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  • National Lab Reports Violations of Hazardous Waste Permit, AP, 05 Sep 2015
    waste The review found that some of the same procedural missteps made with the drum that leaked radiation were also made when handling more than 1 000 other containers But Lab Director Charlie McMillan and U S Department of Energy Los Alamos Field Office Manager Kimberly Davis Lebak said in a letter sent this week to the New Mexico Environment Department that the containers highlighted in the latest review were different than the drum that leaked radiation Our staffs have completed a technical evaluation of these non compliances and concluded that they do not present a credible safety concern to workers or the public and do not pose a threat to human health or the environment they wrote Still the lab s lack of compliance is a big concern for the state Environment Department which oversees a permit that allows Los Alamos to handle hazardous waste The one thing I can say is we re going to continue to hold their feet to the fire on this said Kathryn Roberts director of the department s Resource Protection Division The corrective action Los Alamos is taking to address the problems related to the waste stream that resulted in the radiation leak will also cover the latest violations Roberts said It s going to address all those fundamental problems that stem from those procedures that were deficient in a lot of ways she said Those are still going to be revised and we re going to have new processes in place and we re going to scrutinize those very very closely The lab first notified the state of the latest violations during a meeting in July The report released this week provides details Watchdog Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group pointed to the lab s history of noncompliance saying outside

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/AP_ABC_News_05Sep2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Lab Manager Settles Lobbying Claims With $4.8M Payment, AP, 24 Aug 2015
    report last fall that found the use of taxpayer funds by Sandia was a violation of federal codes and provisions in the contract itself The inspector general determined that the lab formed a team and worked with consultants beginning in 2009 to develop a plan for securing a contract extension without having to go through a competitive process That plan called for lobbying Congress trying to influence key advisers to then Energy Secretary Steven Chu and reaching out to a former director of the National Nuclear Security Administration and former New Mexico Gov Bill Richardson a Democrat who led the Energy Department under the Clinton administration One consultant suggested the lab s message to decision makers should be that competition was not in the best interest of the government Department of Energy Inspector General Gregory Friedman said his office worked with the Justice Department to gather the documentation and other information that served as the basis for the settlement Using public funds to lobby for a non competitive extension of a contract is simply unacceptable he said Sandia officials said they believed at the time that their actions fell within allowable guidelines Now they acknowledged they acted too early and too independently in planning for a possible contract extension Sandia s parent company Lockheed Martin Corp will pay the fine out of the fee it earned from the federal government for managing the lab Watchdog Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group called the settlement payment a token fine and described the allegations against Sandia as a failure to enforce government s basic tenets The blatant illegal lobbying activities conducted by Lockheed and Sandia should have resulted in criminal prosecutions or at least barring this contractor from competing for the Sandia contract plus fines Mello said For more than

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/AP_ABC_News_24Aug2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • In first, a woman will run U.S. nuclear weapons laboratory, Science Mag, 23 Jun 2015
    delays and cost overruns at Livermore s National Ignition Facility which was built for nuclear fusion research Los Alamos meanwhile has suffered from embarrassing security lapses and a 2014 radiation leak at a nuclear waste storage facility stemming from barrels originating from the lab Sandia s workforce and budget have grown as it takes a lead in the push to modernize the nation s nuclear weapons Today it has 10 800 workers and a 2 6 billion operating budget compared with 6300 Livermore employees and 10 200 at Los Alamos It has also proven adept at diversifying into other realms of research with a significant slice of its budget roughly a third in 2011 according to a Union of Concerned Scientists report coming from work for other government agencies or private industry It gets high marks relative to Livermore and Los Alamos in its annual assessment by DOE It s widely considered to be the best of the three in terms of management says Greg Mello executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group an Albuquerque based nonprofit that promotes nuclear disarmament Still Sandia has a lower profile than its more prestigious counterparts Whereas Los Alamos and Livermore are home to physicists wrestling with knotty nuclear puzzles Sandia is dominated by engineers designing the accompanying hardware such as missile guidance systems Hruby comes to her job with decades of work as an engineer and manager She has also spent little time in the public spotlight Neither Gusterson nor Mello were familiar with her work and few news articles mentioned her before Monday s announcement But her track record drew praise from officials at Lockheed Martin the defense industry giant whose subsidiary runs the Sandia labs through a contract with DOE The board looked at a number of outstanding candidates said

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/Science_mag_23Jun2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Report blasts oversight of nuke lab contractors, SFNM, 10 Jun 2015
    two decades this committee has uncovered management challenges facing the DOE complex involving contractor oversight For the past five years DOE has experimented with a new approach to contractor oversight that is not ready for prime time committee Chairman Fred Upton R Mich and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr D N J said in a statement We saw the results of this experiment at the Y 12 security breach in Tennessee three years ago and more recently in oversight failures that led to a costly incident at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant site in New Mexico The Y 12 breach occurred when three anti nuclear activists including an 82 year old nun slipped past security personnel and tagged buildings at a uranium enrichment facility before they were finally arrested The incident unveiled troubling displays of ineptitude the GAO said LANL is managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security LLC a consortium of companies including Bechtel National the University of California Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services and URS Energy The consortium was fined by the New Mexico Environment Department for the lab s role in shipping a mislabeled waste container that erupted at WIPP causing the radiation leak The lab also faces a fine from the Department of Energy for failing to track unidentified classified matter that disappeared after it was supposed to have been shipped to the Nevada National Security Site Wednesday s report points out that the NNSA s central headquarters stopped reviewing how field offices like the one in Los Alamos were overseeing contractors The 90 page document also says the NNSA failed to finish a review of staffing levels in 2013 at the request of employees Currently the agency has 1 600 employees in its Washington D C office in field offices and at a complex

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/SFNM_10Jun2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • $73M in WIPP leak fines to pay for roadwork, other projects, SFNM, 30 Apr 2015
    9 5 million will pay for stormwater monitoring and projects around the lab The settlement also calls for 5 million to build an emergency operations center in Carlsbad to provide training for emergency responders and mine rescue teams Also 2 75 million will fund independent oversight reviews at the Department of Energy sites In December Martinez and Ryan Flynn Cabinet secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department hand delivered to U S Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz documents proposing to fine the federal department 54 million for the circumstances leading up to the Feb 14 2014 radiation leak Flynn threatened to tack on more than 100 million in additional fines if the U S Department of Energy which initially contested the original fines dragged out negotiations Making sure Energy Department nuclear sites operate safely is non negotiable Martinez said at a news conference The Republican governor described the settlement as the largest ever between the federal agency and a state A senior Energy Department official could not confirm the accuracy of the statement New Mexico s U S senators Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich hailed the agreement for the water and road improvements it will fund Heinrich called the settlement a smart solution and Udall said he encouraged Moniz multiple times to seek resolution with the state That contradicts Martinez s statement that New Mexico s congressional delegation played no role in the pact Greg Mello executive director of the watchdog organization Los Alamos Study Group questioned whether the projects funded by the fines truly address the circumstances that led to the leak Federal investigations found LANL erred by using organic kitty litter as an absorbent and an organic acid neutralizer which were incompatible with the oxidizing agents in nuclear waste Together these ingredients caused the conditions that led to a drum of waste rupturing at WIPP and causing the radiation leak In its formal description of the waste drum s contents LANL made no mention of its most volatile and incompatible contents I m a little flabbergasted as to the whole idea that the state would negotiate what the money is used for What does that have to do with Resource Conservation and Recovery Act violations Mello said It seems like an entirely different sphere Mello also raised questions about a provision in the settlement agreement that creates a new oversight process for reviews of WIPP and LANL every three years separate from the regulatory authority of the New Mexico Environment Department NMED agrees to refrain from taking any enforcement action against the DOE Permittees their constituent agencies contractors and affiliates for any violations identified in the triennial reviews so long as the DOE Permittees and their facility operators correct any deficiencies identified in the course of such reviews the agreement states The projects the Energy Department agreed to fund in the settlement are needed maintenance that Mello argued should be on its to do list even without the threat of enforcement action Flynn the state Environment Department secretary

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/SFNM_30Apr2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Feds reach settlement with New Mexico over radiation leak, AP, Seattle Times, 30 Apr 2015
    these facilities as well as the communities that host these facilities Flynn told The Associated Press The state initially levied more than 54 million in penalties against the agency and its contractors for numerous permit violations at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that were identified following the repository s shutdown The newly announced settlement comes after a drum of waste was inappropriately packed with incompatible ingredients at Los Alamos and shipped to the repository starting a chemical reaction and radiation leak on Feb 14 2014 Federal investigators determined it could have been prevented Poor management at multiple levels lapses in safety and a lack of proper procedures combined to cause the radiation release they said in a report this month The Energy Department and the head of the Los Alamos lab say they re working to ensure greater oversight of the handling and disposal of radioactive waste The settlement requires the department to follow through with corrective measures Department Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement that the projects outlined in the settlement will benefit New Mexico communities and will not detract from cleanup at Los Alamos or the Waste Isolation site Most of the infrastructure spending outlined in the settlement is expected to come from the bonuses and other incentive pay the department withheld from Los Alamos and Waste Isolation contractors in the wake of the radiation release The agency will seek adequate funding for any difference needed in future fiscal years as part of the regular federal budget process Some watchdogs were concerned with the settlement Greg Mello executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group suggested the agreement is self serving since the department and its contractors are the ones who use the roads that will see improvements In short DOE and

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/AP_SeattleTimes_30Apr2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Kitty Litter Shuts Down Sole US Nuclear Weapons Waste Facility, RSN, 7 Apr 2015
    the U S nuclear weapons program LANL is a cozy profitable corporate welfare monopoly for a private consortium calling itself Los Alamos National Security The Delaware Limited Liability Company was formed eight years ago by four entities Babcock Wilcox Technical Services URS Energy and Construction Bechtel and the University of California As stated in its by laws the company purpose is to manage and operate the Los Alamos National Laboratory in a manner that furthers the interests of the national security and advances the DOE NNSA missions programs and objectives in accordance with the terms of the Prime Contract In other words it is a privately held national security profit center that according to Bloomberg engages in the businesses of nuclear defense programs facilities management science and technology to homeland security challenges and safety and security Los Alamos National Security LLC is by its very nature a limited liability conflict of interest in which at least one conflict is between profit and security Santa Fe New Mexican lays out tough case against LANL As viewed by the New Mexican the parent company Los Alamos National Security allowed its employees at LANL to take numerous actions that could protect the company s profits by risking the security of others The gambit appears to have failed by just one drum Its elements perpetrated or allowed by LANL employees or contractors included according to the New Mexican workers packaging the waste came across a batch that was extraordinarily acidic making it unsafe for shipping The lab s guidelines called for work to shut down while the batch underwent a rigid set of reviews to determine how to treat it a time consuming process that jeopardized the lab s goal of meeting the deadline Instead the lab and its various contractors took shortcuts in treating the acidic nuclear waste adding neutralizer and a wheat based organic kitty litter to absorb excess liquid Documents accompanying the drum which were supposed to include a detailed description of its contents made no mention of the acidity or the neutralizer and they mischaracterized the kitty litter as a clay based material not the more combustible organic variety that most chemists would have recognized as hazardous if mixed with waste laden with nitrate salts Documents and internal emails show that even after the radiation leak lab officials downplayed the dangers of the waste even to the Carlsbad managers whose staff members were endangered by its presence and withheld critical information from regulators and WIPP officials investigating the leak The waste container that ultimately burst would not have met federal transportation standards to get on the road from Los Alamos to Carlsbad nor would it have been accepted at WIPP if its true ingredients had been reported by the lab In documents filed with the New Mexico Environment Department before the accident LANL reported that the waste in the drum that would later burst is stable and will not undergo violent chemical change without detonating and there is no indication

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/RSN_07Apr2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Editorial: LANL’s new ‘guesstimates’, ABQ JRNL, 1 Apr 2015
    It said the task would be done in 2012 That initial completion date is so three years ago The work is nowhere close to done and the cost estimate has been greatly exceeded According to the General Accountability Office the National Nuclear Security Administration had spent about 931 million by the end of the last federal fiscal year to move waste from LANL to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant LANL now is working on a new estimate of about 1 6 billion and a new projected date for completion October 2022 a decade later Twice the time at double the price Plus the new estimate does not appear to include the cost of cleaning up and reopening WIPP That alone might cost a half billion dollars The NNSA said it is working on realistic out year funding profiles to support a planned renegotiation of the lab s 2005 cleanup agreement with the state Environment Department Given the NNSA s track record of failing to meet deadlines or complete projects within budget if at all a multibillion dollar replacement for LANL s aging Chemical and Metallurgy Research building now sidetracked indefinitely comes to mind a pledge of coming up with a

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/ABQJRNL_1Apr2015.html (2016-02-16)
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