Dec 30, 2008

More on Perseus

From The Huffington Post:

An American Scientist, the Soviets and the H-Bomb

By Robert S. Norris

The New York Times today published an article by William J. Broad that discusses how the Soviet Union may have obtained the key H-bomb secret ("radiation implosion") through espionage from an American spy at Los Alamos laboratory in the 1950s. The article is based on a forthcoming book, The Nuclear Express (Zenith Press) co-authored by Danny B. Stillman, a former head of intelligence at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Thomas C. Reed, a weapon designer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who later became Secretary of the Air Force.

Neither the book nor the Times article names the alleged spy. Stillman and Reed supply no hard and fast evidence to support their claim of espionage and their case appears to be largely circumstantial, but nonetheless it is certainly compelling. It is important to state upfront that I have no information or evidence to know whether the person they describe committed espionage or not. But I do know with high certainty the identity of the person they describe.

Stillman and Reed provided a dozen or so facts about the individual's life and career in their book. I've followed up on these clues using my knowledge of the history, organization, and personnel at Los Alamos in the 1940s and 50s and have deduced whom they are talking about. Others could do the same.

The person whom Stillman and Reed describe is Darol Kenneth Froman, an important figure at Los Alamos in the 1940s and 50s who, for more than a decade, was the Deputy Director of the laboratory. The known facts of Froman's life and career match the description presented by Stillman and Reed (see below for more details).

The allegation that Froman was a spy is likely to come as surprise to his colleagues and to many others. If the claim is proven to be true it will have wide ramifications on how we think about espionage during the Manhattan Project and even more significantly during the race for the hydrogen bomb, the course of the Cold War and the provenance of the Soviet H-bomb.

Froman was born on 23 October 1906 in Harrington, Washington and moved with his parents to Alberta, Canada when he was four. He attended the University of Alberta in Edmonton and received a B.Sc. (1926) and M.Sc. (1927) and was a Lecturer there in 1930-31. From 1931-39 he taught at Macdonald College, McGill University in Montreal. He returned to the United States to work at the U.S. Navy's Radio and Sound Laboratory at San Diego and to teach physics at the University of Denver in 1941-42.

In 1942 he was recruited to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago, where work on the atomic bomb was already underway, and witnessed the famous CP-1 "pile" (reactor) that went critical on 2 December 1942. Soon after he was tapped to go to Los Alamos, New Mexico and was among the early arrivals and served as a group leader from 1943-45.

Unlike most of the Manhattan Project scientists he stayed at Los Alamos after the War and rose up the ranks, eventually becoming the Deputy Director (then called Associate Technical Director) from 1951-62 second only to Director Norris E. Bradbury. As Division head (1945-48), Scientific Director of the Sandstone tests (1948), Assistant Director for Weapons Development (1949-51), and in his final position as Deputy Director before retiring in 1962 he no doubt knew virtually everything that went on in the Laboratory. He was in the middle of the U.S. search for its H-bomb in the period 1949-54 and was closely involved with Edward Teller, Stan Ulam, Carson Mark and the other scientists.

He retired early at age 55 or 56, and later served on the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission from April 1964 to August 1966. He was chairman of the board of the First National Bank of Rio Arriba from 1971-78. He died 11 September 1997 at age 90 in Santa Fe.

Following are the facts as described by the authors of Nuclear Express and my research:

From The Nuclear Express: The alleged spy was "born in the U.S., but his parents soon emigrated and he spent his younger years out of the country."
What we know about Darol Froman: He was born in Harrington, Washington on 23 October 1906 and at the age of four moved with his parents to Alberta, Canada.

From the Nuclear Express: He "returned to the U.S to attend university and then again left--to continue his academic life elsewhere."
What we know about Darol Froman: After receiving a B.Sc. and M.Sc. at the University of Alberta he went to the University of Chicago to be an assistant in physics and then returned to Canada to teach at the University of Alberta and McGill University.

From the Nuclear Express: "During those difficult depression years, as a contemporary of the Rosenbergs, he fell in with the young academic/intellectual crowd that saw communism as the most promising cure for society's ills."
What we know about Darol Froman: Unknown.

From the Nuclear Express: "As World War II broke out," he "--too old for the draft--returned to the eastern [sic] U.S. to start work at a U.S. Navy facility."
What we know about Darol Froman: In 1941 he would have been 34 or 35. For some unknown period of time he worked at the U.S. Navy's Radio and Sound Laboratory in San Diego.

From the Nuclear Express: "He soon joined one of the leading physics institutes in the U.S. and then, as Robert Oppenheimer was organizing the Los Alamos Laboratory, he was recruited to serve there." He "joined at its inception."
What we know about Darol Froman: Sometime in 1942 he became a Research Associate at the Metallurgical laboratory at the University of Chicago and was recruited to go to Los Alamos probably arriving there in the spring or early summer of 1943.

From the Nuclear Express: He volunteered his services to Soviet recruiter Morris Cohen.
What we know about Darol Froman: Unknown.

From the Nuclear Express: He worked and built an excellent reputation at wartime Los Alamos as a leader in the field of experimental physics."
What we know about Darol Froman: During the War years he was initially leader of P-4 Electronic Group under Physics Division leader Robert Bacher. After a major reorganization of the laboratory in 1944 he was leader of G-4 Electric Method in G-Division, Weapon Physics.

From the Nuclear Express: He "stayed at Los Alamos as others returned to academia. He assumed significant responsibilities while his political loyalties remained murky." He "remained there for decades until his retirement."
What we know about Darol Froman: Froman stayed at Los Alamos until his retirement in 1962. His position within the lab from 1949-51 was Assistant Director for Weapons Development; in other words, he oversaw all weapon developments. His political loyalties are unknown.

From the Nuclear Express: The spy scandals of 1948-51 may have given him pause and he "suspended his Soviet connections" and "turned his attention inward instead, to the new frontier of thermonuclear physics."
What we know about Darol Froman: No evidence of a pause. In late-1949 or early-1950 Director Norris Bradbury selected Froman to head the "Family Committee" the purpose of which was to sort out the competing ideas for an H-bomb. Edward Teller served as chairman but reported to Froman. Soon after Teller and Ulam make their breakthrough (in February and March 1951) an important conference was held at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton. Froman drew up the laboratory plans for the June 16-17 conference and with Bradbury and Mark was only one of three full time staff members from Los Alamos.

From the Nuclear Express: He was "deeply involved in the hunt for ideas within the Los Alamos community. He exchanged memoranda and held discussions with Edward Teller, Stanislaus Ulam, Lab Director Bradley and other heavy hitters of the thermonuclear world as those ideas took shape."
What we know about Darol Froman: A passage from Stan Ulam's autobiography about exchanging memoranda: "Psychologically it was perhaps precipitated by a memorandum from Darol Froman, an associate director of the laboratory, who asked various people what should be done with the whole 'super' program. While expressing doubts about the validity of Teller's insistence on his own particular scheme, I wrote to Froman that one should continue at all costs the theoretical work, that a way had to be found to extract great amounts of energy from thermonuclear reactions."

From the Nuclear Express: "Prior to October '52 Mike event," he "was appointed to a senior position within Los Alamos. From that roost he would be privy to every detail of the Mike event as well as the details of the subsequent Castle test series. He remained in place for years thereafter."
What we know about Darol Froman: In 1951 he was made Deputy Director (then called Associate Technical Director), the number two position under Director Norris E. Bradbury. Froman served in that position for eleven years until his retirement in 1962.

From the Nuclear Express: "We [Stillman and Reed] believe a KGB asset made contact with" him "during late March 1954." The authors imply that information about the H-bomb was forced out of him because 1) he wanted some credit for helping to discover the H-bomb; 2) of a threat to reveal his past espionage; or 3) payment of money. He "appears to have died a wealthy man: money may have been the clinching inducement to return (briefly) to the world of espionage."
What we know about Darol Froman: Unknown.

From the Nuclear Express: He is now deceased.
What we know about Darol Froman: Darol K. Froman died on 11 September 1997 in Santa Fe.

First Three Hearings of the 111th

Contact: Bill Wicker
Phone: 202-224-5243

December 19th, 2008

In the spirit of allowing plenty of time to plan for the new year, ENR [Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee] announces its first three hearings for the 111th Congress:

¯ Thursday, Jan. 8, at 9:30 a.m., in Dirksen 366, to receive testimony on current energy security challenges. Witnesses TBA.

¯ Tuesday, Jan. 13, at 10:00 a.m., in Dirksen 366, to consider the nomination of Dr. Steven Chu to be Secretary of Energy.

¯ Thursday, Jan. 15, at 9:30 a.m., in Dirksen 366, to consider the nomination of Sen. Ken Salazar to be Secretary of the Interior.

Sen. Bingaman:Dr. Chu and Sen. Salazar both are highly qualified and experienced, and I look forward to hearing their views on the important work which our President-elect has asked them to undertake.

Sen. Murkowski:I look forward to hearing from the nominees, both of whom are very accomplished, about how we can ensure our energy security. I’ve always had a good working relationship with Sen. Salazar, and I’ve spoken with Dr. Chu and believe I will have the same with him. The administration and Congress must work together to develop sensible and balanced public policy to meet our energy needs and curb our greenhouse gas emissions without hampering the economy.

(Sen. Murkowski is expected to assume the position of ranking Republican on the committee from Sen. Pete Domenici, who is retiring from the Senate.)

# # #

Soviets Stole Bomb Idea From U.S., Book Says

By WILLIAM J. BROAD, The New York Times

A defining moment of the cold war came in 1955 when Moscow detonated its first hydrogen bomb — a weapon roughly a thousand times more powerful than atom bombs and ideal for obliterating large cities.

The bomb ended the American monopoly and posed a lethal danger. So Washington dealt far more gingerly with Moscow, beginning a tense era dominated by fear of mutual annihilation.

Now, a new book says Moscow acquired the secret of the hydrogen bomb not from its own scientists but from an atomic spy at the Los Alamos weapons lab in New Mexico. Historians call its case sketchy but worthy of investigation, saying the book, “The Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation,” by Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman, adds to a growing number of riddles about who invented the Soviet H-bomb a half century ago.

“It’s quite intriguing,” Robert S. Norris, a nuclear historian, said of the book. “We’ve learned a lot about atomic spies. Now, we find out that a spy may be at the center of the H-bomb story, too.”

A surprising clue the authors cite is disagreement among Russian nuclear scientists over who deserves credit for the advance as well as some claims that espionage played a role. The book details this Russian clash and questions the popular idea that Andrei D. Sakharov, who later became known as a campaigner for human rights, independently devised the Soviet hydrogen bomb.

The book does not name the suspected spy but says he was born in the United States, grew up in a foreign country, fell in with communist sympathizers during the depression, and worked at Los Alamos during World War II. Afterward, it says, he became “deeply involved” in the American effort to develop the H-bomb.

The book says that Mr. Stillman, a physicist who worked at Los Alamos from 1965 to 2000 and served for more than a decade as the lab’s director of intelligence, took his suspicions in the 1990s to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But the F.B.I. inquiry, the book says, was “botched beyond recognition” and went nowhere. The alleged spy, the book adds, is now dead.

The F.B.I., often accused of disarray in cases of atomic spying, declined to comment.

Historians and nuclear scientists call the book’s claim provocative if vague and seemingly circumstantial. They add that its suspect is unlikely to be the last put forward to account for the Soviet breakthrough.

“It’s a fascinating puzzle,” said David Holloway, author of “Stalin and the Bomb” and a military historian at Stanford University. “Mystery is too strong a word. But exactly how the Soviet physicists hit on the idea remains unclear.”

Harold M. Agnew, who worked on the world’s first H-bomb and eventually became director of Los Alamos, said the Soviets probably had had numerous spies divulging the secret. “We were always surprised,” he said, “at how quickly they moved ahead.”

The new book is due out in January from Zenith Press. A main focus is how spies spread nuclear secrets around the globe.

In recent years, the ranks of known Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project to build the atom bomb have swollen to a half dozen or so, and more are expected to be named. But so far, accounts of the ensuing project at Los Alamos to build the hydrogen bomb have documented no major episodes of atomic spying.

Hydrogen bombs, unlike their atomic cousins, are unlimited in size. American scientists who sought to devise one in the 1940s and early 1950s thus called their dream weapon “the Super.”

The successful architects were Edward Teller and Stanislaw M. Ulam. Their 1951 breakthrough, known as “radiation implosion,” called for putting an atom bomb at one end of a metal casing and hydrogen fuel at the other. The flash of the exploding atom bomb was to flood the case’s interior with enough radiation to compress and ignite the hydrogen fuel, releasing huge bursts of energy through nuclear fusion.

In late 1952, the first test of their idea caused the Pacific island of Elugelab to vanish. The explosion was 700 times more powerful than the blast that leveled Hiroshima.

Moscow had nothing comparable until 1955. It then made an arsenal of H-bombs that in time dwarfed Washington’s. It also detonated the world’s largest bomb — a behemoth more than 3,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima blast.

Over the decades, scholars identified Klaus Fuchs as one possible source of H-bomb intelligence. The Soviet spy in the Manhattan project left Los Alamos in 1946, gave Moscow H-bomb ideas, and was arrested in 1950. But most scholars judge his tips as too early, too sketchy and too erroneous to have provided much assistance.

The authors of “The Nuclear Express” said in interviews that their interest in the issue stirred after the cold war as former Soviet nuclear scientists told of their hidden labors. Mr. Reed, a former designer of H-bombs at the Livermore weapons laboratory in California and a former secretary of the Air Force — met a number of the Russians scientists at Livermore in March 1997.

He said the meetings had proved eye opening. The Russian scientists described how Dr. Sakharov never took full credit for the hydrogen advance. And Lev P. Feoktistov, a member of the founding H-bomb team, suggested that espionage unrelated to Fuchs played a role.

In his 1999 book, “Nukes Are Not Forever,” he reiterated that claim. “I cannot escape the feeling,” Dr. Feoktistov wrote, “that we were extended a helping hand once in a while, although quite inconspicuously.”

For instance, he said the Soviet team had been given an unfamiliar bomb sketch that he subsequently identified as having been the work of Ulam, the American H-bomb pioneer. The sketch showed a design that antedated the breakthrough of radiation implosion.

Amid the revelations after the cold war, Mr. Stillman, at Los Alamos, zeroed in on a candidate spy. In an interview, he said his suspicions had been aroused for a number of reasons, including the man’s great apparent wealth.

Mr. Stillman said the F.B.I. inquiry fell apart in the 1990s as the bureau’s Santa Fe office became entangled in the case of a modern alleged spy at Los Alamos — Wen Ho Lee. In time, all but one of the charges against Dr. Lee were dropped after a judge found significant flaws in the government’s case. The episode is seen as having raised the federal bar on new claims of atomic spying.

When Mr. Reed and Mr. Stillman began to collaborate on their book, they judged that they had complementary pieces of the H-bomb puzzle.

In the book, they say they declined to name the Los Alamos suspect because he is now dead and “can neither defend his family name nor refute our arguments.” The actual identity does not matter, the books adds. “His fingerprints are what count.”

Reactions to the claim range from strong interest, to outrage, to curiosity about the identity of the alleged spy. For years, most Russian scientists and officials have insisted that the Soviet invention was completely independent of the United States, with the exception of preliminary intelligence from Klaus Fuchs.

Gennady Gorelik, a Russian historian of science now at Boston University and a Sakharov biographer, dismissed the idea that the Soviets had received the secret from newly disclosed espionage. “NO, THEY DID NOT,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

Priscilla McMillan, an atom historian at Harvard and author of “The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” said her weighing of old and new evidence had come down on Dr. Sakharov’s side as the main inventor. “It’s a tantalizing subject,” she said. “But I wouldn’t preclude that his version is pretty much correct.”

John Earl Haynes, a Library of Congress historian and an authority on atomic spying, said the book’s authors might have found a new spy at Los Alamos but he doubted their identification of him as a K.G.B. asset. If the spy existed, he added, he might have been controlled by the G.R.U, a military intelligence agency.

Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the American H-bomb and has advised Washington for decades, echoed Dr. Agnew in saying he found quite reasonable the idea that Moscow had espionage tips from Los Alamos about radiation implosion.

“It is difficult to believe that U.S. security was so good that the Russians could not have picked up the term,” he said in an interview.

Dr. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb,” an account of the Manhattan Project, said solving the H-bomb riddle awaited more candor from Moscow.

“The only way of clearing this up is for the intelligence services, the successors to the K.G.B. and the G.R.U., to claim their share of the credit,” he said. But he added that such openness could undermine Russian pride in its nuclear achievements during the cold war.

“It cuts both ways,” he said. “It would really be a blow to the self image of the Russian scientists, who believe to this day that they invented it independently.”

[The suspected spy, code named Perseus, is also mentioned in Scientists ponder how to get nuclear genie back in the bottle by Dan Vergano of USA Today.]

Dec 29, 2008

The LANL Blog

Written by John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal Science Writer

The "LANL Blog" (LANL: The Rest of the Story) is a must read for people like me who follow Los Alamos, and rarely do I talk to someone inside the lab who is not reading it as well. Trip Jennings at the Independent has a nice interview with Frank Young, talking about the blog and why he does it:
At the Nuclear Deterrence Summit this month, a deputy director of another lab told me that what I was doing was great, was improving things, and to keep up the good work. He also mentioned he was thankful I wasn’t blogging about his lab.
Thanks John!

Lab came to terms with a tough year

By ROGER SNODGRASS, The Los Alamos Monitor

Los Alamos National Laboratory survived the threat of a massive budget cut this year from Congress and came out with its funding intact.

In the recession-era sense that a “flat” budget is the new “raise” and definitely better than a cut, not suffering a loss was a notable achievement.

At the beginning of the year, the lab was coming out of another cycle of change and insecurity and was immediately hit by a budget proposal from the House of Representatives calling for a $400 million reduction.

In that context, getting back to “flat” in the interim budget resolution passed by Congress in November, also seemed like a significant advance.

Did LANL have anything to do with the turnaround, or was it just something that happened to them because Congress decided that way?

“It was their decision, but we get some credit for working with our delegation and keeping them informed,” said LANL Director Michael Anastasio.

But the laboratory still had to perform under a series of continuing resolutions at the beginning of the year, never quite knowing when or if the axe might fall.

“We had to manage the laboratory with an uncertain budget and put through a workforce reduction that was executed well,” Anastasio said. “But we never had to go to that final step of laying people off.”

That was all the while trying to make room in the old budget for new costs and trying to carve out some wiggle room in case one of the worst-case scenarios arose.

“We still had new costs to absorb, the pay-as you-go retirement costs, even paying ourselves a fee comes out of the lab’s budget,” Anastasio said, noting that the lab would continue to try to save money.

“We’ll continue building efficiencies into our operations. We’ve just finished in-sourcing 900 KSL employees,” he said. “They started as LANS employees on Dec. 1, and everybody got paid. We’re looking at saving a significant amount of money.”

A year without a major scandal probably helped the cause. Scientific achievements like the Roadrunner and the successful completion of the unfinished axis of the Dual Axis Hydrodynamic Radiographic Test (DAHRT) facility also racked up some confidence in Washington.

The fact that DAHRT suffered another setback later in the year due to an avoidable mistake, as reported in the year-end evaluation, weakened a period with many positive aspects, as did an apparent resurgence of worker-safety related injuries.

New mission work, encouraged by NNSA, may help broaden the financial center of gravity at the lab, which has turned to engage new customers and a wider range of security challenges, including the challenge of clean energy and the threat of climate shift.

More changes seem inevitable as eight years of one administration gives way to the first year of another.

Anastasio was especially pleased that the lab managers had won an extra year on its contract, for a year that despite some pains showed signs of the old luster and stability after many years without.

NIST Seeks White Papers on Critical National Needs

Newswise — The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is interested in detailed pitches for critical national and societal needs that could be the basis for new competitions for research funding under its Technology Innovation Program (TIP).

TIP promotes innovation in the United States through cost-shared funding for high-risk, high-reward research projects by single small-sized or medium-sized businesses or by joint ventures that also may include institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations and national laboratories. Competitions for TIP funding target large national and societal needs that arguably could be addressed or reduced through a program of high-risk, transformational research. The first TIP competition in 2008 sought new technologies for inspecting, monitoring and evaluating critical components of the nation’s roadways, bridges, and drinking and wastewater systems.

In a Federal Register notice posted on Dec. 16,* NIST asked interested parties to submit “white papers” describing an area of critical national need and the associated societal challenge and explain how those needs might be addressed through potential technological developments that fit the TIP profile of high-risk, high-reward R&D. The white papers, along with the input from NIST, the TIP Advisory Board, other government agencies, the technical communities and other stakeholders, will be incorporated into the TIP competition planning process.

NIST announced that, while it is accepting papers in any topic area of concern to the submitter, it is particularly interested in white papers that would help further refine several topic areas now under consideration, including:
  • Civil Infrastructure—for example, construction technologies or advanced materials for transportation or for water distribution and flood control;
  • Complex networks and complex systems—for example new theory or mathematical tools to enable better understanding and control of the complex networks that have evolved for energy delivery, telecommunications, transportation and finance;
  • Energy—technologies that address emerging alternative energy sources;
  • Water—technologies that address growing needs for fresh water supplies and ensure the safety of water and food supplies from contamination;
  • Manufacturing—for example, advanced manufacturing technologies that have shorter innovation cycles, more flexibility, and are rapidly reconfigurable;
  • Nanomaterials and nanotechnology—for example technologies that enable the scale-up of nanomaterials and nanodevices from lab prototypes to commercial manufacturing;
  • Personalized Medicine—for example, advances in proteomics and genomics that could enable doctors to select optimal drug treatments and dosages based on the patient’s unique genetics, physiology, and metabolic processes; and
  • Sustainable Chemistry—for example, novel, advanced process chemistries and technologies that are inherently safer and cleaner while creating products and processes with attributes superior to conventional methods.
White papers can be submitted to meet several due dates, including: Jan. 15, 2009, March 9, 2009, May 11, 2009, and July 13, 2009. White papers may be mailed to: National Institute of Standards and Technology, Technology Innovation Program, 100 Bureau Drive, Stop 4750, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-4750, Attention: Critical National Needs Ideas, or may be emailed to

The white papers are expected to contain: a description of an area of critical national need and the associated societal challenge, why government support is needed, the consequences of inaction and a high level discussion of potential technical solutions, and the audience for such a competition. They should not include specific project proposals. Detailed instructions on preparing TIP white papers may be read at “A Guide for Preparing and Submitting White Papers on Areas of Critical National Need” ( Detailed discussion of the seven areas of particular interest is in the Federal Register notice “Technology Innovation Program (TIP) Seeks White Papers” (

* Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 242, Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008, p. 76339.

Dec 28, 2008

Nuclear cooperation prospects unclear

By Li Xiaokun and Wu Jiao (China Daily)

Chinese experts said on Friday US President-elect Barack Obama's proposal to resume exchanges with Chinese nuclear weapons laboratories would accelerate bilateral nuclear energy cooperation. However, they also said it is difficult to predict China's response.

The Washington Times reported on Thursday that Obama had said in an interview with Arms Control Today magazine that in addition to holding a strategic nuclear dialogue with China, he wants to resume "laboratory to laboratory exchanges that were terminated in the 1990s".

Zhou Shijian, a senior researcher with Tsinghua University's Center for China-US Relations Studies, said Obama's proposal would boost Sino-US cooperation on the "peaceful utilization of nuclear energy", which is the major goal of nuclear laboratory exchanges.

"Nuclear energy will replace large aircrafts to provide the greatest business opportunities between China and the US in the future," said Zhou, who witnessed the decades of uneven Sino-US negotiations on nuclear energy cooperation.

It would benefit both countries, because it would bring a substantial amount of jobs and profit to the US, while helping China update its nuclear energy facilities, Zhou said.

China plans to build four nuclear energy power plants every year until 2020, with each plant to cost an estimated 10 billion yuan, he said.

However, Fan Jishe, a senior researcher of US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said it is still tricky to predict China's response to Obama's proposal, as Washington's "Chinese espionage" smear during previous exchanges deeply hurt Beijing.

Beijing and Washington engaged in such exchanges in the 1990s. But these faltered in the late 1990s, as US intelligence and security officials accused China of using the program to extract classified information through question-and-answer sessions with US scientists.

This led to the case of Los Alamos National Laboratory Chinese-born American scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was accused but never convicted of passing nuclear secrets to China.

In 1999, the CIA produced an assessment claiming China obtained data on every deployed nuclear weapon. But the FBI never identified any "spy" who allegedly gave China the data.

Lee was freed in September 2000. At his plea hearing, Judge James Parker of the US District Court, New Mexico, apologized for the "unfair manner" in which he was detained.

Fan said the "lies deeply hurt" China then, so Beijing did not answer the Bush administration's calls for bilateral strategic nuclear talks.

Obama has vowed to push the US Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, with some reports claiming the US may ratify the treaty within two years.

Obama on lab exchanges

Bill Gertz INSIDE THE RING, The Washington Times

President-elect Barack Obama plans to resume scientist exchanges between U.S. nuclear-weapons laboratories and Chinese facilities, a program halted in the late 1990s after the loss of U.S. nuclear-warhead secrets to China.

Mr. Obama stated in an interview with Arms Control Today magazine that in addition to continuing efforts to hold a strategic nuclear dialogue with China, he wants to "resume laboratory-to-laboratory exchanges that were terminated in the 1990s."

The laboratory-exchange program during the 1990s is blamed by U.S. intelligence and security officials for leading to a strategic espionage failure. China's communist government used the program to target U.S. nuclear scientists under an elaborate program of intelligence "elicitation" - meeting lab weapons designers in conferences and hotels in China and seeking classified data through question-and-answer sessions.

The program led to the case of Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was accused but not convicted of passing nuclear secrets to China. After FBI missteps in the investigation, Lee was convicted on lesser charges of mishandling classified information, and he later sued news reporters who had reported on his case.

By May 1999, however, the CIA produced a damage assessment that concluded that the Chinese obtained data on every deployed nuclear weapon, including the W-88 small warhead for missiles and the enhanced-radiation or neutron bomb.

The FBI has failed to uncover the spy or spies who gave China the data but says it is continuing to investigate.

A U.S. counterintelligence report from 1998 stated that Department of Energy laboratories were "under attack" from foreign spies and that one method of obtaining secrets was through scientific, academic and commercial exchanges and "elicitation" of information. "China has specifically targeted DOE for collection of technical intelligence related to the design of nuclear weapons, and seeks information relating to stockpile stewardship and reliability," the report said. "This effort has been very successful, and Beijing's exploitation of U.S. national laboratories has substantially aided its nuclear weapons program."

Notra Trulock, former intelligence chief for the Energy Department, testified in 2000 to the Senate Judiciary oversight and courts subcommittee that nuclear-lab security in the 1990s was so poor that investigators identified 11 U.S. spy suspects, including Lee, who had access to warhead secrets and had traveled to China and met Chinese nuclear officials. Mr. Trulock resigned in 1999 when a government report did not back his allegations against Lee

Under the Bush administration, the Pentagon has sought to hold strategic nuclear talks with China, but the Chinese military has balked at engaging in detailed discussions, according to defense officials.

On China's nuclear buildup, Mr. Obama stated in written answers to questions posed by the magazine that China appears to be building up its nuclear forces and "as president, I will ensure that the United States continues to maintain our own military capabilities so that there can be no doubt about the strength and credibility of our security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region."

Mr. Obama said he supports continuing military exchanges with China that were halted by Beijing in response to the October announcement by the Pentagon of a long-delayed $6.5 billion arms package for Taiwan.

"I will urge China to increase transparency of its nuclear weapons policies and programs - indeed, of its military and defense policies more generally," Mr. Obama stated. "We are not enemies. I will engage the Chinese leadership in discussions that convey how greater openness in military spending and nuclear force modernization is consistent with China's and the United States' national interests and more likely to lead to greater trust and understanding."

A spokesman for the Energy Department National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nuclear laboratories, had no immediate comment on Mr. Obama's plans to resume lab exchanges.

Dec 26, 2008

NMI Q&A with… Frank Young

Watchdog blogger tells 'the rest of the story' at Los Alamos labs
By Trip Jennings, The New Mexico Independent

Frank Young runs LANL: The Rest of the Story, a blog about the inner workings at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Young, aka Pinky and the Brain to his regular readers (the Brain is his wife, Dorothy), has operated the blog for more than a year, picking up the mantle from two predecessors who provided a forum for lab insiders to vent, while giving outsiders a window into one of the U.S.’s most famous laboratories.

What Young’s blog lacks in numbers of readers it makes up for in quality and influence. Readers at Congressional offices and the Pentagon are among his regular viewers, he says, as well as folks as far away as Russia and China.

Young, who is 45 and now lives in Houston, says he became interested in the lab after working there for a contractor. Later, he became sick from what he believes was exposure to high-level liquid radioactive waste at the lab. He has written about his sickness here.

The blog is a blend of news about the lab and the nuclear community, articles contributed by readers and articles Young has written himself. Most of the content is contributed by readers in the comment threads, he says.

“Those [comments] are the most interesting part of this,” Young says. “There’s a mix — some hateful stuff, some humorous stuff and some very thoughtful stuff.”

Beyond LANL, Young has begun to track larger issues. He just returned from a nuclear deterrence summit in Washington the first week of December.

“They invited me,” Young says. “I had to pay travel and expenses, but they waived the $1,100 registration fee. They consider me a member of the press.”

We talked more with Young about The Rest of the Story and the politics and science of blogging.

NMI: What is your relationship to LANL?

FY: The Army brought me out West. My last duty station was Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. [After leaving the Army,] I took a job with a firm in Albuquerque that does business throughout New Mexico. Most of our work was with a few big customers. The lab was one of them. I’ve probably worked at almost every tech area in the lab. As an electrical engineer, I tested power systems and also did repairs and upgrades. Just to be clear, I was never an employee of the lab.

How did you get interested in the goings on at LANL?

I started following the story of safety and security problems because I was involved. The big issue for me was becoming sick and wanting to know what I had been exposed to. The last place I worked at Los Alamos was TA-55 [Tech Area 55, the plutonium facility where plutonium pits are made]. That was a two-week project that started April 1, 2002.

I have not worked since then. Accidents happen. I don’t blame anybody and I’m not interested in suing anybody. I just want an answer.

How did you come to take up the original blog for the LANL community?

When I first discovered the original blog, it was like a gold mine to me. I read it daily and fast-tracked my understanding of how the weapons-complex worked. It’s not an easy thing for an outsider to teach himself. When that blog ended, someone else took up the mantle for a while. When the second blog ended, I decided to do it if no one else would. I’ve been doing it since April 1, 2007. None of the blogs are anti-lab, by the way, just anti-bad management.

How do you get your information?

People at the lab contact me through the blog’s email address. They’ll send me ideas, material they want posted … I even get fan mail. I try to keep it mostly related to LANL. I think that’s about as much as one person can handle.

Do you allow people to remain anonymous when they send you stuff?

Absolutely. Anyone can email me anonymously. Often they don’t hide who they are from me but still request that I publish what they sent without naming them. I have been doing this long enough that if I released their names, word would get around and people would stop sending me stuff. Heck, for the first year, I was anonymous. I understand the situation my readers are in.

How many contributors do you have?

I’ve never counted but I’d say easily over a hundred. There are regular contributors who send me stories they want posted every day, and then there are a lot of people who have contributed only once or twice.

How do you get the content?

I’ve only written a few of the posts myself. Most are news articles or written by a reader. The majority of the content is contributed by readers in the form of comment threads that trail posts.

Why do you think they participate in the blog?

I think most readers are seeing things they believe aren’t right and they want a way to fix them and they don’t see any other way other than the blog. It gives them a voice in a way that poses no risk to their careers.

What is your relationship with the labs’ administration?

There are a lot of people who I or the blog readers have criticized harshly who probably don’t like it. There are also people in the administration who are some of my sources. It’s hard to view the lab as one single entity. It is a bunch of groups that sometimes fight with each other. It’s Balkanized.

Do you see yourself as fulfilling a public service?

I don’t think the public benefits a lot, because I think the public is mostly not paying attention. I guess it’s a service for the Los Alamos community and stakeholders.

What is the most rewarding part of providing the blog?

What is humbling to me is who reads it. The Senate, the House, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Department of Energy, all the branches of the military, all the other labs. I get hits from all over the world. There is a person in Sweden who reads it for hours every day. The only domain I can think of that I have never seen reading the blog is

Where do most of the hits come from?

The lab recently blocked Internet communication with the blog’s stat counter and site meter, so I don’t see hits from anymore, though you can still read the blog from work at LANL. Before that about 80 percent of my hits came from the lab.

Do you get feedback from the Pentagon or the Senate, or the House?

Indirectly, yes. I’ve gotten feedback that they read it every day. I can also see what they are reading by looking at the logs.

The principal assistant deputy administrator for National Nuclear Security Administration Defense Programs came to Los Alamos for an an all-hands meeting and said the blog was “one of the most informative sources of information he’s found regarding what’s going on inside the Lab.”

At the Nuclear Deterrence Summit this month, a deputy director of another lab told me that what I was doing was great, was improving things, and to keep up the good work. He also mentioned he was thankful I wasn’t blogging about his lab.

Dec 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, Quack Quack

Photo © Eric Fairfield 2008

Thanks again this year to Eric Fairfield for providing the photo for the annual Merry Christmas blog post. Now that we have two data points we can say with a high degree of research that Eric will be providing the photo next Christmas as well.

I also want thank all of our readers and contributors. Thanks to your efforts the blog received a 100% rating from the NNSA this year, and its contract was renewed for another year. You have all helped set the standard in safe and secure blogging.

I'm also pleased to announce that I've been invited to blog at LLNL, The True Story. For this "blog for others" (BFO) work, I have the potential to earn another $0.00 million in fees next year. Look for my mousy brand of inanity to be appearing there very soon.

And last but not at all least, I want to thank the (I suspect) not so retired Gussie Fink-Nottle. Gussie has joined the ranks of the anonymous contributors who put the bang in this blog, but he's still here. Thanks for everything Gus.

A New Old Nuclear Arsenal

By Michael O'Hanlon, The Washington Post

For all their agreement on matters such as Afghanistan and defense spending, President-elect Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are on record disagreeing over a central matter for U.S. security: the future of nuclear weapons.

The issue is whether the United States should build the "reliable replacement warhead," a matter that has major ramifications for all U.S. nuclear policy, including whether to ratify the comprehensive treaty banning nuclear tests and whether we will be able to work with other countries to stem proliferation.

The reliable replacement warhead, known as the RRW, which Congress has refused to fund despite repeated requests from the Bush administration, would not require nuclear testing -- in contrast to today's high-performance designs with their low margins for error. It would use more plutonium or enriched uranium, and deliver a lower explosive yield for a warhead of a given size and weight.

Gates declared his support for the RRW in October, saying that "there is absolutely no way we can maintain a credible deterrent and reduce the number of weapons in our stockpile without either resorting to testing our stockpile or pursuing a modernization program."

Obama, however, has been emphatic that the country would not build new nuclear warheads on his watch. He wants to reinvigorate U.S. arms control and nonproliferation efforts.

If Obama wants the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and commit the United States never to test weapons again, it appears that he will have to gather votes in the face of opposition from his defense secretary. Waiting until Gates leaves the Pentagon is not a good option: A review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty is scheduled for early 2010, and U.S. ratification of the test ban treaty is probably a prerequisite for strong international support to extend and strengthen the NPT.

In theory, as president, Obama could simply overrule Gates. Reality, though, is not so simple. It was no accident that Gates made his speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace a week before Election Day, when rumors were floating that he might be asked to stay on. Gates apparently wanted his differences with Obama on this matter to be on the record.

And Gates's views on this are important. Not only is Gates highly regarded, but given historical Republican wariness about the test-ban treaty, Gates's hesitation would reinforce that of lawmakers. Only four GOP senators supported the treaty when the Clinton administration pushed for ratification in the late 1990s. Notable moderates voted against it, largely because of concerns about the viability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile without continued testing. Even if Obama could get the next Senate to ratify the testing ban, the issue creates a political fight he does not need.

Obama's Catch-22 appears to be to either lose the support of his defense secretary and most Republicans on a crucial arms control vote, or to reverse a campaign pledge and pursue what the world is likely to view as a renewed U.S. drive for nuclear modernization while asking others to show restraint. This double standard infuriates nonnuclear states and weakens our ability to gain support for tougher nonproliferation rules and sanctions on proliferating countries such as Iran and North Korea.

Thankfully, there is another option. The right strategy has two elements: redefine the RRW program as a remanufacture of an older design, and delay that program to allow Obama to create momentum for arms control.

Redefining the RRW might seem like semantics but is, in fact, a reasonable move. The United States developed more conservative weapons designs in the early years of the nuclear era that might be usable. Even if they had to be modified, the designs would remain more "old" than "new." Moreover, building such warheads would not create new capabilities for American war planners but would deprive them of some targeting options they possess today, while emphasizing safety and reliability.

Delaying pursuit of this remanufacturing program would not present a problem. We have little reason to think that today's nuclear arsenal is unreliable. Already, a $5 billion annual program to ensure good stockpile stewardship and reliability is monitoring weapons and remanufacturing parts that show signs of age. Bomb designers are more concerned about the arsenal 25 or 50 years from now; if we delay a few years in building more conservative designs, deterrence will not suffer.

Obama's budget request should not include money for the reliable replacement warhead, but his administration's first nuclear review should commit the United States to building more conservative and less deadly bombs by about 2015. With any luck, Gates will consider this a reasonable compromise, and with his support the United States will ratify the long-delayed comprehensive test ban treaty during Obama's first year in office.

The writer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a nuclear weapons analyst at the Congressional Budget Office from 1989 to 1994.

Dec 24, 2008

Here's a little nugget for the "She only got it because she's a girl" crowd to feed on. Anyway, I wonder if her 5 years of funding is portable?

Martinez recognized by White House for achievement

By James E. Rickman, The LANL NewsBulletin

Jennifer S. Martinez of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) has received a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The award, presented to Martinez last Friday at the White House, is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government to outstanding scientists early in their careers.

Martinez was one of eight researchers funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration to be recognized. Martinez is one of 68 researchers supported by nine federal departments and agencies to receive the award.

Each PECASE recipient receives up to five years’ funding from their respective agency to advance his or her research. Martinez received her award from John Marburger, science advisor to President George W. Bush and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Scientific disciplines represented among award recipients ranged from computational biology to atomic, molecular, and optical science.

In addition to her work using biomolecular recognition strategies to template, solubilize and assemble nanomaterials, Martinez has been active in development of biosensors that could have applications in medical diagnostics as well as in detection of biological threat agents. She also has been active in mentoring postdoctoral scientists, an activity for which she recently received an award from the Laboratory. Her work has been published in journals such as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of the American Chemical Society, and Langmuir. She actively works with visiting researchers and collaborators at the CINT, which is one of several DOE national user facilities focused on nanotechnology research.

Martinez’s achievements cited in the PECASE award were funded by the DOE Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

“Jen’s career and research is exemplary, and we are extremely pleased that she is a role model for numerous emerging scientists here at the Laboratory,” said John Sarrao, director of the Laboratory’s Office of Science Program. “We congratulate Jen on her outstanding contributions to science, and her inspiring mentorship activities. Her career at Los Alamos thus far has been truly inspirational.”

Dec 23, 2008

Cheney Reaffirms U.S. Nuclear Destructive Power

By Greg Webb, Global Security Newswire

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney offered tough words to potential U.S. nuclear adversaries as he delivered a spirited defense of executive power during a Fox News interview Friday (see GSN, Dec. 9).

Responding to critics who have charged Cheney and U.S. President George W. Bush with overstepping their constitutional authority in leading the U.S. war on terrorism, the vice president argued that a wartime president has vast authority to act quickly and unilaterally.

For example, "the president of the United States, now for 50 years, is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a 'football' that contains the nuclear codes that he would use, and be authorized to use, in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States," Cheney said. "He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen. He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in".

Artwork created by Gary Eschman.

U.S. Prepared to Track Source of Nuclear Strike, Book Says

Global Security Newswire

A new books says that technological advancements have helped to prepare the United States to identify the source of a nuclear weapon used against the nation, MSNBC reported Friday (see GSN, July 22).

“Not only can intelligence help prevent a nuclear terrorist attack, but also in the event one occurs, it may be able to identify the entity responsible and those who contributed, particularly by providing a bomb or components,” intelligence historian Jeffrey Richelson wrote in Defusing Armageddon.

U.S. officials believe that any nuclear-armed terrorist organization is likely to have received the weapon or key parts from a nation rather than through its own efforts, Richelson wrote. The response to an act of nuclear terrorism could be based on determining where the weapon originated. The capability to determine the source could also serve as a deterrent, according to U.S. authorities.

The National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center would lead work in any post-attack situation.

Should a nuclear strike occur, heat-detecting Defense Support Program satellites and Global Positioning System satellites would be used to find the exact location of detonation. An Air Force WC-135 equipped with radiation sensors and sampling technology would be used to collect debris from the event; Richeslson noted, though, that the number of operating aircraft has dropped from 10 during the Cold War to one today.

A nuclear-signature database, produced through U.S. intelligence efforts, could help identify the nation of origin of the highly enriched uranium or plutonium used to fuel the bomb.

“The possibility of attribution stems from the fact that every nuclear device has distinct signatures. These include physical, chemical, elemental and isotopic properties that provide clues as to what material was in the weapon and its construction,” according to the book, scheduled for publication in January. “The shape, size, and texture of the material would determine the bomb’s physical signature. The bomb’s unique molecular components would determine the device’s chemical signatures.”

Other information that could be determined would include the type, age and operating status of the reactor that produced plutonium in a weapon, or the type of centrifuge used to prepare uranium for that purpose, MSNBC reported.

"By comparing the results of the initial analysis to a database of known reactor types or samples of HEU produced by different enrichment processes, forensic workers might determine the origin of the material or at least narrow the field of viable suspects, eventually pinning the blame on the culprit with the assistance of additional intelligence and data,” the book says.

This information could lead to identifying the bomb designer. Determining the type of weapon used in an attack could indicate whether a nation had been involved in its development or if an extremist organization produced the bomb without outside support, according to Richelson.

Continued updates to the nuclear database are key to the detection effort, the author said. If that does not occur, “confidence that the United States does not have samples a country’s nuclear DNA might make that country willing to provide terrorists with a bomb or nuclear material.”

Both Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), nominee for secretary of state, have supported additional funding for U.S. nuclear forensics and detection efforts. That could indicate that the programs are likely to be supported by the incoming Obama administration.

Richelson noted that the United States is better technologically prepared to determine the origin of a weapon than to detect it before it can be used: "It may be easier to determine who was behind a terrorist nuclear attack than to prevent it" (Robert Windrem, MSNBC, Dec. 19).

Says Lawsuit Is for 'Vindication'

By Sue Major Holmes, The Associated Press

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee implicated in the presumed disappearance of two classified disks — which, in reality, never existed — said Monday he sued the lab to vindicate himself and a co-worker.

John Horne, who had been a lead technician, filed his lawsuit Dec. 12 in state district court in Los Alamos against former lab director Pete Nanos, former DX division acting director Kevin Jones and Los Alamos National Security LLC, or LANS, which took over lab management from the University of California in mid-2006. The university is a partner in LANS. Nanos left the lab in May 2005 to join the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Horne's lawsuit alleges he was persecuted and retaliated against after the disappearance of two disks — so-called “classified removable electronic media” or CREM — in July 2004.

In January 2005, in a harshly worded review that described severe security weaknesses at the nuclear lab, the U.S. Department of Energy concluded the two disks were never made.

The presumed loss of the disks, plus an incident in which an intern suffered an eye injury from a laser, prompted Nanos to shut down the lab in July 2004. It wasn't back into full operation until early 2005.

Horne, in an interview Monday from the Santa Fe office of his attorney, Timothy Butler, said the shutdown was a fraud perpetrated on the American public because it was unnecessary. The DOE said the shutdown might have cost as much as $367 million; the lab put the cost at $119 million.

The lawsuit contends Nanos and Jones knew from mid-July 2004 that no classified disks were missing.

Horne and Todd Kauppila, a lab team leader fired in September 2004, had said the problem stemmed from an accounting error. Horne received bar codes for CREM for conference presentations in 2003, but did not need two of them. Kauppila, the conference chairman, never had direct contact with the disks or bar codes.

They told reporters in early 2005 that senior managers were making them scapegoats. Kauppila, 41, was contesting his firing when he died in May 2005 of hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

“Todd died because of this,” Horne said. “My vindication is his vindication. Todd was very dedicated to this country and did nothing wrong.”

An independent arbitrator ruled for Horne in February, saying he did not violate any security policy or procedure and was wrongfully disciplined. The arbitrator also concluded he should be paid lost wages, benefits and other relief.

“The laboratory did not anticipate this suit because Mr. Horne previously chose to use binding arbitration to resolve his complaint,” the lab said in a statement issued Friday.

Jeff Berger, a spokesman for the lab, said managers had not been served with the lawsuit. He also said it related to events that occurred before LANS became the lab's prime contractor. “John Horne's claims were resolved in binding arbitration last year,” Berger said Monday.

Horne seeks damages for emotional distress, loss of income and medical treatment for health problems he says were caused by actions against him.

He also seeks punitive damages, alleging defendants breached his contract by outrageous, malicious and reckless acts and “deliberate indifference” to his rights.

Horne, who took early retirement last year after 24 years with Los Alamos, was suspended for 10 days without pay in December 2004.

He was issued a security infraction in January 2005 for not adequately notifying a classified matter custodian about the CREM and making sure they were accounted for.

He then filed a complaint, alleging violations of the lab's administrative manual and that “unsubstantiated claims and unethical actions” by Nanos, Jones and others destroyed his hope of career advancement.

That claim was denied, and the lawsuit details allegations of persecution by division managers over the following months.

Everyone at Los Alamos knew he was the center of the investigation that shut down the lab, and some blamed him for that, Horne said.

“It was like being in a minefield,” he said.

Dec 19, 2008

Lawsuit returns to the scene of the CREM

By ROGER SNODGRASS, The Los Alamos Monitor

A lawsuit filed Dec. 12 in New Mexico District Court in Los Alamos revisits a controversial episode in the recent history of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In a legal complaint, John Horne, a now-retired firing site leader and lead technician, says he was one of several employees implicated in the alleged disappearance of two classified disks, an incident that turned out to be a false alarm.

A statement by the laboratory this morning said the laboratory had not yet been served with the complaint by John Horne.

He was the presumed owner of the disks that were reported missing on July 6, 2004. But in fact, as later developments revealed, he was merely the person who had been assigned extra barcodes by an inexperienced clerk, and then expected to account for classified material that he never possessed.

As it turned out, the Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) in question was assumed to exist only because of an accounting error.

On Aug. 11, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., tipped off the public that he thought the matter was a “false positive,” and not in itself a serious breach of security, but the “nothing happened” excuse did not sit well in Congress nor at the Department of Energy, weary of safety and security turbulence at LANL.

Over the next few years, Horne claims, he was persecuted and retaliated against by some of his bosses at the laboratory for the security breach that didn’t happen.

“He had the stigma, as the guy who shut down the lab,” said Horne’s attorney, Tim Butler in a phone call Thursday. “As long as senior management has that view, there’s no way he’s going to be back on a career path.”

The incident had major consequences for nearly everybody involved, including former Director Pete Nanos, who is one of the defendants in the current complaint, and many other employees who were not directly involved, but were swept along in the aftermath.

When another, unrelated safety incident occurred shortly after the security occurrence, Nanos ordered the laboratory to shut down almost all of its operations, which were gradually scrubbed for safety and security hazards before standing up over the next several months.

The shutdown led to the creation of LANL: The Real Story, the blog that began to express and mobilize opinions within the laboratory that were critical and derisive of the director.

Horne’s friend and mentor, Todd Kauppila was arbitrarily terminated September 23, according to his account.

He was only peripherally connected to the incident, having chaired an international conference for which the disks had been recorded. He was one of 19 employees who were terminated.

Horne was placed on a ten-day suspension at the end of December 2004.

As stress and recriminations mounted over the next several months, Kauppila died of a massive pancreatic hemorrhage on May 8, 2005, coincidentally two days after Nanos resigned.

Nanos was replaced by Robert Kuckuck. The LANL contract was opened for competition and taken over by Los Alamos National Security (LANS) in 2006.

Although the crux of the matter took place while the University of California was in charge, the LANS partnership that includes UC is also a defendant in the case.

“The Laboratory did not anticipate this suit because Mr. Horne previously chose to use binding arbitration to resolve his complaint against the Laboratory,” the statement from LANL noted.

“In fact, his claims were resolved last year in arbitration. Further, the complaint apparently relates to events that occurred in 2004, long before LANS became the prime contractor at LANL.

“They had Horne as an employee from June 2006 onward,” Butler said, “and the stigmatization continued.”

Subjected to what he believes was a hostile work environment, Horne decided to take an early retirement at the laboratory in 2007.

The complaint details his contention that the incident had a destructive effect on his health and career, and included fraudulent, malicious and conspiratorial behavior.

The complaint states that in February 2008, an independent arbitrator ruled that Horne had not violated any policies or procedures and that he had handled the classified material appropriately.

But the suit extends the argument, saying that the arbitration excluded the other issues Horne had raised.

“Only after June 21, 2007, after having selected binding arbitration and after LANL having severely limited the scope of his adjudication,” the complaints states, “was Horne (over ensuing months) finally allowed access to copies of LANS Case Review Board documents, LANS Security Incident Team (SIT) reports and LANS Human Resources staff reports concerning the allegations, purported facts, supposed infractions, witness statements and other information and materials relevant to his complaint.”

Had Horne had access to this material, the complaint states, “he could have more fully assessed and invoked his rights under his contract of employment with LANS…”

U.S. General Eyes Nuclear Weapon Improvements

By Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- A key Air Force nuclear official said recently the United States might seek to improve its nuclear arsenal with such features as enhanced stealth or extended range -- ideas that could prove controversial on Capitol Hill (see GSN, Sept. 12).

Under a "heavy modernization" effort, the United States could extend the service lives of the aging nuclear stockpile as well as retrofit weapons with updated technologies, according to Brig. Gen. Everett Thomas, commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. (see GSN, Nov. 11).

"You could look at [a] low-observable aeroshell," he said in a telephone interview, referring to a re-entry vehicle that carries a nuclear warhead to its target. "You could look at extended range, because we now know how to do solid propellant much better than we did in the past. You could look at many things when you look at a modernization."

Some lawmakers might not agree.

Congress may be leery of making significant improvements to U.S. nuclear warheads or their delivery vehicles as the incoming Obama administration attempts to curb nuclear ambitions in Iran and North Korea.

Many experts have argued that U.S. efforts to improve nuclear weapons at home make it more difficult for the nation to lead nonproliferation efforts abroad.

Citing such concerns, Congress has twice rebuffed Bush administration plans for building a newly designed weapon, the Reliable Replacement Warhead (see GSN, Nov. 7). Advocates have argued that the new weapon should be used to renovate the entire U.S. stockpile with technology that is safer, more secure, more dependable and cheaper to maintain.

However, lawmakers have said that funding could be considered only after the administration detailed how a newly designed warhead would figure into a comprehensive nuclear deterrence strategy.

With RRW plans now shelved, the debate has turned to what technology improvements might be retrofitted into existing warheads, without constituting the brand of new weapon that lawmakers seek to avoid.

Capitol Hill has supported continuing the "Stockpile Stewardship Program" to monitor the aging stockpile for potential problems, such as corrosion or malfunctions. Lawmakers also have backed some efforts to update technologies built into the arms as they undergo periodic maintenance.

Military officials are now proposing to use a similar approach to extend the lives of three- to four-decade old warheads by another 20 or 30 years.

"RRW is gone," Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said early this month. "What we're doing is we're making improvements on the weapon in places that don't move us into a place where we're actually enhancing the capabilities of the weapon in the end state."

Thomas D'Agostino, who heads the semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration, said last year that the Bush administration had no intention of using the RRW process to add any "new military features" to the nuclear weapons stockpile.

D'Agostino's standard for sticking to "the same form, fit and function as our current weapons" should carry over into weapons modernization taking place under the life-extension programs being formulated today, Tauscher and others say.

The lawmaker wants to see improvements made to safeguard weapons and ensure their future viability, "but they're not enhancements to the performance of the weapon in its end state," she said Dec. 4 at a conference on nuclear deterrence. "They're 'have to have,' in our point of view, because they achieve for us other components that are necessary for the security and the safety of the weapon."

A spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, the top combatant organization for nuclear weapons, underscored the limitations his agency sees in the modernization effort.

The command "has consistently stated that with regard to America's nuclear warheads, improving the safety, security, reliability and maintainability of these weapons is of paramount importance," Col. Les Kodlick told Global Security Newswire this week in a written statement. "We do not require new capability from our nuclear weapons."

Thomas -- whose center is responsible for ensuring that the Air Force's nuclear weapons remain safe, secure and reliable -- also cited these as the key objectives for modernization.

At the same time, he volunteered that the refurbishment effort would provide an appropriate venue to also improve the weapons' capabilities to perform their assigned military functions.

"It ought to be a part of our entire assessment of every weapon that we have, nuclear or conventional: Are we using the most updated technology to ensure that a weapon works exactly as intended?" he said during the Nov. 24 interview.

Stealth technology, for example, might help ensure that a weapon reaches its target by improving the ability of its re-entry vehicle to penetrate an adversary's missile defense system, Thomas suggested.

By reshaping the aeroshell or coating it with radar-absorbent material -- like the composite skin on the batwing-shaped B-2 bomber -- a nuclear weapon re-entry vehicle could take on a smaller radar cross-section to inhibit detection or interception.

"Why wouldn't you consider [putting] that into your weapon," he said, given that "you've had [it] on the drawing books or ... in inventory since, what, the '60s?

"That [is] just an example of things we can consider," he added, urging a wide review of modernization options.

Some analysts, though, quickly dismiss an investment in stealth as unnecessary for the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

"It's pointless," said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the New America Foundation's Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative. "No one has a hit-to-kill [missile defense] system like we do."

"I'm not quite sure who this is aimed at," agreed David Wright, senior scientist and co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program.

Another nuclear pundit, though, was not as quick to reject the idea.

"The only [low-observability] 'improvement' that I can think of for the re-entry vehicle itself is to paint it with radar reflectant, which is certainly not a new technology and I wouldn't think of it really as modernization," Kathleen Bailey, a senior associate at the National Institute for Public Policy, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

She added that such work also "certainly wouldn't be considered" modernization of the nuclear warhead itself.

That point could prove important to the shape of debate over nuclear weapon modernization on Capitol Hill in the coming years.

Bailey and others draw a distinction between improvements to the core "physics package" of a nuclear warhead -- which lawmakers clearly resist -- and improvements to the aeroshell surrounding the warhead, which might garner more political acceptance or support. Any upgrades to the missile or bomb platform on which the weapon is delivered would be yet another step removed from proscribed warhead improvements.

"It is important to keep the line between modernization of delivery systems vs. modernization of warheads very clearly demarcated," Bailey said. "The objections to modernizing delivery systems ... are nowhere near as strong as are the objections by some to nuclear warhead modernization."

Interviewed this week, Lewis agreed that even some lawmakers opposed to a replacement warhead might be convinced to support updated technologies for the vehicle that carries the weapon to its target. Nonetheless, he urged a somewhat guarded approach in which the U.S. military maintains viable weapons but stops short of significantly boosting their capabilities.

"This is where I think we have to get at the fundamental question, which is: Do we have to make new RVs?" he said, referring to re-entry vehicles, which wear out over time. "If they're physically deteriorating, then do you just replace them to the same [decades-old] standard?"

In Lewis's view, U.S. officials might reasonably adopt a standard for embracing "incidental improvements" in military capability that come with today's replacements for obsolete technologies. However, they should discourage "purposeful improvements" explicitly designed to boost the probability of killing a target, he said.

"There's a presumption against doing things to make the weapons more effective," he said.

Nonetheless, other new military features for weapons delivery -- potentially including extended range, maneuverability or precision-targeting capability -- might yet prove attractive to some politicians and policy-makers, according to analysts.

For example, "precision would allow for use of much lower nuclear yields," Bailey said. "Most of our stockpiled weapons have large yields, in part, because the lack of precision [when the weapons were designed] meant that we had to 'kill' a much bigger target area to be sure that we got the missile silo or whatever the specific target was."

Improved accuracy and lower yields "would bolster the U.S. nuclear deterrent by making our weapons more credible," said Bailey, backing the notion that the weapons might be perceived as more usable if their destructive effects were more limited.

Tauscher, a central figure in the nuclear weapons debate on Capitol Hill, recently alluded to that view.

"Yields and margins are a part of this" effort to refurbish the nuclear stockpile, she said at the conference in Washington. "Precision-guided weaponry enhances our ability to make some changes [to yield]."

Tauscher referred to these potential upgrades as part of an "advanced certification" effort, principally aimed at ensuring that the nuclear stockpile remains viable in the absence of underground testing.

However, a senior aide subsequently said that Tauscher has not yet taken a position on the possible inclusion of improvements to military capabilities, such as accuracy, as part of an expanded weapons life-extension program.

"That is fairly transformational and might alter the weapon," said the staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The chairwoman -- whose district houses the RRW design team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory -- is interested in learning more about any such requirements established by Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of Strategic Command, that might go beyond safety, security, reliability and maintainability features, said the aide.

Kodlick -- Chilton's spokesman at Strategic Command -- told GSN that his organization "cannot discuss specifics about the design requirements of a weapon system."

The military hopes to derive a better idea about what weapon components should be replaced in the coming years, as designs for life-extension and modernization efforts are drawn up, Thomas said.

"First and foremost is to get a great understanding of what subcomponents we have in the weapon now, that we really should look at [fixing or replacing] in the next five years," he told GSN last month.

"We do draw a fairly bright line between that maintenance and the addition of new features," Tauscher's senior aide said during a Dec. 10 phone interview. Congress would review carefully any proposals to expand the life-extension program with new features, the aide said.

For the chairwoman, the modernization program also must fit with the nation's strategy for nonproliferation around the globe.

"This is about achieving the high road and letting everybody in the world see what we're doing in a transparent way, and actually do what we say we're going to do," Tauscher said.

Lab Workers' Records Available

By Heather Clark, The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The Department of Energy will recover the medical records of former Los Alamos National Laboratory workers that can help them prove whether they qualify for federal compensation for exposure to radiation and beryllium.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen.-elect Tom Udall, both New Mexico Democrats, welcomed the DOE's announcement Thursday of its decision to make the records available to former lab employees and their survivors.

The medical records are believed to span from Los Alamos lab's early days to the mid-1960s, according to a news release from the Los Alamos Site Office of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

They were stored at the Los Alamos Medical Center and were created before the facility was privatized in 1964.

The former employees need the records to determine whether they are eligible for a one-time payment of $150,000 from the federal Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act.

The compensation, which also includes medical benefits, was set up to help Cold War-era employees of the northern New Mexico nuclear weapons lab who were exposed to radiation, beryllium and other harmful substances. Beryllium is a strong but lightweight metal used in nuclear weapons. Airborne exposure can lead to chronic, incurable respiratory problems.

Bingaman says DOE's move will help former employees provide the information necessary to receive the compensation.

“Until now, many former workers seeking federal compensation have had a very hard time proving they were medically eligible,” he said.

Udall, who represents Los Alamos in the House until he takes up his seat in the Senate next month, said he first brought the issue to the attention of the DOE in March 2006.

“While I am pleased that DOE has entered into an agreement to retrieve the records, it's unfortunate that it's taken the agency nearly three years to do so,” Udall said.

The department recently announced it would provide $1 million to the Los Alamos Medical Center to help salvage the old medical records.

It was not clear how long employees will have to wait for the records.

The NNSA's Los Alamos Site Office said in a news release that the records must be moved and then sorted before any information is released to individuals, a process that will take “some time” as there are health, safety, and security precautions that need to be taken.

An NNSA spokesman was not immediately available Thursday to say when the records would be available for review.

The records may be covered with hantavirus-bearing mouse droppings, which would require them to be decontaminated. Other hazards include mold and radiation, the NNSA said.

In addition, some of the medical records may include classified information.

The Los Alamos Medical Center is responsible for the decontamination, sorting and return of the records to DOE or to their appropriate owners.

All records will be preserved, catalogued and stored, the NNSA said.

DOE has a lot of rules that cover the storage of classified information. If DOE believes that these records contain classified information, then the obvious question - were the rules followed?

Dec 18, 2008

Former LANL Technician Sues Over Flap

Written by Bruce Daniels - ABQnewsSeeker

Man was blamed four years ago for losing classified computer disks that never existed.

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory technician John Horne blamed four years ago for the reported disappearance of two classified computer disks that were later determined never to have existed has sued the lab's operator and others over the flap, The New Mexican reported.

The complaint alleging breach of contract, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress was filed this week in state District Court seeking unspecified damages from Los Alamos National Security, a private firm that operates the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy; former LANL Director George "Pete" Nanos and former DX Division leader Kevin Jones, The New Mexican reported.

"It's demoralizing to be held up as a villain when you know you did nothing wrong," Horne said in a news release. "Nothing can repair the damage they have done."

Nanos temporarily suspended work at the lab in July 2004 after two classified disks were reported missing and a laser accident injured an intern's eye, according to The New Mexican.

Horne and Todd Kauppila, a team leader, were reprimanded for following safety and security procedures, and while Kauppila was fired, Horne was put on 10 days unpaid leave and was issued a security infraction, the paper reported.

A U.S. Department of Energy investigation eventually determined that the disks never existed, and the entire incident was due to a clerical error, The New Mexican said. Horne was later exonerated of any blame in the incident.

Kauppila also fought the charges, but died in May 2005 before any resolution of his case, the paper reported.

[The lab shutdown that followed this non-event led to the original LANL blog, LANL: The Real Story and was part of the rationale for privitization of the lab. See also the John Horne and Todd Kauppila account of the TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath and The Forgotten Two.]

Dec 16, 2008

NSTec shares FY08 award fee with employees

Subject: NF-09-0066: Message from President Stephen M. Younger
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 15:42:30 -0800

I am very happy to report that National Security Technologies LLC has been awarded an OUTSTANDING rating by the Department of Energy for exemplary work during fiscal year 2008. Last week we were informed that we had achieved a score of 95% - one of the highest in the DOE complex. This recognition of superior performance is the result of a year-long commitment to excellence by the entire organization. As part of this recognition, the period of performance on our contract was extended through September 2012, by exercising our first award term year.

In addition to the DOE, your outstanding performance was recognized by the parent companies of NSTec. I am pleased to announce that our Board of Managers has unanimously approved a resolution to share 3% of the FY08 award fee earned by our company with employees. This is in addition to the several other incentive programs that are already in place. All employees who meet the following criteria will participate equally in Sharing for Success. To be eligible to receive a Sharing For Success check, the employee must be a regular bargaining unit or non-bargaining employee, either full-time or part-time; be employed by NSTec for at least the 10 months prior to the date the Sharing For Success checks are prepared; be in an active pay status on the date the Sharing For Success checks are prepared; and receive at least a Successful rating on the most recent Performance Review (non-bargaining only). Employees who are on a Performance Improvement Plan and those who have received written discipline in the prior 10 months are not eligible for a Sharing for Success check. These checks, with appropriate tax and other required deductions, will be distributed prior to the end of December 2008.

I am so proud of NSTec - to achieve an outstanding rating given the huge challenges that needed to be overcome is simply awesome. But then again, NTS is used to spectacular things - we do indeed have a proud past and an exciting future. We face a whole new set of challenges for FY09, but I am confident that we will meet our objectives.

Congratulations to each and every employee - we are one of the best companies in the complex!

A New Home for NNSA?

Here's a comment that appeared today in the Obama Vows New Tack post:
I heard from an ex-lab employee now in the Pentagon that there's a strong rumor going around that Defense Secretary Bob Gates is quietly pushing hard for Obama to move NNSA to DOD. Gates doesn't think the triangle - DOE/DOE(NNSA)/Congress - is still the most effective way to manage nuke weapons complex. He's more comfortable with DOD fighting its own battles for programs, and wants to cut out a layer of middle management (DOE) from the equation. The feeling is the new Secretary of Energy, Dr Chu - who is only interested in "real" energy research and basic science - won't cry that much if NNSA and its weapons programs go to DOD. Chu, coming from LBNL, knows very well the headache and distraction that the weapons complex has been to past Secretaries of Energy. He also doesn't want this legacy on his desk that's already full with Obama's daunting agenda for an energy independent future.

This divorce is not a done deal, and it will painful to some "special interest" groups. However, if Gates wants it and Chu's okay with it, with Domenici gone don't expect the new Congress to put up much of a fight if Obama gets convinced by Gates it a good idea.
12/16/08 7:06 AM
And another:
I think 7:06 AM is on the right track with this rumor. Dr. Chu is all about alternative energy research. He comes from an open LBL style culture and doesn't wish to be bogged down with classified programs and the vast problems of the declining NNSA weapons complex.

Odds are increasing that NNSA will be moved over to the DOD side of the house. Big changes are in store for both LANL and LLNL if this happens.
12/16/08 10:25 AM
And finally:
It's early to speculate, but what would be the pros and cons to work life at LANL if it was under DOD command?
12/16/08 10:29 AM
I'm interested in both, but let's start with the cons. Are there any good reasons not to "cut out the middle man"? It sounds like a change that would cut costs and increase responsiveness, not to mention freeing DOE to focus on the monumental tasks on it's plate.