming a reality, thereby leading to loss of opportunity to train the next generation of nuclear weapon system experts. Priorities have shifted strongly, and to a degree appropriately, but the pendulum has swung too far. Now the nation is faced with about $100 billion of decisions (RRW, Complex Transformation, land-based strategic deterrent, sea-based strategic deterrent), with an eroded capability to think about these issues and with attention focused on other priorities.


In the absence of a strong national commitment to sustaining the nuclear security enterprise and visible leadership starting at the senior levels, it is difficult to keep the rigor and focus needed at all levels to meet the demanding proficiency standards that are indispensable for nuclear deterrence activities. It also is difficult, absent such a strong national commitment, to retain the best of the younger workforce. Words are not enough. There must be evidence of
commitment that manifests itself in both strong leadership and real, meaningful work.

Today’s nuclear weapons expertise generally is of high quality, although we are unable to assess the capability to design, develop, and produce new weapons or weapon systems through the entire cycle, as the nation has not done so for over 15 years. The challenge for the future is to preserve nuclear weapons expertise across the entire spectrum of requirements ranging from today’s priorities to a possible return, best intentions and efforts notwithstanding, of international relations dominated by major power nuclear confrontation.

The task force is concerned about the future of America’s nuclear deterrence expertise. A significant part of the current workforce in the national laboratories and production facilities are at or nearing retirement age. New people must be hired and trained. This need is complicated by resource issues in today’s environment. More fundamentally, however, the task force does not find adequate planning for dealing with the problem. The situation is further affected by the general decline in the numbers of U.S. citizens acquiring graduate degrees in science and engineering. Citizenship remains a prominent requirement in the highly classified world of nuclear weapons work. With our current course the end state will not provide for a safe and reliable stockpile or for a responsive infrastructure.

The technical expertise required for dealing with the nuclear dimensions of proliferation, terrorism, and defense is closely related to nuclear weapons skills. Indeed, a significant part of the intellectual capital derives from expertise and knowledge acquired by working with nuclear weapons and related technologies. The nuclear experts drawn from the weapons program are needed in counter proliferation and counterterrorism.

The problems the task force identified are not insurmountable. The United States retains the capacity to step up to the most difficult challenges, given commitment and leadership. Sustaining nuclear weapons expertise is such a challenge.


Based on these and other related findings discussed in this report, the task force has arrived at twenty-three major recommendations, categorized as dealing principally with: leadership, organization, strategic planning, and capabilities and competencies.


1. The Secretary of Defense, working with the Secretaries of State, Energy, and Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence, must lead the development of a clear U.S. vision and strategy for nuclear deterrence capabilities and competencies.

A new vision is required of what comprises needed nuclear deterrence capabilities and competencies, and how to sustain them. The strategy should address 21st century nuclear deterrence capabilities needed to respond to an uncertain future while supporting the broadly held goal of reduced reliance on nuclear weapons. Advocacy within the government requires a comprehensive framework and a widely shared and understood set of concepts for dealing with the national security issues raised by nuclear weapons across the board—American nuclear weapons and their role in deterrence, nuclear weapons and materials in the hands of states, nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and global/regional nuclear threat reduction.

2. Senior civilian and military leaders should reinforce the necessity for and value to the nation of the nuclear deterrence mission.

The administration and senior military leadership, through actions and words, should make a concerted and continuing effort to convey to the nuclear weapons community that their mission is vital to the security of the nation and will remain vital well beyond the planning horizons normally associated with programmatic decisions.

3. Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, should strengthen the headquarters supervision and involvement in the nuclear weapons program.

- The STRATCOM Commander (Gen Chilton) has initiated corrective action in this regard.

4. Air Force and U.S. Strategic Command leadership should restore the rigor and focus necessary to reestablish and sustain the demanding proficiency necessary for nuclear operations.

Commanders must plan, integrate, fund, train, and staff subordinate commands to ensure effective skills for mission success at all levels. Unresolved waivers of security and other requirements should have corrective action planned and funded. Nuclear bomber alert should be exercised and adequate training incorporated as necessary. Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) requirements should be reviewed to ensure realistic requirements.

5. The Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) must reduce the high indirect cost of the nuclear weapon complex. These high costs impede refurbishment of legacy weapons, or authorization of new weapons if proposed, and preclude the work experience needed to maintain competence.

The NNSA laboratories and production facilities must be incentivized to reduce indirect costs to make more affordable efforts to sustain and enhance the skills needed to respond to today's threats and future challenges. Many of the causes of these high indirect costs fall outside the control of the Administrator, but he can, working with the Secretary of Energy and Congress, move to address this increasingly burdensome issue.


6. The Secretary of Defense should assure that nuclear-weapon-related responsibilities in OSD are at the proper level and are adequately staffed.

Create an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategic Weapons as previously recommended by the Defense Science Board Permanent Task Force on Nuclear Weapons Surety. Elevate nuclear weapon responsibilities within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to the level of Deputy Under Secretary to ensure high level attention is focused on development of a national nuclear weapon strategy, and to assure that issues affecting the deterrence posture of the United States are provided appropriate evaluation. Reestablish OSD study and analytic capabilities for nuclear deterrence to support senior decision-makers.

Strategic Planning

7. The Secretary of Defense should establish nuclear requirements for capabilities, including nuclear competencies, force structure, and programs for the timeframe 2009 to 2030, using the next Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and provide requirements for NNSA planning.

Evaluate the U.S. nuclear weapons capabilities needed as hedges against the uncertain future. Also, as part of the NPR, evaluate the technical feasibility and cost aspects of adding nuclear capability to platforms developed for conventional weapon delivery.

8. The Secretaries of Defense and Energy, with the Director of National Intelligence, should urgently identify and act to fill the gaps in the skill base needed to improve assessments of foreign nuclear programs.

Focus requirements on nuclear expertise to monitor, assess, and analyze the global threats posed by nuclear weapon developments, proliferation of nuclear technology, and potential employment of nuclear weapons or “dirty bombs” that could threaten the United States, U.S. forces abroad, or allies and friends. Leadership should challenge current assessments utilizing a peer review process (red teams) to ensure that more of the known and unknown issues are identified and corrective action assigned to competent specialists for resolution.

9. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategic Weapons (when appointed) and Administrator, NNSA, must maintain critical weapon design, development, production, integration, and surveillance skills by exploring follow-on nuclear weapon system designs, including prototyping (even without commitment to production).

Development of new systems (of any kind) requires certain skills that are different from those needed to sustain existing systems. A program of exploration of follow-on nuclear weapon and weapon system design should be re-established at some level that is decided by balancing the real risks. With regard to future life extension programs, dual revalidation of nuclear weapon refurbishments should be required not only to ensure the weapons remain safe, secure, and reliable, but also to improve the workforce expertise.

The full range of real and engaging work is the only validated mechanism for sustainment of unique skills. Some provision must be made for skills not used today but possibly needed quickly in the future. Sustainment and dismantlement programs cannot be relied upon to exercise and maintain the total competencies required. DOD and NNSA must work with the Congress to ensure an annual workload that is reasonably stable yet can accommodate design, development, and production rate changes and avoid interruptions that compromise long-term mission design and production competence. The production rate must provide the basis for surge should it be necessary.

10. The Administrator, NNSA, should make the development of capabilities and competencies an explicit part of NNSA planning consistent with the next NPR.

The Administrator should establish and implement a strategy and plans on a priority basis for the next generation of nuclear stewards, identify and implement strategies and tools for recruiting and retaining essential weapons employees, and adopt a comprehensive strategy for knowledge transfer and training that emphasizes the essential contribution of hands-on work.

11. Cognizant organizations throughout the nuclear enterprise—within government and the supporting contractor base—should maintain selected nuclear skills by managing their application in related nonnuclear applications where appropriate.

- Careful coordination of requirements to describe the minimum set of capabilities needed and thoughtful cost allocation are required to fully leverage activities that are technically similar to nuclear work.

12. Cognizant organizations that comprise the nuclear security enterprise (to include NNSA/DOD/IC/DNDO [Domestic Nuclear Detection Office]) should develop a human capital management system(s) to identify current and future needed capabilities and manage so personnel can move from one part of the nuclear security enterprise to another as needed.

Capabilities and Competencies

13. The Secretary of Defense should require the periodic participation of senior civilian and military leadership in exercises that involve the use of adversary and/or U.S. nuclear forces.

- Training these senior leaders in nuclear weapon-related scenarios is important for competent decision-making.

14. The Secretary of Defense should establish Department of Defense requirements for understanding foreign cultural and behavioral factors related to nuclear issues.

Potential adversaries generally do not have the same views of their nuclear weapons future as the United States. Deterring future adversaries will require greater understanding of the goals, culture, values, social characteristics, government limitations, leadership decision-making, and motivations of nations and non-state actors. Such an understanding is an essential component of intelligence needed for competent conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Better training and education are needed for personnel at all levels to include senior personnel and those charged with developing U.S. assurance, dissuasion, and deterrence positions, pronouncements, and use of “red lines.” [A “red line” in this report is a boundary that, if crossed, will trigger punitive action against the offender.] The over-all connection between communications and deterrence requires improvement and greater use of red-team activities to improve executive decision-making. The Secretary of Defense should urge the President to take similar steps government-wide.

15. The Secretary of Defense should direct a review of war college core courses of instructions for nuclear strategy and operations to strengthen the preparation of senior military officers for future responsibilities.

- If nuclear weapons are used against, or employed by, the United States, senior personnel need to understand the ramifications and basic requirements.

16. Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, should review errors made in recent years by the operating forces and examine implementation of requirements for command and control of nuclear weapons to determine if more effective procedures can be devised.

17. Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, should review with the Director of National Intelligence and strengthen reconnaissance planning for the nuclear dimension of the global strike mission.

18. Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, should strengthen competence to identify consequences of targeting actions (battle damage assessments).

19. The Secretary of the Air Force and Secretary of the Navy should fund advanced development programs to technically evaluate potential replacement systems to maintain and renew necessary skills in anticipation of the end-of-life of U.S. nuclear-capable delivery systems.

- In particular, the task force strongly believes an advanced development program for ICBM application is needed to evaluate concepts that might be applied to any follow-on to Minuteman III. Secretary of the Air Force should review the nuclear weapons systems and weapons effects capabilities and expertise to determine if re-establishment of the Air Force Weapons Laboratory or other options is needed.

20. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategic Weapons (when appointed) and Director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) should rebuild the capabilities to define and update the range of nuclear threat environments that U.S. forces may face in deployed operations and in the homeland.

21. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service chiefs should require that the competencies of military forces operating in nuclear environments be rebuilt.

The Chairman and service chiefs should direct that joint education, training, and exercises include aspects of such operations. The Secretary of Defense should assign DTRA responsibility for technical support to exercising, gaming, education, and system/network response assessments related to nuclear survivability.

22. Service chiefs; Director, DTRA; and Administrator, NNSA, should grow a new technical design and development skills base for the nuclear weapons effects enterprise.

Identify skills base essential to sustain the current systems and to design, develop, and operate replacement systems. Rebuilding this capability should entail modeling and simulation capability analogous to that for weapon design. A minimum “national” nuclear weapons effects simulator enterprise should be defined to maintain the unique expertise necessary to operate ranges and test facilities. An exchange program should be implemented between DOD, Department of Energy (DOE), and NNSA laboratories to ensure remaining talent stays in the field. This community should be charged with teaching operations, system design, code development, simulator advancement, and hardening innovations. A long-term plan for growing and maintaining talent should be developed that is connected with a sustained research and development program in all agencies to ensure a career path for professionals.

23. Congressional oversight of the nuclear weapons program should be reinvigorated.

Historically, the Congress took a major role in overseeing and supporting the nuclear weapons program. Focused and structured oversight is important today to strengthen the program, as well as the public’s perception that the program is indeed a matter of supreme national interest. Focused and structured oversight should also provide the basis for the Congress to establish a multi-year fiscal commitment to the program. This would provide essential fiscal stability and assurances to those personnel working on the scientific and technical challenges of the long-term support of their missions. Finally, the Congress needs to provide positive, explicit reinforcement of the public service character of the mission to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent.

Oct 20, 2008

At 85, 'Atomic Ed' Is Still Ticking Off Los Alamos

by John Burnett

Listen Now [7 min 46 sec]

Morning Edition, October 20, 2008 · The most visited attraction in Los Alamos is the Bradbury Science Museum, where visitors find replicas of the two most famous bombs in history, Little Boy and Fat Man — dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively.

The next most visited attraction is the Black Hole, a government surplus store and museum whose inventory comes from the nation's foremost nuclear weapons lab — the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory. Compared to the Bradbury Science Museum, the Black Hole's proprietor offers a very different presentation.

"My name is Ed Grothus, and I've been here almost 60 years in Los Alamos," he says. "The first 20 of those years, from 1949 to 1969, I worked in the laboratory. I came as a machinist. And I had a key role in making better — put that in quotes — 'better' atomic bombs."

Grothus is hard to miss: 85 years old, with a cloud of white hair, wearing purple camouflage pants and a peace button on his sweater. He quit the lab in 1969 over his opposition to the Vietnam War; he sold Indian curios with his wife, Margaret, for a few years, before opening the Black Hole in 1980.

"I refer to everything as nuclear waste," says the town's most famous peacenik. "It's waste from the nuclear business. But I only sell about 1 percent of what I buy. And so there's been a huge accumulation of stuff."


"Atomic Ed," as Grothus has come to be known, is a compulsive buyer at the lab's monthly auctions of surplus government property. As a former machinist, he says he can't stand to see precision equipment thrown away, which means he has everything — from oscilloscopes and galvanometers to Geiger counters and centrifuges — stacked in canyons in the Black Hole.

"I'm still buying. I'm about dead, but I'm still buying," Grothus says.

The sheer quantity of stuff on his cluttered, five-acre compound is overwhelming. Most of it was used for bomb-making, though you won't find radioactive material or classified computers. The hardware for sale is more mundane.

"These are vacuum butterfly valves," he says. "Looka here, brand new. They cost $325 apiece."

When asked who comes in to buy a butterfly valve, Grothus says, "It's very seldom."

Grothus named his store the Black Hole because, by his own admission, "everything goes in, and nothing comes out." Business is a trickle — mainly tourists, artists seeking found objects, movie set decorators and the occasional craftsman.


Atomic Ed is best known around town not as a junkman, but a rabble-rouser. Every August, in remembrance of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, he joins out-of-town peaceniks and unfurls a large banner that says, "WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE NUCLEAR BOMB." His letters about nuclear disarmament appear in the local newspaper every few weeks.

"One bomb is too many, no matter who has it," he says. "They have to think a different way. I don't know whether humanity can get out of this nuclear trap."

The backdrop to these sentiments is a town where the national lab supports 90 percent of the local economy, a town where locals cruise along Oppenheimer Drive and get their glasses at Atomic Eye Care. Which is why, for many people here, Atomic Ed is, as former Republican state Sen. Steve Stoddard puts it, "pretty much written off as a crank."

"Oh, there's Grothus again with his one of his dang letters, or, jeez, Ed's down there with his signs," says Stoddard, who regularly shows up with fellow World War II veterans to counter-protest whatever Grothus is saying. "But you can't fault [Ed's] courage in the sense that he knows he's making people angry, and he's in a town that certainly doesn't share his feelings."

When asked for a reaction to Grothus' protests, a spokesman for Los Alamos National Laboratory answered with a resounding "no comment." The lab finds Grothus' antics tiresome, such as the time during the Wen Ho Lee spy scandal when Grothus sold lab surplus computer discs with "Top Secret" stickers on them. The FBI confiscated the computer discs, but later returned them.

Atomic Ed also offends Catholics when he dresses up in cardinals' garb and offers to celebrate critical mass at his First Church of High Technology.

But even when Grothus invites descriptions of a buffoon or a crackpot, there is something fundamentally necessary about what he does, says Kyle Wheeler, a former county counselor and a retired technical writer at the lab.

"He keeps writing these letters to the editor, and keeps bringing up issues that maybe a lot of people don't want to think about," she says. "So I sort of think of him as the conscience of the community."

A Curious Legacy

Atomic Ed probably won't be around much longer. He has cancer, which has lent a certain urgency to his crusade.

As perhaps his final creative protest, Grothus has produced two 32-foot tall granite obelisks, which he happily shows visitors. They sit inside a shipping container, the stone inscribed with a screed Grothus composed against nuclear bombs, translated into 15 languages.

Grothus tried to give the ungainly monuments to Los Alamos County, but the Art in Public Places Board politely and emphatically turned him down. Los Alamos, which is trying to soften its history, prefers the motto currently seen at the town's entrance: "Where Discoveries Are Made." The lab would rather talk about its research into fuel cells, or its training of United Nations inspectors to enforce the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

So the "Doomsday Stones" gather dust, as do the centrifuges and Geiger counters. But the Black Hole's fame seems to be spreading. A Polish tourist stops by to take a picture of Atomic Ed in front of the store.

"Thank you," he tells Grothus. "You have to sign. … Oh my God, this is very exciting."

In the town where the nuclear age began, its greatest opponent remains its greatest curiosity.

W76-1 first production unit delivered

Security milestone for the nation

The Stockpile Stewardship program achieved another major technical milestone late month with the production of the first life extended W76-1 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead.

This culminates more than a decade of work by scientists and engineers at the Laboratory and across the nuclear weapons complex. The achievement relied on many of the newest tools of the stockpile stewardship, including the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility (DARHT) at Los Alamos, Site 300 at Lawrence Livermore, supercomputers at both physics laboratories, the environmental testing capability at Sandia National Laboratories, and a series of successful flight tests with the U.S. Navy.

“The [Laboratory’s] Life Extension Program team overcame numerous significant technical and programmatic challenges and established a new benchmark for weapons systems engineering excellence,” said Bret Knapp, associate director for Weapons Engineering (ADWE). “The team’s hard work in successfully fielding the W76-1 is a direct reflection of their extraordinary skill and dedication to the mission and the Laboratory’s continuing commitment to providing the best science and engineering in support of U.S national security.”

Designed at Los Alamos and placed into the stockpile in 1978, the W76 was deployed with an expected service life of some 15-20 years. The W76 warhead constitutes a significant fraction of the nation’s on-alert and most survivable element of the nuclear deterrent. As a result of the Life Extension Program, this warhead will continue to help ensure the security of the United States and its friends and allies across the globe for decades to come.

Oct 15, 2008

Pueblo gets $65 M LANL janitorial contract

LANL awards $120M in contracts

New Mexico Business Weekly

Los Alamos National Laboratory has awarded four new subcontracts, worth a total of $120 million, to four New Mexico-based businesses.

The awards include a five-year, $65 million contract with TSAY Construction and Services LLC to provide custodial services to LANL.

TSAY is owned and operated by Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. The award is the largest contract ever won by an American Indian business from the laboratory, drawing praise from U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM.

“I congratulate TSAY for winning this major contract,” Bingaman said in a news release. “This is a great investment in a New Mexico business, and I’m glad that Los Alamos National Laboratory was able to select a local company for this important work.”

The other three contracts include:
  • a three-year, $32 million award to CNSI Inc. to replace Qwest Government Services Inc. as a provider of lab-wide telecommunications support services and as administrator for subcontracts with Verizon Federal Networks and other small regional businesses;
  • a four-year, $14.1 million award to TEAM Technologies Inc. to provide electronic parts and components to the lab; and
  • a five-year, $9.4 million contract with Fiore Industries to provide hardware and software information technology services to LANL.
Kevin Chalmers, head of LANL’s Acquisition Services Management Division, said more contracts soon will be awarded to other small businesses.

“Our small business office continues to actively seek qualified small businesses that can provide goods and services and contribute to the Laboratory’s programmatic mission,” Chalmers said in a news release.

Oct 14, 2008

Nuclear forensics: more talk, little funding

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

A month past the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a robust program for nuclear forensics has been touted as a future livelihood for the nuclear weapons labs, but serious plans and recommendations have yet to get to the drawing board.

The possibility of nuclear weapons reaching the hands of terrorists, while technically difficult, has often been described as a matter of “not if, but when.”

Analysts have remarked on the problem of attributing responsibility for detonation of a “dirty bomb,” which could be used to disperse radioactive material in urban settings, as one of many scenarios that might someday require a complex and coordinated response.

“A forensic ability that can trace material to the originating reactor or enrichment facility could discourage state cooperation with terrorist elements and encourage better security for nuclear weapons usable materials,” according to an influential scientific report delivered earlier this year.

“In addition, most terrorist organizations will not have members skilled in all aspects of handling nuclear weapons or building an improvised nuclear device. That expertise is found in a small pool of people and a credible attribution capability may deter some who are principally motivated by financial, rather than ideological concerns.”

Meanwhile in Washington, the Defense Authorization Act awaiting President Bush’s signature does contain a set of provisions for improving and revitalizing nuclear forensics, including new fellowships and plans for researching and developing international safeguards, seismic monitoring and nuclear detection technologies.

The item is of interest to the National Nuclear Security Administration and its nuclear weapons laboratories, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, because they are being asked to help plan and ultimately host these enhanced capabilities.

In recent announcements on the transformation of the weapons complex NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino, referred to the nuclear forensics in a list of new responsibilities in the area of non-proliferation, counterterrorism and nuclear response.

In congressional testimony over the last two years D’Agostino has cited the goal of consolidating nuclear materials as enabling NNSA to increase attention to other national security issues, like forensics.

The authorizing language for “Enhancing Nuclear Forensics Capabilities” Section 3114 in the Defense act, was attached near the end of lengthy measure that passed in the final days before Congress adjourned for the fall campaign.

The bill reflects recommendations from the report cited above, “Nuclear Forensics: Role, State of the Art, Program Needs”, which was prepared by a joint working group of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Donald Barr, a retired nuclear chemist and former deputy group leader of nuclear chemistry at LANL was a member of the working group, as was Benn Tannenbaum, who received his Ph.D. in experimental physics from the University of New Mexico and is currently associate program director of the Center for Science Technology and Security Policy at AAAS.

Tannenbaum said this morning that the authorization measure called for implementation of all the report’s recommendations except for one calling for an external review.

Among the recommendations that were included were those that addressed the need for international cooperation, availability of trained personnel, developing lab and field equipment and numerical modeling and improved program of exercises.

“But the appropriators, by not finishing any new appropriations bills, haven’t given any new money to this program,” Tannenbaum said.

The only new funding for this fiscal year he pointed out was included in the generally “flat funding” appropriations for Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and military construction. In that provision the Homeland Security Department was granted $16,900,000 for the National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center, including $1,000,000 for the new fellowship program.

[See also: Defense Bill Includes Nuclear Forensics Provision]

Report on the Feasibility of Using Existing Pits for the Reliable Replacement Warhead Program

Of possible interest to your readers.

Thanks Anonymous. Below is the executive summary. The full report can be downloaded here.

Direct pit reuse, the use of existing pits with no modifications, does not meet all the objectives of the RRW program, but can offer limited improvements in performance margin and surety for some systems. Modifications of existing pits would allow for more margin and surety improvements than direct reuse; this would require some of the same investments in our R&D and manufacturing infrastructure as is required to establish a production capacity for new pits. Using newly manufactured pits offers the most flexibility for improving performance margin, surety, and for meeting all of the goals of the RRW program. The Nuclear Weapons Council believes that a pit production capacity of 50-80 new pits per year is the capacity that should be implemented, consistent with the March, 2008 DoD/DOE white paper. All options for the future stockpile will require investments in the science tools that allow us to assess and certify the stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing.

General Meeting and Luncheon - Buckman Direct Diversion Project: Water Source and Quality

Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Time: 11:45 am. Reservations due by noon Friday, October 17, 982-9766 (LWV office)
Place: Hilton Hotel, 100 Sandoval St. Santa Fe, NM 87501

Our speakers, Danny Katzman of LANL Water Stewardship Project, Rick Carpenter, BDD Project Manager, and Robert Gallegos, Environmental Compliance Specialist for the City, will provide information on what actually goes on at LANL and what Santa Fe will be doing to make the water we receive from the BDD of the quality we expect.

Call the office, 982-9766, for a reservation by noon Friday, October 17.

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County.

Oct 10, 2008

Doc Aq Wins 2008 Fellows' Prize

I thought you may want to share this with your readers.
Anonymous please.

Los Alamos National Laboratory
Est. 1943
Office of the Director

From/MS: Michael R. Anastasio, A100
Phone/Fax: 7-5101/7-2997
Symbol: DIR-08-229
Date: October 9, 2008

SUBJECT: 2008 Fellows’ Prize Recipients

Each year, Laboratory employees have the opportunity to nominate staff members for Fellows’ Prizes in Research and Leadership. A committee of Laboratory Fellows reviews the nominations and recommends their selection to me. I am pleased to announce the 2008 Fellows Prize Recipients.


The Fellows Prize for Research recognizes high-quality investigations in science or engineering by Laboratory technical staff members and encourages publication in appropriate journals, books, or reports. The research must have been performed at the Laboratory and published within the last 10 years and have had a significant effect on its discipline or program. This year’s Fellows Prize for Research recipients are:

Jaqueline L. Kiplinger, for her remarkable accomplishments in organometallic actinide chemistry research.

Amit Misra, for his longstanding research contributions to the understanding of deformation in materials, and particularly for his recent accomplishments in nanomechanics.


The Fellows Prize for Leadership recognizes the value of leadership in science and engineering at the Laboratory. The prize also is designed to stimulate the interest of talented young staff members in developing the skills and making the personal sacrifices necessary to become effective leaders. This year’s Fellows Prize for Leadership recipient is:

Andrew Shreve, for his stimulation of young Laboratory staff to develop skills and to make personal sacrifices necessary to become effective leaders.

Congratulations to each of our Fellows’ Prize recipients. These individuals embody the excellence in scientific research and leadership essential to the Laboratory’s success; their contributions are essential to accomplishing our mission.

I will host an awards ceremony in their honor in the near future.


An Equal Opportunity Employer / Operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC for the
National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy

LANL Would Be Plutonium Center

By Raam Wong
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

Federal officials Thursday unveiled a proposal to make Los Alamos a center for plutonium research as part of an overhaul of the nation's nuclear weapons complex — although a change of leadership in Washington could send them back to the drawing board.

“I recognize that these can be politically charged topics,” said National Nuclear Security Administration chief Thomas D'Agostino, explaining that he would not rush to make a decision on the plan just because a new president takes office in January. A decision on whether to adopt the plan is expected as soon as next month.

The proposal calls for transforming the Cold War-era way of doing things to a modern system that the NNSA says is efficient, safe and responsive to 21st-century threats.

“We have to make sure that we don't get ourselves into a situation where we outrun our headlights,” D'Agostino said in a conference call with reporters.

But that may already be the case at Los Alamos. The proposal would make the lab the center for cutting-edge nuclear weapons plutonium research, development and manufacturing, much of it crammed inside a 56-year-old laboratory that's showing its age.

D'Agostino stressed that it's vital to push forward with the construction of a replacement facility, even as lab managers lay plans to remain in the old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building for as long as a decade.

The proposal also punts on the question of whether Los Alamos should ramp up the production of plutonium bomb cores known as pits. Pit production would continue to be limited to 20 per year, though D'Agostino said the plan would give Los Alamos the annual manufacturing capability for as many as 80 pits.

D'Agostino said, even without pit manufacturing, a new plutonium lab is necessary at Los Alamos for the study of nuclear forensics and nonproliferation, the maintenance of the nation's stockpile and other national security needs. “We still have to maintain our nuclear deterrent,” he said.

Besides Los Alamos, the proposal would consolidate weapons-related work at NNSA sites known as “distributed centers of excellence.” Tritium work would go to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, for instance, while the Pantex plant outside Amarillo, Texas, would continue assembling and taking apart weapons.

The unveiling of the proposal follows 20 public hearings and more than 100,000 public comments. Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group applauded the NNSA's efforts in producing the environmental analysis of the plan, but faulted its conclusions.

“Today's weapons complex plan includes the construction of large new production facilities at Los Alamos” and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Mello said in a statement. “These projects would commit massive resources to largely obsolete, ineffective, 'sacred-cow' missions.”

Republican Sen. Pete Domenici praised the plan for highlighting the need to move forward with what's known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement building at LANL.

“It is important to understand that the CMRR nuclear facility is not a pit production facility,” he said in a statement. “Instead, it will support a broad range of national security missions, ranging from providing power for satellites to nuclear forensics.”

But Domenici said the proposal failed to clearly outline strong science missions for Los Alamos and Sandia national labs. “In my view, it is a shortsighted decision that ignores the fact that strong science and engineering missions are important to attracting the best minds to work within the complex,” he said.

D'Agostino signed off on the final environmental analysis of the plan Thursday, and notice of its availability will be posted in the Federal Register Oct. 24. At least 30 days after that, the NNSA can decide whether to adopt the plan, referred to in the environmental analysis as a “preferred alternative.”

Nuclear Weapons complex changes advance


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Energy Department moved ahead Thursday on further restricting the nation's most dangerous nuclear material, part of a plan to scale back and modernize management of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

The department gave preliminary approval to an environmental impact study on the consolidation program, which includes limiting plutonium and highly enriched uranium to just five sites, compared with seven today. The government also would close 600 buildings and structures at the facilities and reduce the number of workers involved in weapons programs by 20 to 30 percent.

None of the seven primary weapons complex facilities, including three nuclear weapons research labs, will be closed. But activities will be combined, in many cases.

"The world is changing and we are changing along with it," said Thomas D'Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency within the Energy Department that oversees the weapons program.

"The number of U.S. nuclear weapons is shrinking, budgets are flat or declining and we need a smaller, more secure, more efficient infrastructure that reflects these realities, and yet retains our essential capabilities," D'Agostino said.

In a conference call from the government's Y-12 National Security Complex near Oak Ridge, Tenn., D'Agostino said the program will not require new money beyond the agency's five-year spending plan, and would save dollars in the future.

The next administration will have to carry out the effort. D'Agostino said he is "very comfortable" it will stand up to scrutiny.

A final go-ahead cannot be made for at least 30 days.

The agency already has taken nuclear material from the Sandia National Laboratory near Albuquerque, N.M., and will complete the transfers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco by 2012.

Plutonium stockpiles at Lawrence Livermore have concerned citizen groups because suburban neighborhoods have moved right up to the facility's boundary lines in recent years, causing more complicated security requirements.

The plan would:

_Focus uranium manufacturing, dismantlement and research at a new center within the Y-12 Oak Ridge complex.

_Concentrate manufacture of plutonium triggers and other plutonium research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The plan calls for making a maximum of 20 triggers a year.

_Continue to use the Pantex weapons facility near Amarillo, Texas, as the center for plutonium warhead assembly and disassembly as well as some warhead surveillance work now done at Lawrence Livermore. An underground storage facility would be built for plutonium triggers, reducing the size of the facility and cutting security costs.

_Concentrate tritium research and manufacture at the Savannah River complex near Aiken, S.C. Tritium is a gas use to boost the efficiency of a nuclear warhead. Excess plutonium also is being shipped to Savannah River for storage.

The other sites affected by the plan are the Nevada Test Site; Sandia, with locations in New Mexico and California; and the Kansas City Plant in Missouri.

NMED listening session prompts earful

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

Los Alamos County officials and county residents got a few things off their chest Tuesday night at a meeting that was billed as a listening session.

The New Mexico Environment Department held another in what they expect to be multiple sessions in communities in and around Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Hazardous Waste Bureau Chief James Bearzi, whose relationship with Los Alamos has mostly to do with enforcing a court order on environmental cleanup, heard a few things that don’t always get said in public meetings.

One was, stop confusing Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County.

“It’s important that the state recognize that the lab is the lab and the county is the county,” said County Councilor Mike Wheeler.

His complaint had to do with why the New Mexico Environment Department didn’t stick up for Los Alamos County this week, when the Santa Fe City Council took up the question of whether to accept solid waste from Los Alamos in the Caja del Rio regional landfill.

“It was important for Los Alamos because it would save a lot of money,” Wheeler said, “but nobody was there from NMED who could vouch for the county’s waste.”

Santa Fe’s governing body postponed the decision for later in the month.

Regina Wheeler, the county’s environmental manager, who is not related to the councilor, chimed in that the transfer was permitted and that it had already been approved by the county and the solid waste board.

Would Bearzi be willing to testify at the next meeting that there was nothing wrong with the county’s solid waste, Mike Wheeler pressed.

“I will make sure that somebody shows up at the next meeting,” Bearzi said.

He also suggested the county and his department explore a more formal set of understandings about consultation and issues that place the county in the middle between the state and the laboratory.

Another set of concerns was raised by County Council chair Jim Hall, who said he hadn’t thought much about why citizens of Los Alamos tend not to attend meetings like these until he was elected to office. But he knows local residents care about environmental issues as much if not more than anybody in the state.

One reason, he said, was that many who work at the laboratory just aren’t that tolerant of “bureaucratic interactions,” which may be necessary, but are also extraneous to the actual science that they are doing.

The other was that the community is intensely analytic, while the meetings tend to be “fact free and emotion-laden.”

“These two things color an awful lot of Los Alamos citizens’ view of the back and forth between NMED and Los Alamos,” he said.

Bearzi responded with an unusually positive list of environmental developments at LANL.

“The laboratory is as concerned corporately as any other corporate entity in the state,” he said, adding that he was not entirely sure if it was “from the heart or from the hammer” of the regulatory effort.

However, he could say the lab had reduced its liquid-waste outfalls from 100 to under 20; and he could also say that the lab for the first time had zero violations in their hazardous waste inspections.

Those are annual surprise visits where a team of 10 investigators from the state drops in and looks under every rock for violations.

He said the main problem is not about going forward from here, but rather about looking backward at how to deal with the pollution that was caused before it was regulated by national law.

“How do you clean that up?” Bearzi asked. “There are smart people up here trying to figure that out and we appreciate that.”

Michael Wheeler said, “If you could make these statements at some of the other meetings, it would really be nice.”

Charlie Bowman, a retired physicist, challenged the department’s fundamental thought process.

What were they trying to do up here? What did they want to put in place of a cleaned up laboratory? Home sites? Indian hunting grounds? Or did they expect there to be a place somewhere like Los Alamos that performed programs important to the nation’s vital interest that couldn’t be done anywhere else, he asked.

Bearzi noted the first meeting of the series that was held in Santa Fe had mostly to do with the process and the mechanics of the meeting itself. He said the meeting in Española last week was dominated by a discussion of RACER, the recently completed comprehensive database of laboratory information, now available to the public.

“It’s a different crowd tonight,” said Regina Wheeler.

“You’re saying things you don’t normally say,” said Lori Bonds-Lopez, an information officer with the lab’s environmental program.

“That’s because I’m being asked questions I’m not normally asked,” Bearzi said, summing up the evening.

Oct 9, 2008

Lab May Be Nuke Center

By John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

Federal officials will unveil a proposal today to make Los Alamos National Laboratory the nation's center for nuclear weapons plutonium research, consolidating work now done at other sites around the country.

The proposal, to be unveiled at a news conference in Oak Ridge, Tenn., lays out a road map for the future of the nation's nuclear weapons research and manufacturing complex.

“We believe that Los Alamos will, in fact, be the nation's center of excellence for plutonium,” Robert Smolen, head of the nuclear weapons program at the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in an interview.

But the proposed designation comes as lab and federal officials scramble to provide the necessary lab space to do the work.

Los Alamos's 56-year-old plutonium laboratory, which government nuclear safety experts have called a “significant risk” to workers and the public, will have to last a few years longer, federal and lab officials have concluded.

Construction of a replacement has been delayed, so a plan completed by the lab in August calls for continued nuclear operations in parts of the old lab for as long as a decade. The lab's managers have significantly reduced the amount of work in the building, and say they plan to make further reductions. But they say its capabilities are still needed to support the lab's work on nuclear weapons and other nuclear-related projects.

Completed in 1952, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building, known as “CMR,” is older than many of the people who work in it. Smolen noted in an interview that the building was opened the same year he was born.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board sent a letter to the National Nuclear Security Administration last October complaining that the CMR “in its current condition poses significant risks to workers and the public.” An earthquake on a recently discovered fault beneath the building could lead to a radiation leak, the Safety Board concluded.

Lab officials have been trying in one way or another to upgrade or replace the CMR for two decades. The latest effort — construction of a $2 billion replacement — faces an uncertain future. Members of the House of Representatives last summer tried to kill the replacement project entirely. That effort died when Congress failed to pass a budget for 2009, but a repeat of the fight over the project is expected again next year.

The pending designation of Los Alamos as the nation's center for nuclear weapons plutonium research, development and manufacturing has added urgency to the issue, because CMR and its replacement are central to that work, officials say.

Given uncertainties about when the replacement building will be completed, Los Alamos nuclear program managers submitted a plan in August to reduce some operations in the old building, but to continue work in the aging building until its replacement is completed — something officials acknowledge may not happen until 2020 or later.

“We're preparing to keep it running as long as necessary,” said Chris James, the Los Alamos official managing efforts to keep the old building in operation.

Smolen acknowledged that the concerns about the building's safety raised by the Safety Board are real, but said the chances of the type of accident that would lead to a leak are remote.

Located in the heart of the lab, the CMR is a concrete complex of structures built between 1948 and 1952. Its labs contain equipment needed for the highly specialized job of working with plutonium and other similarly radioactive materials.

Only 40,000 square feet of its 150,000 square feet of lab space are now in use, James said in an interview. What can be moved out of CMR has been, James said.

Given the problems at the old building, federal officials have asked the lab to come up with a “plan B,” laying out what would be needed to abandon the old building entirely. “We're just saying, `If we had to do this, what would our emergency plan be?'” Smolen said. The problem, according to Smolen, is that the other lab spaces at Los Alamos capable of working with plutonium and other dangerous radioactive materials are already full.

“We're looking at options to try to move everything we possibly can out of CMR to another facility, but we have limited ability to do that,” Smolen said.

Have a nice day!

From an anonymous comment on an earlier post:

Many employees at LANL are stressed out watching their 401ks drop in value along with the steeply declining stock market and are feeling the pain while their homes on the Hill drop in price due to fears of future LANL layoffs.

In this regards, an interesting item showed up in today's LANL Lab Link email (Wed, Oct 8th):

Distressed Workers

Financial issues are distressing a record number of Americans, and workers at the Laboratory are no exception. Cleared workers and applicants facing foreclosures, liens on property, bankruptcy, or other financial hardships must report them immediately to the Clearance Processing Team.


While this requirement makes sense from a security standpoint, just knowing that your clearance could be in jeopardy due to a home foreclosure only adds to the current stress at LANL. I guess LANS forgot to end this little message to "Distressed Workers" with a stress-busting: "Have a nice day!"

Oct 5, 2008

Making a Pitch for Nuclear Warhead Program

By Walter Pincus, The Washington Post
Monday, October 6, 2008; A13

Continued study and development of a new generation of nuclear weapons and modernization of the aging manufacturing infrastructure needed to build them are necessary to maintain "the ultimate deterrent capability that supports U.S. national security."

That is the conclusion of a nuclear policy paper released quietly last month by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.

The secretaries warn that without the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, which Congress has delayed, the United States will have to keep an inventory of older, non-deployed nuclear warheads. That would be in addition to the 1,700 to 2,200 Cold War-era warheads -- many whose useful life has been extended 20 years under the stockpile stewardship program -- that are to be ready for use on strategic bombers and intercontinental land- and sea-based missiles from 2012 onward.

The Gates-Bodman paper is the last attempt by the Bush administration to have an impact on future U.S. nuclear weapons policy. A congressionally mandated study, co-chaired by former defense secretaries William J. Perry and James R. Schlesinger, is to be completed by December. The Pentagon is to do a Nuclear Posture Review next year.

The Gates-Bodman paper warns, in the strongest terms yet, that the stockpile stewardship program will soon have to modernize so many components and materials that the weapons may no longer be reliable.

"Without nuclear testing, at some time in the future the United States may be unable to confirm the effect of the accumulation of changes to tested warhead configurations," they say.

They note that the United States "is now the only nuclear weapons state party to the [Non-Proliferation Treaty] that does not have the capability to produce a new nuclear warhead" and has not done so since the early 1990s. RRWs will be based on old, tested nuclear designs but put together with modern parts and technology.

What's missing from the nuclear strategy, as outlined by Gates and Bodman, is the basic rationale that requires 1,700 to 2,200 deployed strategic nuclear warheads into the future. The authors concede that such numbers are important in determining how large the new nuclear production complex should be, but they never come to grips with how many warheads the United States should be prepared to build.

The paper notes that, in the past, the U.S. nuclear force was determined by the size of Soviet forces and the targeting requirements for nuclear strikes against them. With the end of the Cold War, President Bill Clinton and President Bush entered agreements with Russian leaders on reductions.

The United States decided to reduce the number of its deployed warheads from more than 6,000 to 1,700 to 2,200 by 2012. But rather than dismantling all warheads removed from delivery systems, the Bush administration plan placed many in storage, where they remain as a strategic stockpile -- a hedge against any future threat.

Gates and Bodman say the U.S. deterrent force, no longer fixed by Russian targets, meets "a spectrum of political and military goals . . . broader goals [that] are not reflected fully by military targeting alone." One political requirement is that the United States maintain a nuclear posture that reassures NATO and Asian allies, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, of Washington's commitment to their defense and gives them no compelling need to acquire nuclear weapons.

Another goal of the U.S. nuclear force is to dissuade potential adversaries and even "near-peer competitors," such as China and Russia, from adding sufficient numbers of nuclear warheads to wipe out U.S. systems. It also is based on "retaining a sufficient margin over countries with expanding nuclear arsenals to discourage their leaders from initiating a nuclear arms competition."

Gates and Bodman also see the U.S. nuclear force as a deterrent against other types of weapons of mass destruction -- such as chemical or biological -- and attacks against American "deployed forces, allies and friends." They also say the nuclear stockpile helps prevent "major conventional attacks."

They say the number of strategic warheads on 24-hour alert will be "smaller" than the 1,700 to 2,200 that will be deployed. But the larger number could be reached within "a few weeks to months" by putting bombers back on alert or sending more submarines to sea.

Pursuing development and deployment of RRW is "key to sustaining confidence in the U.S. nuclear stockpile," Gates and Bodman conclude. Once RRW is deployed in significant numbers, the paper says, "some or all of the reserve warheads . . . can be retired and dismantled without incurring significant risk."

National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should. If you have any items that fit the bill, please send them to fineprint@washpost.com.

Oct 3, 2008

Payouts Upset Some Lab Employees

By Raam Wong
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

Some Los Alamos National Laboratory workers are upset over who received payments as part of a $12 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against the lab's former manager.

The federal lawsuit against the University of California — which was settled last year — alleged pay and promotion disparities stemming from years of gender and racial discrimination at the lab.

But critics say that among the claimants receiving payouts are well-paid mid- and high-level lab managers.

“These are not the people who are salary-deprived at the lab ... and yet they had the audacity to partake in this hard-won victory for those lab workers who deserved vindication,” said longtime lab employee Charles “Chuck” Montaño, who helped bring the pay disparities to light. “Instead of vindication, they've been slapped across the face by those individuals in management who couldn't suppress their greed at least this once.”

Montaño is also upset that at least two lab attorneys have also received payouts. Montaño said it was conflict of interest for the attorneys — who previously worked for UC and now represent Los Alamos National Security, the lab's new manager — to receive part of the settlement.

Montaño, who says he received $3,800 as part of the settlement, said he wished there had been stricter guidelines concerning who could file claims.

John Bienvenu, one of the attorneys representing the class representatives, defended the payments.

“Certainly the payments were made to all levels of the class” because female and Hispanics across the board were discriminated against, Bienvenu said. The attorney said a statistician and a labor economist determined how much each employee should receive by calculating what their salary would have been if they were not discriminated against.

UC spokesman Chris Harrington said in a statement that the “class” in the class action case included all female and Hispanic employees.

“The decision of whether or not to participate in the class action was a personal one made by each individual class member,” Harrington said. “The laboratory took no action to influence the decision of any employee regarding whether to participate in the class action, as that was a personal choice and legal right.”

Harrington said all eligible employees, including managers and attorneys, were free to make their own decisions as to whether to participate in the settlement.

The settlement stems from two discrimination lawsuits filed against the lab in 2003 and 2004 that were merged into a single class-action case.

Individual payments were based on a number of factors, including a formula outlined in the agreement and the number of people who file claims.

Settlement payouts have been a bone of contention before in the case. Last year, lab employee Laurie Quon appealed the settlement, arguing that women who originally initiated the lawsuit would receive excessive payouts.

Oct 2, 2008

Weapons designer ponders exit strategy

Los Alamos Monitor

Joe Martz has been a man on a mission for the last six months, giving versions of his thoughts about transforming the nuclear weapons complex.

As the nuclear weapons program director at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the intense and articulate Martz not only has a stake in the outcome, he also professes a longstanding commitment for breaking through some of the limitations of current policy.

In simplest terms, he wants to see a high level capability for designing, certifying, developing and producing nuclear weapons in a relatively short time frame, so that the capability itself would serve as a reliable substitute for at least a large portion of the actual weapons.

If that could be done, Martz and others believe it would maintain a quality of deterrence that has prevented the use of nuclear weapons in international conflicts while sustaining 60-years of reduced war fatalities in the world.

Recently Martz has given a talk to young people at a Café Scientifique, to the general public via several interviews with the media and to a group of peers at a two-day workshop on nuclear weapons issues sponsored by the University of New Mexico’s Center for Science, Technology and Policy.

On Tuesday, he gave a version of the talk, with some new bonus material, to a seasoned group of nuclear policy experts and advocates at the Los Alamos Committee for Arms Control and International Security.

“I led the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) design team at LANL,” Martz said, referring to a controversial project of recent years to upgrade and optimize a smaller, safer, more secure and less expensive line of nuclear weapons.

While it has won only mixed political support from Congress, the RRW project persists as a recommendation for dealing with an aging nuclear stockpile, while reducing the footprint and increasing the long-term efficiency of the nuclear weapons complex as a whole.

The LANL team’s RRW design ultimately lost out to a blueprint produced by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. But Marz’s involvement in the process of designing a nuclear weapon according to an exacting set of new requirements started him thinking about a related question.

“Could we look at (nuclear) deterrence in the same way?” he wondered. Could there be a way to substitute a set of analytic criteria for optimal deterrence in place of the technical design requirements for a line of weapons. And might those criteria be compared in a way that would lend itself to a meaningful evaluation over a wide range of postures and strategies, including some that did not assume that nuclear weapons were part of the answer?

Deterring the foe
Among the deterrence paradigms that Martz plugged into his systems analysis were such concepts as “nuclear supremacy,” “mutual assured destruction” (the cold war formulation); the current regime of “tailored deterrence” in which a counter is devised to each threat; “threshold deterrence,” which holds a minimum asset at risk as insurance against an attack; and the Indian model of “virtual deterrence,” which counts on being able to reassemble components quickly from a distributed stockpile.

With a “capability-based deterrence,” Martz added, it is assumed that the nature and timing of the threat provide a long enough warning, to build a response.

A final form of deterrence was considered – “deterrence without nuclear weapons,” which assumes that others can be induced to do the same thing and that sufficient deterrence can be provided by conventional forces, economic or diplomatic pressures, and so forth.

Each of these forms of deterrence was then graded according to dozens of criteria, which included such things as protecting national security interests, effectiveness in enhancing the nation’s reputation and costs.

An elaborate matrix was then devised and the criteria were variously weighted to score different deterrents.

Allowing for some subjective elements, and sprinkling in some important assumptions, such as that “the world situation remains as it is today Martz concluded that “tailored” and “capability-based” deterrents were the most robust systems, that stood out among different weighting schemes.

“Tailored deterrence” pretty much describes our current, post cold war posture. “Capability-based deterrence” is similar to what the National Nuclear Security Administration has been advocating in its complex transformation plans.

Martz suggests much more thought and effort be given to “capability” as a way to continue to reduce the stockpile, while maintaining an effective deterrence.

The work itself (the ability to respond to a given threat) becomes more important than the product of the work (the nuclear weapons), according to his formulation.

The audience was constructively skeptical about many aspects of the proposed concept.
“I don’t understand the agility advantage,” Charlie Bowman said, “Russia has plenty of weapons; even China has a few hundred.”

“By getting the nuclear material under control and out of the pipeline through continuing negotiations with Russia and others,” Martz said, the country would have a hedge against rapid reconstitution.

“That’s the long pole in the tent,” he said, suggesting that other defense studies support the concept of a seven-to-10 year window for a resumption of a nuclear build-up.

Half of that time period is assumed for identifying the threat and developing the will to do something about it.

Others questioned the ability of any of the deterrents to work against terrorists or any group with “nothing to lose.”

“That’s a topic for another discussion,” Martz said.

County, NNSA reach agreement

By JENNIFER GARCIA Los Alamos Monitor County Reporter

After 11 years of not having a contract, Los Alamos County and the National Nuclear Security Administration struck a deal to provide fire department services for the protection of Los Alamos County and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The contract signed Tuesday will provide the county and LANL with fire protection and emergency medical services for five years.

At the Sept. 23 council meeting, the council gave approval for the finalization of negotiations and signature authority for a limited time period to the county administrator to complete a five-year cooperative agreement with NNSA for the provision by the County of Los Alamos Fire Department services for the protection of LANL and Los Alamos County.

Staff from the NNSA and the county met collaboratively to finalize the negotiations and resolve all issues surrounding the agreement.

The county will share the cost of services and will use the 1/8 percent gross receipts tax and general fund revenues to pay for their share. According to county documents, necessary amounts have been appropriated in the county’s budget.

“There have been ups and downs to the negotiations. I’m happy to report that we have concluded negotiations,” County Administrator Max Baker said. “The agreement continues and the share starts at $3.5 million.”

He said the budget will be adjusted in one month and will come back to council for acceptance at that point.

“The budget was done last year and has to be adjusted for two more firemen and also for inflation,” Baker said.

Baker thanked everyone who worked on the agreement, including County Attorney Mary McInerny for her guidance and technical support, Fire Chief Douglas MacDonald and Deputy Fire Chief Douglas Tucker.

“There’s no one better anywhere,” Baker said.

Baker also thanked the men and women of the fire department for their patience. He also thanked Los Alamos Site Office Manager Don Winchell and Deputy Manager Dan Glen.
“It’s a win-win for the government and the community,” Baker said.

McInerny said LANL would now get the services it needs to protect its people and “all of us.” She also said that the agreement is a very good step forward.

Tucker addressed council and expressed his joy by saying, “Thank you for the confidence in the team and for your support. There were many times when we could have walked away. Max and Mary’s work has been phenomenal. The integrity of your team displayed speaks a lot for who you chose as county attorney, administrator and chief financial officer.”

MacDonald was also pleased with the decision. He thanked the NNSA, the Department of Energy, county council, and the fire fighters.

“Thank you very much. The government, LANL and the citizens are getting one heck of a deal and one heck of a fire service,” he said.

The county council was also glad that an agreement had been reached on this matter.
“Eleven years is a long time to work on a project,” Councilor Jim West said. “You climb over a mountain and fall back down. The community and lab is a real winner. The quality of protection and emergency medical services is something we couldn’t have on our own,” he continued. “I’m tickled to death that we have it.”

Councilor Ken Milder expressed his pride in the team and staff, saying that he’s proud of what the agreement represents for the community.

Council Chair James Hall said, “Eleven years without a contract left the people who work for the fire department in limbo. Mr. Baker has led the effort in this area, year after year, meeting after meeting.”

Hall said that he was amazed that Baker never came back to council and said enough is enough.

“Time after time Max gritted his teeth and climbed that mountain again,” Hall said.