Jun 28, 2009

Lab addresses fire protection criticism

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

A new report by a federal auditor revisits old vulnerabilities in the area of fire protection at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

At the same time, the report gives laboratory managers credit for taking substantial actions based on the audit.

The report found past failures to correct fire safety issues “that increased the risks of injury or loss of life had a fire occurred at Los Alamos,” along with the risk that hazardous or radiological material could have been released, operations disrupted and buildings and components lost.

Recommendations included structuring the contract incentives to reflect clear expectations on the fire safety questions.

A response by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is ultimately responsible for fire protection at the nuclear weapons laboratory, agreed with the report’s recommendations but not with its conclusions.

In a background memorandum the Department of Energy Inspector General summarizes the findings of an audit that has been going on for about 16 months and is one of at least four conducted since 2005 on the subject of fire safety with another one already underway.

Before Los Alamos National Security, LLC, became managing and operating contractor for the laboratory in 2006, they conducted formal inspections related to potential liabilities and losses. At the time, they identified 812 pre-existing fire protection deficiencies, which the new audit says were not all resolved.

“Of 296 pre-existing deficiencies we selected for audit, 174 (59 percent) have not been corrected,” Inspector General Gregory Friedman wrote, adding that 32 of the deficiencies categorized as “significant,” had been closed by the previous contractor (the University of California), even though the deficiencies had not been corrected.

Jim Streit, Fire Protection Division leader administratively oversees the lab’s fire protection group, consisting of engineers, technicians and inspectors and organizationally oversees the Los Alamos Fire Department under an independent agreement with Los Alamos County.

“We’ve acknowledged that we could have done a better job,” he said. He added, “The report acknowledged that we have taken steps recently.”

Among them, he said, the laboratory changed his role to focus more attention on the fire protection deficiencies.

“In February, the lab made this change to try to get attention on this,” he said. “I’ve been given the role to champion that, to drive those improvements, help find money and drive the priorities to fix those things.”

Among problems noted by the report were missed tests for a kitchen hood fire suppression system at Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, failure to provide a secondary fire exit on the second floor of a primary office building, and not replacing an antiquated fire alarm panel in the Plutonium Facility.

“There is a big list of issues,” said Streit. “Is someone running this to ground and managing this to closure? That’s my role and we’ve focused on the top issues and got them resolved.”

As for the panel, he said. “Our position is that the panel is there for folks’ safety. My contention is that the system is operable and functional. We know we need to replace it.”

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board wrote to the NNSA administrator in December 2008, expressing concerns about inadequate staffing and slow progress in correcting fire protection shortcomings.

LANL and its federal managers recently filed tort claims against the county for damages to a laboratory parking structure during training exercises by the LA Fire Department.

The IG report mentions another current inspection “to determine whether fire suppression and related services (for LANL) are assured through agreements with Los Alamos County.

Among other IG reports on fire protection at the lab, a March 2007 document found that wildland fire mitigations activities had either not been performed or were not completely effective. “Further, Federal officials had not always actively monitored contractor wildland fire protection programs, coordinated protective efforts or validated the effectiveness of contractor fire mitigation activities,” a summary states.

[Download the full report here.]


Anonymous said...

One step beyond LASC, the very expected critique of Greg Mello, and the incompetence 24/7/365 of LANS, LLC.

In Congress, House of Rep., Committee on Foreign Affairs, "The July Summit and Beyond: Prospects for U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Reductions," Wednesday, June 24, 2009, Witnesses, Former Secretary of Defense Dr. William J. Perry, Ambassador Thomas Graham, Jr., and Dr. Keith B. Payne, http://foreignaffairs.house.gov/hearing_notice.asp?id=1090, with archieved webcast.

During this 2h+ hearing Dr. Perry repeats with full naivite his in conjunction with Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and former Senator Sam Nunn, 2007 and 2008 in The Wall Street Journal, and as an ongoing US national security virus since its inception 2007 in WSJ, "We seek a world without nuclear weapons," and its variations, "Toward a Nuclear-Free World," "Global Zero," e.g. the world is becoming "One Happy Family" - but it´s not, it´s a very dangerous world, and especially Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Taliban/AQ are dangerous to US, and should never be underestimated as the history has shown in nuclear light, aka broad daylight, and especially the ongoing threat from North Korea, Iran, and Taliban/AQ towards US.

During the hearing Mr. Perry is also quoiting Pres. Reagan in the wrong context when he spoke of a world without nuclear weapons, it was always with the idea of "Peace through strength," as well as in the context with a ballistic missile defense for the US, and the overall goal to win the Cold War against Soviet Union, not that US should surrender its nuclear deterrence, and the nuclear umbrella for her allies, as well as voluntary surrender the superpower status, but that is the consequence of the Global Zero movement for US.

The fairytale of zero nukes in the world, e.g. US nuclear disarmament is nonsense and shouldn´t be nuclear policy for US, instead the US should modernize its nuclear arsenal with new military capabilities, and adopt missile defense in a coherent strategy.

Anonymous said...

Does this report mean well soon see LANS implement fire testing on an hourly basis each and every day?

Anonymous said...

Our Decaying Nuclear Deterrent


“There are some who believe that failing to invest adequately in our nuclear deterrent will move us closer to a nuclear free world. In fact, blocking crucial modernization means unilateral disarmament by unilateral obsolescence. This unilateral disarmament will only encourage nuclear proliferation, since our allies will see the danger and our adversaries the opportunity.”

“There is a fashionable notion that if only we and the Russians reduced our nuclear forces, other nations would reduce their existing arsenals or abandon plans to acquire nuclear weapons altogether. This idea, an article of faith of the "soft power" approach to halting nuclear proliferation, assumes that the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces -- or that India, Pakistan or China would respond with reductions of their own.”

Nevertheless, under the current Administration, our Nuclear Deterrent will only continue to decay.

Anonymous said...

Why is this first comment in thie posting? It is totally unrelated to the subject of the fire protection systems.

Anonymous said...

assumes that the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces

I have never heard or read that anybody embraces this bizarre notion. Can you point to who has said that Kim or Mahmoud would curtail their ambitions in response to reduced warhead inventory here?

Anonymous said...

Does this report mean well soon see LANS implement fire testing on an hourly basis each and every day?

They already do - this is what the useless KSL leftovers et al. do. You know, the people that that are useless but they don't want to fire so there will be no lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

"They already do - this is what the useless KSL leftovers et al. do." - 9:28 PM

I guess the LANS push for a 5% attrition rate isn't working very well when it comes to the former KSL employees, especially the leftovers.