Oct 1, 2009

I'm Sorry This Took So Long

No, that isn't a quote from some government official. But it should be. Rather, that is an apology from me for falling so far behind in blogging. If anyone is interested I'll offer my excuses in the comments. Thank you to Doug and the readers. You made this iteration of the LANL blog much bigger than me or my issue. Many, myself included, appreciate that very much.

The topic of this post is last month's DOE IG report titled Fire Suppression and Related Services at Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is a story that has been in the news for years. This latest report was covered in the Los Alamos Monitor, the Albuquerque Journal, and the Santa Fe New Mexican. As is the way with all LANL safety problems, you can expect to see this story again. And again. And again. Here is a comment from earlier today:
I understand the TA-55 Plutonium Facility was shut down today as a result of a fire code compliance issue involving the TA-55 fire suppression system. I hear at least a 5-day shutdown. Were people sent home since the fire suppression system compliance is potentially a worker safety issue? Can anyone provide details since workers were not informed of anything? Does this fire code compliance issue impact other category 2 or 3 facilities at the Lab such as Area G?

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK, here we go again.

The just in from NNSA's Twitter site...

"LANL TA-55 site showing INCREDIBLE PROGRESS with fire detection!"

That's all you need to know.

Anonymous said...

"I understand the TA-55 Plutonium Facility was shut down today as a result of a fire code compliance issue involving the TA-55 fire suppression system. I hear at least a 5-day shutdown."


No, you have it all wrong. Employees of TA-55 suddenly decided to all take a 5-day vacation. That's all that happened here... really!

(Kevin Roark)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of safety...

I think I see the makings of an exciting screen play in this story below about trucking nuclear bombs across the country. Calling Hollywood... I've got your next mega-blockbuster script. It can even be filmed right here in NM. Just don't try to hitch hike a ride with any of these hardened 'nuke truckers'. It might be your very last free ride! :


"N.M. plays role in moving nuclear materials around the country"

(New Mexican Independent, Sep 28, '09)

Want to know what a top-secret truck moving “special nuclear materials” around the country looks like?

Check out this photo, which comes from a blog at the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle. The photo was released after a Freedom of Information Act request from an environmental group.

“It’s big and blue – and rumbling down an interstate near you. But if you were parked next to a nuclear warhead at the gas station, would you know it?” writes Chronicle reporter Robert Pavey.

The Chronicle covers the Savannah River Site (SRS), a big-bomb producing facility back in the day, by which I mean the Cold War era. The Chronicle just published a series of stories on SRS’s critical role in disposing of plutonium from about 10,000 dismantled bombs.

So what does this top-secret transporting of nuclear materials have to do with New Mexico?

Patience, patience.

The answer to your question comes after Pavey asks the obvious question: is transporting nuclear materials by 18-wheeler safe?

Here’s the answer by way of the National Nuclear Security Administration:

---
“According to the agency, the specially designed and heavily armored ’secure transporters’ have logged more than 100 million miles without any accidents resulting in loss of life or a radioactive release. They are carefully tracked from a sophisticated command center in Albuquerque, N.M., where a fleet of military aircraft are on standby to respond to any threat or emergency.”

“Other than the absence of any lettering on the outside, the trucks are designed to blend in with regular traffic. Inside, however, are a host of electronic security devices that “incorporate various deterrents” to prevent anyone from removing its cargo. The vehicles are hardened against attack and made with fireproof materials “that would allow the trailer to be totally engulfed in a fire without damage to the cargo.”

“Those truck drivers, by the way, are actually federal agents accompanied by heavily armed commandos who travel in armored (but disguised) escort vehicles.”
---

So New Mexico, which already has a starring role in the country’s nuclear history, thanks to Los Alamos National Laboratory, also plays a role in the transportation of nuclear materials.

newmexicoindependent.com/37717/
n-m-plays-role-in-moving-
nuclear-materials-around-the-country

Anonymous said...

4:58 pm: "I think I see the makings of an exciting screen play in this story below about trucking nuclear bombs across the country."

Calm your excitement. TSD (Transportation Safeguards Division) has been run out of DOE/NNSA Albuquerque since 1975. How do you think the military destinations (USAF launch sites or SSBN bases) get their weapons, or return them to Pantex when due for maintenance or refurbishment? Much of the operation is classified, but I can tell you that you don't want to mess with a TSD shipment or any of its officers. Hollywood has tried to make a couple of movies that had TSD components ("Broken Arrow") but it just doesn't get the real story.

Anonymous said...

So, do LANS executives go back and forth to their homes in Livermore using TSD? They sure are secretive about their true loyalties. You know, home is where the heart is and all...

Anonymous said...

I realize that this is off-topic, but I wanted to let the Blog know that Representative Jeannette O. Wallace - (R) in NM House District 43 has competition for her seat. Stephanie Richard(D) came to our home today to introduce herself and discuss why she is running. I really enjoyed the chat and plan to support her. She is a White Rock resident, NM native, teacher, young, energetic, and much more.

Did you know that Wallace has run unopposed for 10 years?! Jeannette only needed $4000 last election to win, she thinks this position is an entitlement. It would be nice to send Jeannette and Terry a message.

If interested check out her website:
www.stephanierichard.org

Anonymous said...

Terry is the one who needs to be sent packing. Janette is worth keeping.

Anonymous said...

3:11 "Terry is the one who needs to be sent packing. Janette is worth keeping."

Really, Really, Gimme one reason... just one bill that she sponsored that Los Alamos really needed and are glad we have!

Anonymous said...

YAWN.... what boring drivel....

Where are the stories about the non-manned guard shacks that cost $25M ????

Anonymous said...

Hey 3:11 PM

I agree that Terry needs to be sent packing. Unfortunately, his LANS position is not an elected one. Jeannette, however, is no longer any good in her elected position for Los Alamos. We can and should remove her in the next election!

Anonymous said...

No one in Los Alamos will remove Jeannette from office, just as no one will see to it that Terry leaves his lab position gained thru family favoritism.

You can wish all you want but it's not going to happen. In fact, odds are pretty good that Terry will end up being LANL's next Director. That's the way things work up here on our little Hill.

Anonymous said...

Despite what Terry says - like it is his destiny, yes he has said that in Washington, he will not become the next Lab director. Charlie McMillan is being groomed for that post.

Anonymous said...

11:05 PM "No one in Los Alamos will remove Jeannette from office"

Two points - First it is not one person who can remove her. Rather it is decided by a vote and this time she will have an opponent. Second remember that 5 precincts in Sandoval County and 2 precincts in Santa Fe vote with Los Alamos in House District 43. They are both heavily Democrat.

Jeannette and Terry will have to actually spend some money this time, probably some of the his LANS bonus.

Anonymous said...

YAWN.... what boring drivel....

Where are the stories about the non-manned guard shacks that cost $25M ????

10/3/09 9:21 PM

Granted, however, what LANS is not saying is that this mess, which could have been easily prevented, is costing the taxpayers $1M per day in salaries, overhead, idle time, re-start costs, production delays, and WORST... a compromised Performance Based-Incentive (PBI) for Becthel and Mikey's Livermore boys. That's 2-days and counting. Cha-ching, cha-ching, ...!

Anonymous said...

"Charlie McMillan is being groomed for that post." - 8:39 AM

Yes, LANS will want to keep the process of destruction at LANL with the "Livermore mafia". Charlie would be a highly likely pick for the next Director.

Anonymous said...

Charlie is perfect for the next Director. He is from Livermore, has a house in California, thinks he is really smart, does next to nothing, and is well liked at the Bohemian club. What else do you want?

Anonymous said...

Why do workers need answers when it doesn't affect them?

PF-4, not the entire site, is in Mode 2 because the plant can't meet the LCO due to fire suppression. If you can't meet a LCO for a TSR then the plant goes into stand-by, Mode 2.

Anonymous said...

Fire suppression was an issue at PF-4 15 years ago. I guess it wasn't really fixed.

Anonymous said...

10/4 @ 8:27 pm.,

There were documented problems with the fire suppression system in PF-4 about 3 years ago. Seems like we promised to fix them then and just did not get to it, or maybe a new problem has surfaced.

Frank Young said...

"documented problems"

It must be hell once they get documented. Best to keep them undocumented when possible.

Anonymous said...

Went up to the Jemez to look at the aspen today - first time across the bridge in several weeks (I'm a retiree). Both coming and going (at Diamond/West Jemez and at West Jemez/SR 4) the enormous signs said "Watch Out For Each Other." I had to wonder about the context. "Watch out" as in "take care of" or "watch out" as in "watch your back"? I think probably the former was meant, but I think the latter is actually better advice, and will be the inerpretation most employees apply.

Anonymous said...

Charlie is perfect for the next Director. He is from Livermore, has a house in California, thinks he is really smart, does next to nothing, and is well liked at the Bohemian club. What else do you want?

10/4/09 7:33 PM

The ONLY thing that really disturbs me about Charlie is that he raves about Brett Knapp, and in particular Knapp's communication skills. Come on Charlie, what the deal here, everyone can see that Knapp can't read, write, or speak. It's obvious that Charlie has never been a subordinate to Knapp. The other explanation is that Mikey has convinced Charlie that Knapp is a great leader, and whatever Mikey says must be true if it means being the next Lab Director. I only HOPE that when Charlie becomes the next Lab Director (and he's done with Mikey) that he tosses Knapp as far Knapp has tossed 200 other staff (i.e. forced out of job) at least as far as TA-55 to fix the fire suppression issue or mop the floors. Or better yet, have Knapp work for one of the many people he screwed over.

Anonymous said...

"Fire suppression was an issue at PF-4 15 years ago. I guess it wasn't really fixed."


Yea, I guess that's what happens when you have a 30+ YO nuclear facility trying to keep up with ever-changing and more stringent regulations.

Anonymous said...

Saying the only bad thing Charlie ever did was hire Knapp is like saying the only bad thing Hitler ever did was start WWII. Some things cannot be forgiven. Knapp is a disaster, was a disaster, and will always be a disaster. More than anyone except Knapp himself, Charlie is responsible for that Frankenstein.

Anonymous said...

did anyone read the benefits for bcbs? i'd rather pay $3 more for uhc. hey, how about changing the dental plan?

Anonymous said...

10:10 PM: "Watch out" as in "take care of" or "watch out" as in "watch your back"?


Too bad you missed the motto that was plastered up everywhere this last winter demanding we all "wear shoes that GRIP!"

After the last two LANS mottoes, I can hardly wait to see the next lame motto that appears. I doubt LANS will disappoint. Might I suggest: "LANS has the plan for making LANL GRAND!" That should have staff puking in the hallways!

Anonymous said...

I heard the new LANS motto about safety is going to be this:

All for one and one for all
Mikey needs his bonus afterall!

Anonymous said...

Actually, the new motto is:

LANS managemant is a bunch of pussies
But at least we're not as bad as those assholes on the blog.
And we make more money.

(It's a KSL haihu.)

Anonymous said...

I went to www.stephanierichard.org. The only thing that worked or had any info was the contribution button. Just how is that any different from every other politician?

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone be suprised that the local fire department is a failure, this isn't new. Just business as normal. LANS puts Farris (a manager) in place to watch them and all he watches is spending. The chief even said that we didn't get everything that we need to be effective

Anonymous said...

So the IG said that the fire department can't respond properly, and now protection at TA-55 is out? So what protection is there?

Anonymous said...

So the IG said that the fire department can't respond properly, and now protection at TA-55 is out? So what protection is there?

10/6/09 9:39 PM

None. If you work there, or anywhere near there, be afraid, be very afraid.

Yeah, if you insist on posing your questions in artificially black-and-white terms, you get that kind of answer, jerk.

Anonymous said...

So we have incompetent idiots, LANS Fire Managers, managing which leads to:
"We concluded that the above conditions were caused by significant problems with the administration ofthe contracting arrangements by DOE, NNSA, LANL, and the County. We did not find evidence that anyone actively managed the fire suppression services contract for a number of years. In addition, the PCCAs were inappropriately used in place ofa comprehensive contract over the nearly 11 year period from December 1997 to September 2008."

Which then leads to;

"We concluded that fire suppression and related services had not been assured through contractual arrangements with the County"

So now that it's been shown that LANS management Farris, Stanford, and others, aren't competent... What has DOE's part been in this mess? LANS had a Fire Department expert on staff but removed him.

At least we can rest assured that the grocery store and Starbucks are well protected.

Anonymous said...

What difference does it make anyway? So they aren't competent to protect the laboratory. My experience has been that the government pays the county $20+ million a year for the fire department but when the laboratory needs any type of support the standard answer is "you'll have to pay us over time". It's long believed that the county (Fire Department, Max Baker, Mary MacEninery to name a few) have been complicite in fraud and other abuses of trust. It's also believed that The site manager (Winchell) and LANS management (Farris, Stanford, and others) have known about this and at best have done nothing, at worst have aided the behavior. There are several issues about the competence of the fire departments leadership in general. Yet, here we are yet again.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time to bring in a for-profit company to handle the fire fighting needs of Los Alamos County. Hey, it's worked out great for the management of the lab.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it's time to bring in a for-profit company to handle the fire fighting needs of Los Alamos County."

The County is "for-profit". And as the county administration lines it's pockets with LANL money, laboratory operations suffer the cuts. It's amazing that LANL is made to comply with regulations down to the nit level, while the county throws DOE money away with complete impunity.
But at least we get a 3 story police station that would make Andy and Barney proud

Anonymous said...

The county is increasingly prepared to fleece the citizens of Los Alamos of their money. Why do you think they just elected a con man like Tony Mortillaro (chief cheerleader for the Boyer-ville fiasco) as the next county administrator? Watch out for your wallets!

Anonymous said...

10/8/09 10:27 AM, I have to agree that the fleecing is about to begin, or should I say continue.
Wouldn't it be easier for the police to just return to their old tactics of making up reasons to issue citations? That was a real money maker back in the day. But then why bother, just jack up the price of the fire department and make the same money. The fire department contract is paying for most of the county anyway.