Jan 17, 2009

Lab Cleanup Money Sought in Stimulus

By John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer

New Mexico's two senators have joined an effort to add substantial funding for nuclear weapons cleanup to the federal stimulus package now being considered by Congress.

Details are unclear, but the requested increase would mean additional money for cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory if the senators' congressional colleagues agree.

The lab got $152 million last year for cleanup work. Federal officials estimate the total cost of cleanup at the northern New Mexico nuclear weapons site at between $2.6 billion and $3.6 billion.

Cleanup funding at Los Alamos has fallen short of what is needed in recent years, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a telephone interview Friday. The stimulus money offers an opportunity to fix that problem, Udall said.

It also meets the needs of the stimulus program, he said. "These are jobs we can get going quickly."

"The stimulus package must invest in initiatives that have an immediate impact on jobs. DOE cleanup projects are a particularly good fit because many of them are ready to go right now," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement Friday. "I also see this as an opportunity to make significant progress on DOE's longstanding waste problem."

Udall and Bingaman joined senators from Ohio, South Carolina, Idaho, Washington and Oregon in a letter this week calling for an additional $6 billion of stimulus money to be spent on cleanup, which would double spending on the program.

All of the senators are from states with major nuclear facilities requiring cleanup except Oregon, which is downstream from the heavily contaminated Hanford nuclear weapons complex.

The House is considering a bill that includes a more modest $500 million increase for nuclear cleanup work. The amount of money that might come to Los Alamos has not been determined. Nationwide, according to the eight senators backing the spending increase, the $6 billion could create 10,000 jobs.

Los Alamos environmental cleanup chief Michael Graham said Friday the additional investment would be "a very positive development." Such money would help cleanup and create jobs in the state, he said.

The lab has already given thought to how quickly it could ramp up work, according to Graham. Some work could begin immediately, while other projects could be ready to go later this year and next, Graham said.


Anonymous said...

The bold new future that Congress has laid out for LANL is... cleanup. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

$6B/10,000 jobs = $600k/job

Are these jobs going to last a few years?

Anonymous said...

TSM FTE rates at LANL are approaching about $500K per year. Given that LANS would love to raise the overhead rates even higher, an FTE rate of $600K per position sounds about right. Just think of all the bloated management salaries this $600 K will pay for!

Anonymous said...

Don't be shy Tom and Jeff, now's the time to push your way to the front of the trough.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else looked at the "clean-up" to date?
They are charging FTEs for truck drivers, bottle labelers and the like. At least one principle investigator is paid for simply "being there" with his badge!

Anonymous said...

1/18/09 4:04 AM, sorry, I'm not sharing your sense of outrage. Bottle labeling and truck driving are part of the job.

Anonymous said...

Milk it, Baby, milk it! I see a great treasure trove in all this never ending cleanup work at LANL. If we take our time and go real slow, maybe I can reach retirement on it in about 30 years from today.

Anonymous said...

Dear 11:46,

I suppose you are right, but that is not part of the job, but all of the job. Do you think that such tasks are worth the FTE?


Anonymous said...

"Do you think that such tasks are worth the FTE?" (2:04 PM)

Shroud it under the veil of "nuclear weapons research" and the sky's the limit.

Anonymous said...

Well, where Dominici had a legacy of building up, it appears Udall will have a legacy of tearing down (read "cleaning up" if you are from Santa Fe). What an incredible waste of time, money, and talent. At least Riley Bechtel will get his cut...

Anonymous said...

2:04, what is the alternative you propose?