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  • A Year After Pausing Plutonium Operations, Two-Thirds of Los Alamos PF-4 Work Back Up, NSDM, 3 Jul 2014
    that a return to full operations could come soon The NNSA Headquarters and Field Office criticality safety experts worked together with us to tackle the most challenging issues and are well on our way to completing all resumption activities in the near term the official said The official cautioned however that the lab is not operating on a timetable We are taking our time and we re doing it right the official said We re not up against a calendar PF 4 Operations Halted Last June The lab announced a full pause of operations at the Plutonium Facility last June and has gradually restarted operations over the last six months as it corrects a multitude of issues found to have been plaguing the facility Earlier this year a DNFSB report summarizing an internal review provided some insight into the widespread problems that led to the shutdown revealing an operational culture at the facility that was reactive rather than executing to a strategic plan with prioritized actions The Board report said issues found in criticality safety events were not investigated to reveal issues and corrective actions including improvements needed in management The report also said that poor communication reflects insufficient management attention to the causes of infractions and needed corrective actions The report said that roles and responsibilities are not consistent unclear requirements and terminology haven t been fixed documented hazard analyses failed to note collocated hazards and controls the critique process and output is inadequate to create improvements internal assessments fail to discover and fix problems corrective actions are vague and short sighted and lessons learned data does not provide clear operational insight nor is it adequately communicated and implemented Criticality Safety Infractions Were On the Rise There was a drastic uptick in the amount of criticality safety infractions at

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NSDM_3Jul2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • DNFSB raises questions about exit strategy for CMR facility, NWMM, 24 Jan 2014
    used for planning and pre conceptual design work on an alternate plutonium strategy as well as to relocate equipment from the existing CMR facility and to achieve operational readiness of the RLUOB but the appropriators said the money can t be used to perform construction activities including reconfiguring PF 4 to meet enduring plutonium infrastructure requirements However they left the door open for the agency to come back and request money for that work separately as a new line item construction project PF 4 Cleanout Not a Trivial Exercise According to the DNFSB at least three rooms in the Plutonium Facility have to be repurposed to allow analytical chemistry and materials characterization work that had been planned for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility to be moved from CMR Los Alamos is pursuing a modular plan to replace the capabilities planned for CMRR NF that includes utilizing the existing Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building RLUOB but it also must repurpose parts of the Plutonium Facility as part of that strategy The DNFSB said repurposing the Plutonium Facility will require contaminated equipment from at least three rooms be removed the procurement and installation of new equipment in the rooms the completion of readiness activities and the validation of testing results against CMR s equipment Cleaning out the Plutonium Facility rooms could take about a year per room the official said It involves removing gloveboxes from the rooms and dealing with waste that will be generated though the official said some of the removal work could reduce the calculated offsite dose estimate for the Plutonium Facility which is a long standing concern of the DNFSB It s not a trivial exercise the official said There is no official schedule for the project or cost estimate Concerns Raised About Line Item

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NWMM_24Jan2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Bill authorizes planned funding for NM labs, ABQ JRNL, 22 Dec 2013
    actual appropriations which must be approved separately by Congress Sen Tom Udall a New Mexico Democrat who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee said the bill would ensure the strength and preparedness of New Mexico s military installations This bill upholds the quality of life of our service members and their families and ensures that our military has the resources training technology and equipment to maintain its military readiness and remain at the forefront of developing new sources of energy Udall said The bill says the director of the National Nuclear Security Administration may obligate and expend funds for activities relating to the modular building strategy at Los Alamos that would replace the controversial 6 billion CMRR facility the administration last year postponed for at least a half decade The modular strategy according to the bill would include re purposing existing facilities and constructing a series of modular structures to complement the existing plutonium facility at LANL The legislation contains language emphasizing that the B61 bomb Life Extension Program at Sandia and Los Alamos is a priority that should receive full funding While not binding on Congress the language would serve as reminder to Congress of the value of the program Udall said The bill suggests a combined 537 million for B61 activities at LANL and Sandia White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico would get an additional 5 100 acres of land in a transfer from the Bureau of Land Management Udall s office said the additional land would provide a critical safety and security buffer to NASA s White Sands Test Facility and the Department of Defense s Aerospace Data Facility Southwest which are both tenants of White Sands Missile Range The bill suggests 234 7 million for nuclear waste cleanup at LANL and 219 million for

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/ABQ_JRNL_22Dec2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Lab creeping toward criticality restart, NWMM, 20 Dec 2013
    involving weight and measuring items in a glovebox were authorized to resume but the low mass operations represent a more significant move toward returning to full operations TA 55 Pause Began in June The pause in programmatic work at TA 55 began June 27 after the DNFSB raised a serious of concerns about criticality safety issues at the facility where the bulk of the plutonium work for the entire nuclear weapons complex is done In one case the Safety Board staff raised questions about material storage in a lab workstation in violation of Criticality Safety Evaluation Guidelines In another case criticality mass limits were exceeded in a plutonium vault area when two nuclear materials containers were inadvertently switched Because of the nature and importance of the work we do we must regularly assess all aspects of our operations to ensure we are executing our procedures and operational processes appropriately McMillan said in an email to staff at the time Lab spokeswoman Nancy Ambrosiano said the current focus is on a safe and orderly restart of operations in TA55 We are focused on the resumption of programmatic activities performed in the Plutonium Facility and expect to issue a comprehensive schedule for resumption of all PF 4 programmatic activities in early 2014 she said in a statement Former Rocky Flats Official Detailed to LANL McConnell s memo to the DNFSB suggests the seriousness of the issues raised by the process hinting at a tension between the lab and its NNSA managers The agency has detailed NNSA official Jerry McKamy to provide agency oversight and assistance to the process McKamy is a former Rocky Flats criticality safety official who has been called a whistleblower for his work documenting the problem of plutonium that had accumulated in the Colorado weapons plant s duct work

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_20Dec2013a.html (2016-02-16)
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  • W78/88 Life Extension could be deferred in FY2015 budget, NWMM, 20 Dec 2013
    The real question is what does it replace and right now it s not slated to replace either one he added It was meant to replace both eventually If that decision is financially delayed then I ll have to come up with an alternate plan and the Air Force will have to come up with an alternate plan While the Air Force has pushed for the interoperable warhead the Navy has been somewhat hesitant and last year the Navy urged the Nuclear Weapons Council to add an option to its W78 W88 study that would focus on refurbishing just the W88 warhead to provide an off ramp in case the interoperable warhead proves to be too challenging or too expensive Benedict however said it was important to complete a study of the concept and get a firmer sense of how much it might cost I think we need to go through that exercise he said I think we need to do the hard engineering analysis and costing to truly understand what does an interoperable warhead mean A Question of Funding The budget savings from deferring the program are also minimal While the Administration earlier this year projected spending 241 9 million on the W76 refurbishment and 596 5 million on the B61 refurbishment in FY 2015 it anticipated spending only 72 6 million on the W78 W88 about the same it requested in FY 2014 Still the senior DoD official suggested it was not a matter of support for the concept but budget driven concerns driving consideration of delaying the project There s no daylight in terms of the support between NNSA and DoD the official said The real problem is budgets across the board The official added A lot of the future of the 3 2 strategy is highly dependent on where the budgets go If the strategy isn t funded then it won t look the way we laid it out Creating an interoperable warhead has never been done before and while the nation s nuclear weapons laboratories have suggested they are up to the task observers have noted that there are significant risks in developing an interoperable warhead The proposal to take a primary from one warhead and a secondary from another warhead into this new weapon has risks There s no way around that Young said The NNSA and the labs argue the risks are manageable otherwise they wouldn t do it obviously They may be right They may not be right That s a concern Project Faces Skeptical Congress One other factor that could be influencing the Administration s decision is Congressional support Appropriators on the House and Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees also voiced concern about the approach with Senate appropriators directing the NNSA to not dismiss a separate life extension program on the W78 which it suggested could be cheaper and like the W76 LEP would not require significant design changes The Committee is concerned that an integrated warhead may be unnecessarily

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_20Dec2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Lawmakers reach compromise on FY 2014 NDAA, NWMM, 13 Dec 2013
    Bill Another House drafted provision that drew opposition from the Administration earlier this summer language that would ve given DOE the ability to force the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to perform cost benefit analyses on its recommendations was also stripped from the bill The Administration argued that the new cost requirements for the DNFSB severely hampers the Board s ability to provide oversight of DOE s nuclear facilities The joint explanatory statement suggests that DOE should stand up to the Board more especially on issues involving cost and notes that the Secretary of Energy has the authority to reject DNFSB recommendations We believe it is imperative that the Secretary of Energy assess the costs and benefits of any recommendation made by the DNFSB the lawmakers wrote We believe it is incumbent upon the Secretary to reject or request modifications to DNFSB recommendations if the costs of implementing the recommendations are not commensurate with the safety benefits gained Bill Keeps Options Study for W78 W88 LEP Lawmakers ignored opposition from the Obama Administration to language that would require the Pentagon and National Nuclear Security Administration to develop cost estimates for separate life extension program options as part of a study on the W78 W88 interoperable warhead that could be fielded on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles Provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the bill required analyses of alternatives to the first in what is expected to be a series of interoperable warheads reflecting concerns that the interoperable warhead might be too expensive and too technically difficult to complete The cost of the W78 W88 refurbishment which would be the first of three interoperable warheads that make up the Administration s 3 2 strategy for modernizing the nation s nuclear arsenal has come under question due to its high price tag The NNSA in its Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan released this summer said preliminary estimates for the life extension program put the cost at 14 billion Last month the Administration said it strongly opposes language in the Senate bill arguing that the current study scope will inform a cost risk benefit decision on a warhead with an interoperable nuclear explosive package that can be used on multiple platforms and that determining the feasibility and costs for other options would significantly delay completion and increase costs of the feasibility study The compromise bill however would prohibit funding from being spent on the engineering phase of the refurbishment study until 90 days after the Nuclear Weapons Council provides a comparative analysis of refurbishing the W78 and W88 individually as a point of comparison for the W78 W88 The cost comparison will ensure the Congress understands the full cost and risk implications of the proposed program Senate leaders said in a statement explaining provisions in the bill Bill Creates CAPE Office in NNSA Lawmakers also preserved language creating an Office of Cost Estimating and Program Evaluation within NNSA though they backed off making the director of the

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/NWMM_13Dec2013-pu.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Los Alamos lab waste plant over budget, behind schedule, ABQ JRNL,
    its most sensitive nuclear weapons work site did not work and would require tens of millions of dollars to fix A key problem with the waste treatment plant according to the Inspector General s analysis was a failure to develop a formal risk management plan when the project began identifying the ways the project could go over budget and behind schedule A 2010 independent project review found that no such analysis was done until 2009 well after problems had begun to emerge The report blames both the lab managed by a consortium led by Bechtel Corp and the National Nuclear Security Administration for the problems There s a lot of just clear plain incompetence said Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group an Albuquerque based organization long critical of the lab s project management Things have gotten better in recent years according to the Inspector General s report with better cost estimates and analyses of risks to the project In particular the lab has done a good job of reducing the amount of radioactive waste generated by its work The Laboratory and NNSA have been working closely to improve project management on the waste treatment plant and other projects We appreciate the report s recognition that the Laboratory and NNSA have made significant progress in the last two years lab spokesman Kevin Roark said in a statement The radioactive waste treatment project has fallen victim to repeated changes in requirements and design plans according to a report from the Department of Energy s Office of Inspector General with estimated costs at one point soaring to 350 million before the project was scaled back in its most recent redesign The current plant which opened in 1963 collects waste from 63 buildings across the lab where radioactive materials are used Tanks

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/ABQ_JRNL_3Oct2013.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Los Alamos Management of Waste Facility Faulted, AP, 2 Oct 2013
    and sometimes failing Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility But design work is still not complete and the two phase project now won t be finished until 2017 and 2020 at the earliest According to the audit the facility that treats and disposes of low level and transuranic waste has degraded and sometimes fails leaving the lab with no way to process radioactive liquid waste while repairs are being made The audit is the latest in a series of government reports to detail cost overruns and delays by projects overseen by the NNSA prompting Congress to appoint a task force that is studying a potential overhaul of the DOE run agency Earlier this year the Government Accountability Office reported NNSA has racked up 16 billion in cost overruns on 10 major projects that are a combined 38 years behind schedule Other projects have been cancelled or suspended despite hundreds of millions of dollars already spent because they grew too bloated The newest audit blames ineffective management by NNSA and Los Alamos National Security the private contractor that runs the lab for the delays and cost overruns on the treatment plant In a span of seven years the audit says three separate designs have been developed and changes were still being made in August The planning and design reversals confusion and incompetence documented in this report boggle the mind and exceed what seems possible said Greg Mello executive director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group It s like a Laurel and Hardy movie starring Bechtel led Los Alamos National Security and NNSA It happens again and again on almost all projects Officials from the lab did not immediately respond to a request for comment The audit however does note than that the NNSA has recently taken action to address the problem

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2013/AP_2Oct2013.html (2016-02-16)
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