Feb 26, 2009

LANL discloses internal material control issue

By CAROL A. CLARK, The Los Alamos Monitor

Los Alamos National Laboratory officials issued a statement this morning saing they have reported an internal material control error at their plutonium facility to the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“The error was discovered during routine inventory in January,” LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said. “Unreconciled inventory was found … meaning the numbers didn’t match up with how much material was physically there, which we are working to resolve.”

Roark was not at liberty to disclose exactly what the inventory was or whether there was actually less or more material than the records indicate.

“This is not something we talk about for security reasons,” he said. “To make clear this does not mean material is missing.”

Roark said the reason the laboratory can state with absolute conviction that, “there is 100 percent certainty that no sensitive materials left the facility” is because there are “exceptional” security controls in place at that facility.

Not just one or two layers, he said, but multiple layers including armed guards on site 24 hours a day “that ensure with complete confidence that sensitive materials do not improperly leave TA-55.”

This morning’s news release states that the error relates to internal inventory and accounting that documents movement of sensitive materials within a small portion of TA-55, LANL’s plutonium research, development, and processing facility.

Management at TA-55 is conducting a full review and assessment of material controls for one small segment of TA-55 operations, according to the release, and normal operations at the facility continue, except for the segment in question.

No disciplinary action has been taken at this time against any employees, Roark said. “The entire thing continues to be under investigation,” he said.

To track the complex movement of nuclear materials within TA 55, the laboratory uses a variety of internal administrative inventory controls.

These controls are necessary to facilitate scientific and manufacturing work with large inventories of nuclear materials, but are not the same systems that ensure all nuclear material are secure and do not leave the building, states the release.

“The folks from LANL coordinated very closely with the subject matter experts from NNSA and they’re comfortable that the information that has been released publicly is accurate,” said NNSA Site Office spokesman Don Ami.

LANL is working with NNSA and experts from Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) corporate partners to review and improve internal bookkeeping, inventory procedures, and processes.

LANS is the company that manages and operates LANL for NNSA.

This inventory issue does not constitute any risk to the public, laboratory employees, or the environment, according to the release.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

POGO has a different view:

http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/nuclear-security-safety/nss-lanl-20090226.html

Before you rant about POGO being evil just consider it as intended, another point of view.

Anonymous said...

Now this one has got to be big! The National news will not be kind, nor will our friends in Congress , as for Kevin what did he say" We are 100% sure that no material left TA 55". OK Kevin we are waiting for the "TRUTH".

Anonymous said...

I know Kevin! Someone brought in PU? That's why your numbers don't match, cuz your 100% sure none left? Another fine mess for LANL.

Anonymous said...

Thank God Nanos isn't around. The lab would be closed for fourteen years.

Anonymous said...

From Heritage Foundation:

February 5, 2009

Concerns on Proposed Reductions of U.S. Nuclear Stockpile to 1,000 Weapons

by Baker Spring
WebMemo #2274

According to press reports, President Obama has directed the U.S. to seek a future strategic arms control treaty with Russia that will reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile to 1,000 weapons, an 80 percent reduction.[1] This leads to the question of how President Obama chose this number of 1,000. Unfortunately, circumstances make it clear that President Obama and his Administration have chosen this number arbitrarily.

When the U.S. undertakes an effort as sensitive and fundamental to its security as negotiating a strategic nuclear arms control treaty, it should do so on the basis of careful planning:

1. First, the President and his Administration must settle on a clear strategy and define the means by which the treaty will bolster that strategy;
2. Second, this strategy must identify the military and political requirements the U.S. nuclear force must fulfill over the expected life of the treaty; and
3. Third, such a strategy must establish a clear means of verifying compliance with the expected treaty and have specific plans for enforcing the terms of the treaty during its implementation.

These are the fundamental standards for effective arms control.

A Clear Lack of Planning

When the press reports announcing the pendling arms control treaty were published, President Obama had been office precisely 17 days. It is utterly implausible that he and his Administration have taken any of the planning steps necessary to implement such an ambitious strategic nuclear arms control treaty. Obama´s national security strategy, at a minimum, is months away from completion.

More importantly, there is no indication that the President has established the criteria for assuring the political and military utility of the U.S. nuclear stockpile and active arsenal that would remain in place following the ratification and execution of the planned treaty. Politically, it must be determined, among other things:

-- How the remaing nuclear arsenal will increase stability and lessen the likelihood of strategic strikes against the U.S. and its allies;

-- Whether the force will be based primarily on deterring strategic attacks by countering them or by relying on retallatory strikes; and

-- How to extend the U.S. nuclear umbrella for the protection of its allies.

On the military side, planning will determine what targets the U.S. nuclear force must hold at risk whether both the weapons and their delivery systems will meet these targeting requirements. Finally, clear standards for verification and enforcement muust be established.

The Obama Administration has made no public assertion that any of these planning particularly disturbing is that there has been a torrent of recent reports that the state of the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure--including how the Air Force handles the weapons under its purview--is in decline.[2] Indeed, on October 28, 2008, Secretary of Defense Gates told an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that in his view the long-term prognosis for the nation´s nuclear force was "bleak." [3]

Doubting the Utility of Nuclear Weapons?

President Obama´s apparent lack of concern over the management of the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure and arsenal--let alone the need to carefully prepare for arms control negotiations--leads to two conclusions:

1. The President sees the U.S. nuclear force as providing no national security, political, or military benefits; and
2. He would not be prepared to use nuclear weapons under any circumstance.

In this context, Obama´s selection of the 1,000-weapon threshold for negotiations with Russia at least makes sense. He sees this figure as a round number that serves only as a marker along an intended path of U.S. unilateral nuclear disarmament. Proceeding down this path requires none of the planning the U.S. has undertaken in the past regarding nuclear arms control. If nuclear weapons have no value, then any path to zero U.S. nuclear weapons is acceptable. The problem for President Obama, however, is that he has proclaimed the value, indeed the neceesity, of a capable U.S. nuclear force until the time his goal of zero nuclear weapons worldwide is realized. Specifically, the White House website states: "Obama and Biden will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist." [4]

The Need for Caution

If President Obama´s stated commitment to maintain a strong deterrent until global denuclearization is something more than subterfuge, then he should state that reports asserting that he has directed the U.S. to engage in negotiations with Russia to reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile to 1,000 weapons are inaccurate. Such a statement should also make it clear that any such negotiations will be undertaken in substantive terms only after Obama´s Administration has concluded a careful planning process. It is a gross understatement to say that a policy based on the assumption that nuclear weapons have no value--and that nuclear arms control is therefore a low stakes game--is fraught with danger. President Obama needs to be more careful and deliberate.

Baker Spring is F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy, in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.

------------

[1] Tim Reed, "President Obama Seeks Russia Deal to Slash Nuclear Weapons," Times Online, February 4, 2009, at
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article5654836.ece (February 5, 2009)

[2] For example, see U.S. Department of Defense, "Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DOD Nuclear Weapons Management, Phase II: Review of the DOD Nuclear Mission," December 2008; Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, "Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence Skills," September 2008; United States Air Force, "Reinvigorating the Air Force Nuclear Enterprise," October 24, 2008.

[3] Robert M. Gates, speech before the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C., October 28, 2008, at
http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1305 (February 5, 2009).

[4] The White House, "Move Toward a Nuclear Free World," at
http://www.whitehouse.gov/agenda/foreign_policy (February 5, 2009).

(http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/wm2274.cfm)

(Los Alamos Monitor has a similar story with the headline: "Obama´s nuclear policies remain vague," By Roger Snodgrass, Monitor Editor, with the difference that this vague nuclear policies by President Obama, is analysed by Baker Spring of The Heritage Foundation, February 5, 2009.)

Anonymous said...

"President Obama´s apparent lack of concern over the management of the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure and arsenal--let alone the need to carefully prepare for arms control negotiations--leads to two conclusions:"


1) Mr.Obama is a combination of Neville Chamberlain & Jimmy Carter.

2) Mr. Obama is in to speech making - not details.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering when this was going to get out. As usual, everyone will think the worst and this press release will get totally blown out of proportion (see 3:49 PM and "IT has to be BIG") because the real details cannot be released (OUO)--only vague PR releases.

Anonymous said...

Yes.

The truth is *secret*.

Trust us.

We know what's best.

Where have I heard this before?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who has worked there has heard anecdotes about the exceptions to the so-called exceptional security.

Anonymous said...

As is clear from the post at 2/26/09 5:55 PM, Obama is an idiot!

Anonymous said...

By comparison to the recent incident at TA-55:

(1) Russia has no clear track record of how many nukes they have made in total.

(2) 7 Deadly Scenarios:

-- Islamic Radicals Seize Pakistan.

-- Smuggled Nukes Attack U.S. Cities.

-- Global Pandemic Forces Mass Migration.

-- Arab-Israeli Showdown Goes Nuclear.

-- U.S.-China Standoff over Taiwan.

-- Economic Meltdown Creates Instability.

-- Withdrawal From Iraq Gone Wrong.

Feb. 15, 2009 - Future Wars

(http://www.defensenewstv.com)

Dr. Andrew Krepinevich; 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

It ia clear that we need a stand-down, NOW! Five or six years would do the job for sure!

Bring back Admiral Butthead so that we do it right.

Anonymous said...

I was getting little concerned. LANS went a whole 8-days without a incident. I'm glad to know things are "back to normal at LANL". LANS will brush this one under the rug as "nothing of any significance "to the public" was lost". LANS hides another one under the veil of secrecy.

Anonymous said...

So, is LANL saying missing some plutonium is not significant? I guess the "C" students from DOE bought this story too.

Anonymous said...

In between the hyperventilators and the "ho-hum's" there is the truth, which is that inventory discrepancies are rare but not unheard of. Material undergoes chemical and physical changes under processing, and these changes are usually properly accounted for. Also, material changes due to radioactive decay, also usually properly accounted for. LANL is required to report fully to NNSA ANY inventory discrepancy. Rest assured that if significant material were missing, that fact would be classified, as would the reporting to NNSA. Everyone needs to calm down, and quit assuming that "someone" knows the truth and just isn't saying. It's not that simple, folks. Let the analysts do their jobs.

Anonymous said...

DOD come save us!!!

Anonymous said...

The DOE letter referenced in the POGO article

http://pogoarchives.org/m/nss/lanl-letter-20090223.pdf

is very critical of LANS, LLC management.

Not taking IDs of SNM (especially if it involves CAT-I) seriously (even if it's a false positive) could result in shut down of related operations & perhaps a change of contractors

And yes, I agree it will get blown out of porportion by the nuke haters.

Anonymous said...

5:55 pm: Although Baker Spring is a right wing extremist, his point about the random goal of 1000 warheads not making strategic sense is chilling. It's not just the Obama administration and the antinuke lobby that has driven us to this sad point in modern history, but it boils down to the NNSA bureaucrats who don't believe in the nuclear mission themselves and have failed for the last 17 years to support that. You know who you are Mr. Crandall, Mr. Greenaugh, and other cowards who sabotaged the nuclear weapons mission for years now. Kevin and Pete and Mikey and Sue here are certainly an extension of the problem, but NNSA has failed us entirely. We sure hope your kids will thank you when they are indentured to the Chinese and other nations to protect them from nuclear attack when we have no protection ourselves any more. Those of us remaining at Los Alamos are ashamed to say we "work" for you.

Anonymous said...

The materials missing from inventory are three pairs of YakTrax. We will find out who is responsible but in the meanwhile plan to have labwide YakTrax checking in training that runs about 4 hours per person. In addition, anyone requesting a set of YakTrax will be issued a barcode to place on the pair they are issued. We've just awarded a $500K contract to a contractor to build a YakTrax barcoding and inventory database to keep this from happening again.

Anonymous said...

"The problem for President Obama, however, is that he has proclaimed the value, indeed the neceesity, of a capable U.S. nuclear force until the time his goal of zero nuclear weapons worldwide is realized. Specifically, the White House website states: "Obama and Biden will always maintain a strong deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist."

So I don't see NNSA going away anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

20%, 15%, 10%, 5%... this year's bonus for Mikey and his PAD/AD pals in LANS LLC is slowly being whittled away by all this bad news.

I guess they'll just have to find their satisfaction by kicking around any employees who remain at LANL.

Anonymous said...

If TA-55 had just let Terry carry out one of his famous pseudo random sampling exercises, this problem would never have occurred.

Anonymous said...

How much longer until FBI agents suddenly descends on LANL, Rocky Flats style, and permanently shut the place down. I give it a couple of more days at most.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the mole who has been leaking all those NNSA OUO memos to POGO has been very busy this week. POGO appears to have received another batch that were all generated over the last few days. They also posted this...


POGO, February 26, 2009

In the midst of trying to account for 80 missing or stolen computers, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is now under fire for a new problem. Critical deficiencies in its system for keeping track of its huge stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium—enough for hundreds of nuclear weapons. According to a February 23 internal Department of Energy letter, the amount of nuclear material that LANL could not account for in January "exceeded alarm limits." While Los Alamos says there is no suspicion of theft or diversion, if it does not know where the material is, it cannot say for certain that the material has not been stolen.

DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sent a Special Review Team earlier this month to assess Los Alamos' Material Control and Accountability (MC&A) program. The Team found inaccuracies in accounting, a lack of adherence to requirements, and that "key personnel in critical positions lacked a basic understanding of fundamental MC&A concepts." In fact, in light of the Team's findings, both government and contractor officials have recently been removed from their positions. According to the letter, if identified weaknesses remain unresolved it "would impact the ability of the facility to continue operations."

Anonymous said...

Is this going to affect my bonus?

Mike!

Anonymous said...

9:49 PM is right on the mark. LANS is spending too much time in knee-jerk mode and too little time organizing and overseeing the important things. Terry Wallace reviewing justifications to take laptops home is an example of LANS management ineptitude.

When will NNSA realize that LANS with their $200 million dollar annual cost (fee and taxes) is directly responsible for the decay of LANL's physical plant, opaque business practices, decline in productivity, loss of mission focus and exodus of qualified personnel?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike-
We let you down again.
Your Loyal Servants

Anonymous said...

"How much longer until FBI agents suddenly descends on LANL, Rocky Flats style, and permanently shut the place down. I give it a couple of more days at most.

2/26/09 9:55 PM"

Crazy idea, however it could happen.

Anonymous said...

"DOD come save us!!!" - 8:36 PM

Sorry, but that will never happen.

Mayor Marty Chavez has made sure that a dysfunctional NNSA will now be running the NM weapon labs... forever. He claims he has the inside track with Dr. Chu.

In addition to this, other NM politicians are working hard to see that NNSA, which they labeled as a "failure", is now completely detached from DOE and has free reign as a independent government agency.

Enjoy the future at LANL!

Anonymous said...

"When will NNSA realize that LANS with their $200 million dollar annual cost (fee and taxes) is directly responsible for the decay of LANL's physical plant, opaque business practices, decline in productivity, loss of mission focus and exodus of qualified personnel?"

Because none of this was happening before LANS.

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to muzzle Kevin Roark. He makes the dumbest statements. Even Anastasio comes across as more knowledgeable, logical, and well informed. That is really saying some thing given his complete lack of communication skills, integrity, and coherent thought processes. It is pretty sad that a 2nd rate journalist can make them both look so stupid just by asking simple questions.

Anonymous said...

You know, there is a silver lining here. Even if "half a bombs worth" of plutonium is missing, there isn't a whole bombs worth of manufacturing talent left at LANL to build a nuke anyway. We just need to keep track of that other half a bombs worth and everything will be just fine.

Anonymous said...

10:47 am:

OK, now you're just being silly.

"Decay of LANL's physical plant" has been going on for 50+ years. Ever visit TA-21 in the early 90's?

"Opaque business practices"
Granted LANS has elevated this one to a fine art, but Oracle implementation started in 2003-04 under UC.

"Decline in productivity"
Err... 2004 stand down.

"Loss of mission focus"
Wrong. Nuclear test ban, 1992.

"Exodus of qualified personnel?"
Reaching new heights under LANS, but again... don't sell Pete Nanos short.

Anonymous said...

Time to shut off the lights, close the doors, and leave LANL behind. DOE and NNSA abandoned us a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

hi 8:04 PM, this is 10:47.

u do realize i was being sarcastic when i said "Because none of this was happening before LANS," right?

Anonymous said...

9:34 pm: "u do..."

Who do? Woo do? Poo do? Please speak English. Too much for you?

Anonymous said...

"9:34 pm: "u do..."

Who do? Woo do? Poo do? Please speak English. Too much for you?

2/27/09 10:33 PM"

UG2BK
LMAO

Like proper english is so out. STBY

G2G
PAW

Anonymous said...

8:04 PM

I take it you agree that LANS has done nothing to fix existing problems created under UC, instead magnifying many? And you agree that LANS has created a new set of problems all their own?

If you disagree, I'd be interested to see an example of anything that has improved under LANS. Just in case you're a LANS manager, big management bonuses don't count as an improvement.

Anonymous said...

Hey 10:33, if your MPC&A was as good as your grammar, maybe you wouldn't be in this mess.

Anonymous said...

9:10 am: "Hey 10:33, if your MPC&A was as good as your grammar, maybe you wouldn't be in this mess."

10:33 here. What mess? I'm not in any mess - I don't work at LANL. I just know something about MPC&A. LANL is in a mess, true, but it is entirely political, as usual, no real substance, as usual. Last serious problem at LANL was Wen Ho Lee, and the government let him off. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I can think of one improvement for 2/28/09 6:49 AM. LANS has right sized the work force for the parking!

Anonymous said...

LANS has right sized the work force for the parking!

3/3/09 6:11 PM


Yeah, I've noticed that it's much easier to find parking spots since employees began to bail out of this place.

I've also noticed that Terry is now parking his dark blue G35 Infiniti Coupe right next to Mikey's sports car in the VIP slots. He use to park in the garage with all the rest of the lowly peons, but I guess the extra distance of walking to his office was just too much of a strain on the man.

It shouldn't be too much longer until Terry will be taking up the coveted Director's parking slot. Weeee!!!