Jan 14, 2009

A Note from Doug Roberts

Congratulations on the recognition that you are receiving from Trip Jennings of the New Mexico Independent, Frank. You're doing a great job running the blog. As long as there is an operation as poorly managed and as poorly run as LANL, there will be a place for a blog like LTRS [the original LANL, The Real Story].

Given LANS' demonstrated track record of maintaining a "closed door" policy on sharing unhappy information about incidents occurring at LANL, blogs like yours are the only place where the true facts regarding the operations of the lab will initially see the light of day.

I remember quite clearly early one morning in July 27, 2005 when I checked my email and found the email message contained in the LANL, The Real Story link below.


The claim seemed outrageous, even by LANL-UC standards, but after a few hours I was able to verify that the incident had in fact occurred as reported in the email. Subsequent investigations by the press verified not only that the incident had occurred, but that the contamination had spread to a three-state region. As unbelievable as the fact of the incident was, it was even more incredible that LANL management had attempted to keep a lid on the story for 10 days, until it finally broke on the blog.

As long as there are employees of the lab who are outraged by the complacency, and frequently the outright incompetence often demonstrated by the M&O of Los Alamos National Laboratory, stories of their misdoings will leak out and see the light of day on blogs like yours.

I am aware that running a blog like LTRS under one's real name is a bit like living in a fish bowl. In fact, the attached cartoon is often, if oddly, appropriate.

Keep up the good work!

PS: the original LANL, The Real Story has recently moved to its final archival resting place:


Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired 2005

Thanks for the kind words and for providing the example for me to follow. We've discussed your blog post on the Americium contamination event of July 2005 before, and I read it again today. It's depressing how much worse things have become since then. You were able to confirm the facts in a few hours. In my case I've been trying for over two years, including over a year before I started blogging.

PS I love the cartoon.

For any readers who don't know yet, I became very sick after working on equipment at TA-55/PF-4 that had been contaminated by a spill from a broken pipe. Knowing only what I saw while I was there, I began to research and was able to deduce that the pipe carried high-level radioactive liquid waste. I contacted the lab and reported this in March of 2006. I asked for and was promised an answer to the question, "What spilled out of those pipes?"

No answer was ever given. A FOIA request filed by my congressman was blown off as well. A complaint to the DOE Inspector General's office took over a year to produce a "response" which did not answer the question.

If you haven't seen it, take a look at LA-UR-02-1673 Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility Plant Test Conducted April 2001. It gives very specific information that I believe characterizes the waste in those pipes, including typical and maximum concentrations (as high as 1100 nCi/L) for gross alpha. Also rad composition broken down into gross alpha, gross beta, and tritium. And in Section 6 the data is given for U-234, U-235, U-238, Pu-238, Pu-239, and Am-241.

When I found this document and forwarded it to the Inspector General's office, LANL removed it from their website.

That is why I run the LANL blog. The day I receive an answer to my question is the day I will begin to consider shutting down the blog and moving on.


Doug Roberts said...

Actually, Frank, in my opening paragraph I was referring to the fact that there is a current need for your 'LANL, The Rest of the Story' blog. Since the contract change over of 2006, the lab has not become more transparent in releasing information about incidents which occur there. Quite the opposite, in fact. Therefore your blog provides an open venue to make public information which the current corporate M&O would rather nobody ever saw, but which we as tax payers have a right to know about.

Good job keeping the blog beast running for as long as you have, and good luck getting the information you need regarding your exposure at TA-55.

LANL, Retired 2005

Anonymous said...

For those interested, the Americium incident of 2005 received huge coverage nation wide. You can find some of the other stories about it by entering Americium in the Google Custom Search box near the top of the LANL, The Real Story blog. It is in those later news stories that the details of how the contaminant ended up getting tracked around a three-state region, and how LANL tried to keep a lid on news of the incident. I suspect that if the anonymous poster to Doug's blog had not alerted him about the incident, UC/LANL management might have successfully kept the story buried.

Anonymous said...

4:26 p.m. How could UC/LANL keep it buried when everyone at TA-55 and CMR knew it happened?

Frank Young said...

I think we're agreeing, I just don't write very well - especially when the subject is me. Too much ... something for me to be objective. Rage maybe?

Anyway thanks again. Many have told me the appreciate the blog, but I never tire of hearing it. Until next time, cheers!

Anonymous said...

Frank - your admission of rage explains a lot. No one needs to attribute fairness or objectivity to you anymore. Thanks for the heads-up. Now, I'm prepared for all the flames from the other ragers who love you. I'd like to know just how many read and post here who DON'T hate LANL. Pretty small it seems. I expect your admission will make it smaller.

Frank Young said...

I see I have a new fan.

FYI, I don't hate any of the people I met while working at LANL. Nor do I blame anyone for what was clearly an accident. The people who should respond to a very simple question, but instead pretend nothing happened, they are the problem.

Anonymous said...

8:20 PM, as a long time reader of this blog, I've never detected any rage in Frank. You, on the other hand...

Frank Young said...

Thank you! I was just being honest in saying that it is hard to be objective when writing about myself. I would hope that most people could admit that.

Is it rage that drives me? It could be years before I gain the perspective to answer that question. If it is I hope I've channeled the rage in a positive, non-destructive direction. A close friend tells me that my experience has given me focus. Maybe outrage is the word I should have used.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear from you, Doug! Hope life is treating you well.

You know, I have come to realize that things at LANL must be really, really bad when I find myself looking back at the times during Doug's early blog as the "Good ol' days" for LANL!!!

During the time of Doug's blog, at least we had a Director who could be found. If not at work, he was readily seen around town (and, no, I'm not defending the ugliness that was Pete Nanos).

Today, it's as if LANL has no real Director. He's usually nowhere to be seen, either via Email or in person. And yet, he makes far more money for his apparent inactivity than any other Director in LANL's history!

Anonymous said...

The director is also a CEO so he does not have to be found at work. CEOs are not supposed to work. They just suck up money.

Anonymous said...

I read this blog semi often. I don't detect any rage on Franks part..in fact he seems pretty darn reasonable to me. Some of the posters on the other hand.....I think that both Dougs blog and Franks blogs are very healthy. I thank both Frank and Doug

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter whether anyone "detected" rage on Frank's part. He admitted to it. Sorta like claiming a confessed bank robber couldn't possibly have done it!

Frank Young said...

6:55 PM,
Thanks! As for the comments I try to allow everything. When the blog started they were unmoderated, and you still see over 99% of what comes in. I reject comments mostly for spam, occasionally excess profanity/incoherence/drunkenness, ect. I read every comment and they are valuable to me. Often I know who sends them because we've already had a private conversation on the topic in email.

8:27 PM,
You're entitled to your opinion and I published it for everyone to see. If you have more to say then send it in!

Doug Roberts said...


You are far too polite. Say it like it is: 8:27 is a prick. Plain and simple: an anonymous, cowardly little prick.

Anonymity breeds cowardice, as you have no doubt often seen during the time you have been running your blog.

Come on out into the open, 8:27, and we will have a real conversation.

Not that there is any risk of that happening. Once a coward, always a coward. The readers here will doubtless recognize 8:27 as one of those you sometimes encounter in the workplace whom you quickly learn has a well-established reputation for back-stabbing, lying, and general untrustworthy behavior. You've all met one; every group has one. But once you recognize who they are, you learn to exclude them from any meaningful interactions.

8:27 is a good example of those social misfit creeps that would occasionally attempt to make his unpleasant presence felt on my blog a few years ago. Unlike you, Frank, I usually just deleted their garbage.

Unfortunately, as long as anonymity is allowed on venues such as this one, sub-standard "contributions" such as 8:27's will be a fact of life.

It's not all bad news, though. Consider: 8:27 *knows* who he is, and what we think of him. Imagine what it must be like to have to live the knowledge of how lowly regarded you are by your peers.

Every day, from now on, 8:27 will be forced to live behind a shield of anonymity; else people will forever view him in light of his brave-man anonymous spewings here.

But, as Frank says, 8:27: if you have more to say, send it in! Maybe no one will ever trace it back to you.

On the other hand, though, maybe they will.

There, hopefully I've caused 8:27 to have a few night's worth of bad sleep. A sure sign that this has been the case will be a faux-brave anonymous bleating to the contrary.


Anonymous said...

8:27 here. Doug, I had no idea how sensitive you were. Such a thin skin... BTW, you have no idea who my "peers" are. I have no regrets and no hard feelings about my 30+ years at LANL. Can you say the same? Your disgruntlement sustains you well, I trust. Myself, I sleep quite well. My hope is that you will someday find the same peace.

"faux-brave anonymous"

Frank Young said...

I printed your comment to show to Dorothy and we had a good long laugh thanks to you! What you said is 100% correct and I wish I had your way with words.

Anonymity is often abused on this blog but I'm not going to take it away from those who put it to good use. That I allow "cowardly little pricks" to use it, I hope, reassures everyone else that they can use it too. And it is SO amusing to watch the cowardly little pricks be quickly skewered by the likes of you!

Sleep well, 8:27. And enjoy regaling your peers with this exchange tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Those who are happy as employees at LANL will find no friends on this blog. Those who cannot understand how any LANL employee can be happy will continue to post here, and to hate the happy ones. Such is the drama people cause for themselves. Eventually, everyones' priorities will be reset by something new.

Frank Young said...

Still awake, 8:27?

Anonymous said...

Yep - your censorship has been noted. Not surprised.

Frank Young said...

What censorship? Email me the comment that you think was censored. I'll post it and apologize to you if it actually happened.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if you are in the upper levels of LANL management or have retired from the lab, you can find the means to engage in the self delusion that everything at LANL is just fine. However, for the working staff at LANL, this is almost impossible.

Posters who attack anyone who criticizes LANL or LANS strike me as people who don't work in the trenches at LANL. That is the only way I can believe they can be so completely clueless about the decline that is obvious to the rest of us who work at this lab.

This blog is used by many people. The theory that a lone, angry employee who was fired by LANL is getting revenge by making most of the LANL criticism on this blog is way off base.

Anonymous said...

1/16/09 1:12 PM

Opinion seconded.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there are staff members that are happy when they have to submit their time charges several times because "Oracle is experiencing a temporary glitch".

Perhaps it makes someone happy when they are ridiculed at Occupational Medicine for falling on an uncleared, icy sidewalk. Some might even enjoy fighting the travel system to get reimbursed for Lab travel, or enjoy taking out their own trash, or finding no toilet paper in the bathroom. Some may love it when e-mail doesn't work, when they have to take convoy training, or wade through dozens of new rules and regulations. Maybe some are happy to see brilliant co-workers leaving LANL for other jobs.

Maybe it's the growing animosity toward LANS now openly expressed by the staff that is keeping these "contents" from speaking up at the water cooler because I don't hear much defense of LANS there.

A more likely explanation is that a small fraction of the staff still has their heads in the sand just like LANS managers.

So what should we believe, an ostrich with nothing concrete to say, or the vocal majority with many verifiable examples of bad LANS management and the declining state of LANL?

Anonymous said...

8:20 PM

Please don't confuse disdain for LANS and prior LANL management with hate for LANL.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, 8:52 AM.

I love LANL, it's history, and what it stands for. That is why I work here.

I hate LANS upper management and the way they are destroying it for profits. It is being treated as a corporate playground for Bechtel and company.

I suspect there are a lot of employees at LANL who feel this very same way.

Anonymous said...

Lord knows I do.