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  • White House budget plan a mixed bag for state’s labs, WIPP, ABQ JRNL, 2 Feb 2015
    has been closed since February 2014 after a radiation leak from a drum packaged at Los Alamos contaminated the deep underground facility The NNSA budget request concedes that it is too early to estimate the total cost of reopening WIPP to once again receive shipments of waste but the budget assumes interim restart by the middle of FY 2016 NNSA issued a statement Monday saying its proposed budget of 12 6 billion represents an increase of 1 2 billion or about 10 2 percent to support priorities including effective stewardship of the nation s nuclear deterrent and nuclear nonproliferation The 8 8 billion proposed for weapons activities a 7 5 percent increase ensures we maintain a ready modern and capable nuclear force to address any threats we might face including threats from cyber attacks said the agency At Sandia spending on nuclear weapons modernization and some related arms programs would drop the most declining by about 31 million compared with funding this year Money for scientific research projects such as advanced computing would also decline by about 8 million Higher spending in some other areas such as a 20 million increase in nuclear nonproliferation programs would buffer the overall decline in spending But Sen Tom Udall D NM said he s concerned about the proposed cuts I m concerned about the small reduction in spending for Sandia after several years of significant increases for the lab and I ll be pressing the administration to justify its spending level Udall told the Journal Similarly I m concerned about proposed cuts to some of DOE s science and nonproliferation programs and have questions about important infrastructure programs that impact New Mexico s labs The NNSA says the drop in weapons modernization spending reflects progress by Sandia and other labs in extending the life of the B61 nuclear bomb one of the oldest and most versatile weapons in the nation s nuclear arsenal The government is spending upwards of 8 billion on that program with much of the work in recent years being managed at Sandia But the lab has reached some critical milestones in those efforts leading to a drop in spending at Sandia said Don Cook NNSA deputy administrator for defense programs Sandia has a large commitment for nuclear weapons life extension programs that has gone up and down a bit for years Cook said during a conference call with reporters on Monday It s down a bit this year because of progress in B61 engineering development It reflects the ebb and flow of passing some key milestones At Los Alamos a 40 million increase in defense nuclear nonproliferation programs is proposed But in the conference call NNSA officials acknowledged that most of the increase for nonproliferation results from switching some programs such as nuclear counterterrorism and response from the weapons activity budget category to nonproliferation Funding for some nonproliferation programs at LANL was eliminated NNSA officials insisted that funding for all core activities in the nonproliferation area remains intact other

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/ABQJRNL_2Feb2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL vents toxic ground vapors, raising air quality concerns, SFNM, 24 Jan 2015
    was shut down The lab spent the last several years testing the extent of the plume and methods for cleaning it up The underground cloud of chemical vapor is made up of volatile organic compounds pollutants emitting from materials like solvents paints and cleaning supplies that can cause headaches and dizziness and increased risk of cancer It is one of at least six plumes of pollutants caused by decades of hazardous waste dumped into trenches shafts and pits scattered on mesas and in canyons around lab property Other plumes contain chromium nitrates perchlorates uranium and high explosives The cost of cleaning up all the plumes is estimated in the billions of dollars The lab submitted an interim cleanup plan for the toxic plume in late April to the state Environment Department proposing to vacuum the contaminated vapor up through two wells and vent it unfiltered into the air The lab and the state want to prevent the toxic vapor from spreading into groundwater or leaking into lab buildings above the plume The former subcontractor thinks the lab is cutting corners that it shouldn t cut especially when there s an easy fix such as a carbon filter that can remove most of the contaminants Even if emissions fall within the lab s existing permit levels without filtering doesn t make it the right thing to do he said This is really about being honest with and doing what is right by the folks who are in a very real way at risk of exposure to these voluntary emissions and letting them have their rightful say site workers San Ildefonso landowners and White Rock residents The vented vapor includes trichloroethane and trichloroethylene benzene and other potentially carcinogenic chemicals Lab officials say it would cost 500 000 to use carbon filters and ship them later to a hazardous waste facility but they insist cost isn t the reason the filters aren t being used The filters weren t necessary because pollutants emitted in the vapor during the cleanup project will still be below the contaminant thresholds allowed under the lab s air quality permit from the state the lab says The state Environment Department s Air Quality Bureau says based on information submitted by the lab the project won t emit enough chemicals to violate thresholds set under the lab s existing air quality permit and doesn t require a separate permit Based on the calculated air emission rates no air permit was required to be obtained to construct and operate the unit said department spokeswoman Jill Turner The Environment Department can t require the lab to do additional cleanup measures as long as the lab is meeting the requirements of its permit Turner said Environment Department and lab staff say even measured at the plume extraction site the emissions won t be above contaminant thresholds Changing a cleanup plan The lab s plan submitted to the state also is different from the plume cleanup proposal approved in 2010 by the Northern

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/SFNM_24Jan2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • PERs Highlight Very Different Years for Los Alamos, Livermore in FY 2014, NSDM, 23 Jan 2015
    NNSA site weren t publicized until late last week For Los Alamos the document lauds the lab for meeting much of its nuclear weapons mission work but highlights many of its shortcomings including the continuing shutdown of the lab s Plutonium Facility ethical lapses by senior lab staff a reference to former Deputy Director Beth Sellers who is facing a three year debarment from government contracting for not promptly disclosing her husband s consulting agreement with the lab and issues with the lab s Earned Value Management System While there were significant accomplishments during the reporting period the impact and gravity of documented shortcomings overwhelm those accomplishments and reflect a negative trend in leadership performance constituting performance that is below expectations the NNSA said NNSA WIPP Related Issues led to Degradation of Public Confidence The impacts of the WIPP related problems include the diversion of key staff from mission work huge financial costs to the Department of Energy that are still accumulating failure to meet environmental commitments made to the state of New Mexico damage to an important relationship with a key state regulatory body broad adverse economic impacts associated with the suspension of normal operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and a degradation of public confidence in the conduct of nuclear and high hazard operations at the Laboratory the NNSA said The NNSA called the lab s transuranic waste processes and a laboratory waste stream contributing or causal factors to the radiological release at WIPP which was believed to be caused when a Los Alamos processed waste drum was breached by a reaction within the drum WIPP s shutdown led the lab to miss a key commitment to ship 3 706 cubic meters of transuranic waste from the lab to permanent storage Although self disclosed the Laboratory s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act violations with respect to transuranic waste management compounded the severity of the transuranic waste incident the NNSA said This incident highlighted a significant failure in the Laboratory s formality and conduct of operations driving the overall rating of this Performance Objective to Unsatisfactory Things were hardly better at the lab s Plutonium Facility where operations have been largely shut down since June of 2013 because of criticality safety concerns Because of the shutdown the NNSA noted that despite pouring significant resources into the Plutonium Facility it had a performance year in which the workforce and facilities did not significantly contribute to productive programmatic use Capital Project Execution Below Expectations The NNSA also noted that the lab has performed below expectations in capital project execution Its Earned Value Management System is on the verge of being decertified by the NNSA Several projects struggled the NNSA said The TA 55 Reinvestment Project II Phase C experienced delays in achieving Critical Decision 2 3 due to poor performance in the preparation of critical project documents and in closing corrective actions from project reviews and it remains below expectations the NNS said due to post CD 2 3 material

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/NSDM_23Jan2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL changed rules on handling WIPP waste; red flag on nitrates removed, ABQ JRNL, 16 Jan 2015
    report was made over two years ago and removed the requirements to stop waste processing and inform management if among other things Class 1 oxidizers such as nitrates flammable metals or pyrophoric materials were encountered The report goes on to add that the basis for operations plan for the Los Alamos waste facility does not allow processing of these types of materials Investigators believe the radiation leak at WIPP resulted when organic wheat based cat litter provided fuel for a chemical reaction with oxidizing nitrate salts that were part of the waste stream packaged at Los Alamos The nitrates were left over from a process used to extract plutonium But the new disclosure is the first suggestion that oxidizing nitrates even without the addition of organic material should have been a cause for concern as waste was packaged for WIPP The organic litter serving to absorb liquid in the waste drums came into use in 2012 and replaced clay based litter that had been used previously So far how enough heat was generated to start the chemical reaction that breached the WIPP drum reportedly has not been determined A Department of Energy report on the leak at WIPP which remains closed and faces a remediation bill estimated at a half billion dollars is expected in the near future The lab and DOE had no comment on the safety board s report Thursday But lab officials have said previously that LANL has self identified all outstanding issues in its review of the drum leak and has been putting corrective actions into place Lab violating own rules The safety board s disclosure of the change in procedures about not processing nitrates without notice provided fodder for more criticism of LANL and its private operator Los Alamos National Security LCC Adding the organic

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2015/ABQJRNL_16Jan2015.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Economic improvement: Focus on people, ABQ JRNL, 20 Aug 2014
    Mexico s labs and bases don t continue to create jobs produce useful goods or services or build productive infrastructure They maintain government dependent jobs for a small fraction of the state Over seven decades they have not created much independent private sector development Historically as lab spending rose the state s income rank fell States without labs did better If New Mexico retains its current political values it will continue to lose competitive ground In time our increasingly third world status would become irreversible We would keep our federal installations and workers but the general exodus of youth and non military professionals we already see would continue The principal economic development barrier in New Mexico is our habitual acceptance of violence This violence includes the expansive militarism of the post 9 11 wars aimed at seizing a hydrocarbon empire It includes the suicide vest for humanity maintained and fetishized at our labs It includes the structural and at times overt violence inflicted upon the poor which has led to a 28 year difference in life expectancy between neighborhoods in Albuquerque By some measures New Mexico is the most unequal state in a very unequal nation Neglect is a form of violence Yet as a state we neglect and endanger our children stifling their potential and making our state nearly the worst to raise a child Likewise we are failing to protect habitats animal populations and endangered species Above all the violence of our way of life is destroying the delicate balance of gases in our atmosphere which regulates weather and climate and through them all life on earth The recipe for economic development in New Mexico is simple reverse these forms of violence We should listen again closely to Martin Luther King who told us the day before he

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/ABQJRNL_Mello_20Aug2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Reader View: Udall Promotes Labs at New Mexico's Expense, SFNM, Mello, 16 Aug 2014
    real economic development only when they create many other self sustaining jobs in New Mexico That hasn t happened Instead we have what rural development activist Carol Miller accurately calls a World War II economy Our state is stuck there Udall is telling us he is stuck there too doing the labs business The economic and social results have been appalling As lab spending rose over three decades the state s relative income rank fell dramatically Over seven decades there has been no major tech transfer from the labs here especially from Los Alamos National Laboratory Our economic potential is now limited by our human development policy failures exemplified by Udall s choice to promote nuclear weapons at the expense of human and environmental needs Unless we change those priorities why would any non exploitative business locate here The labs and bases consume billions of tax dollars but don t produce any goods or services Supposedly they produce national security Into that ever deepening pit the U S pours almost as much treasure as the rest of the world combined How can such a staggering misallocation of capital not be our doom Militarism is an economic cancer not development Our labs produce confidence in the nuclear deterrent quite an easy job It s like confidence in the tooth fairy but evil They could do it better for less than half the price if jacking up the price weren t the main point For Udall it is What with fallout reactor meltdowns and nuclear winter nuclear deterrence amounts to a suicide vest for humanity That s OK with the crowd Udall is hanging with because it s profitable to them personally Udall s nuclear weapons priorities will cost a trillion dollars over three decades but will create no permanent new jobs

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_Mello_16Aug2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Letter to Congress, LASG, 30 May 2014
    a few words are in order I do not think any reform whatsoever will be effective unless and until the budgets of the physics labs in particular are substantially decreased I believe they should be decreased by about half if we assume the present stockpile That may or may not mean closing Livermore which has physical and intellectual assets important to the country but also a large overhead cost The physics labs are sized for the Cold War which is the origin of many of their problems today Congress seems to be really struggling to keep them huge My advice don t The demographic problem the recruitment and retention problem all are made so much simpler if the assumption of laboratory giantism is relaxed I am not saying cut by half as some kind of bargaining position or random remark Like others we know most of whom can t be named here half is my educated guess as to the number of staff actually needed If those staff were federal or if they were paid less the budget cut would be greater than one half Lab scientists should not be paid more than cabinet secretaries and thousands of them are The labs will never be manageable under this condition In addition to cutting back on less useful work it will be impossible to get honest laboratories whose management and staff are motivated by national service and a love of science without a paying people less and b protecting their jobs The way we do that in this country is called civil service and it works very well at government laboratories The social contract with workers should be focused on national service reduction of global danger science job security and intellectual freedom not on getting rich which is a big part of what we have right now That also means offering buyouts for early retirees and or subsidies to enter new nationally desirable careers for some who may be persuaded to leave and subsequently contribute in that way Regional career shifting subsidies of this nature would create more local economic benefit than does the present fully Soviet model I also don t think it will be possible to manage the nuclear weapons complex or its labs successfully without a commitment to gradual disarmament A mission of nuclear weapons forever quoting Earl Whiteman of the old Albuquerque office leads to an unmanageable weapons complex Any large enterprise to be stable and relatively problem free has got to at least have a mission that aligns with common morality and international law By unmanageable I mean there will be shutdowns large cost overruns scandals or worse That is exactly what we have I am saying that the nuclear weapons complex needs some kind of downward glide path or it will sooner or later crash and burn There are other elements of any successful reform that could be mentioned It s almost too obvious to say but the old timers and nuclear chickenhawks who want

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/LASG_ltr_Congress_30May2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • McMillian's remarks need clarification, LA Monitor, 22 Apr 2014
    commercially McMillan exaggerates the risk of any delays attendant on such shipments which could be and are done overnight The analyses in question are confirmatory and not on the critical path No one has disputed the need to retain AC capabilities at LANL The question is how much capacity should be built at LANL for a large scale production mission that may not materialize or whether existing facilities elsewhere can provide added capacity if necessary McMillan coyly says the subcommittee may likely hear that the pit production schedule has been delayed Here McMillan attempts to overturn decisions already made by the military the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration as well as the White House which postpone initiation of stockpile pit production until the second half of the 2020 s Most unusually McMillan takes issue with a Congressional Research Service CRS report on pit production infrastructure prepared over the course of a year with the close involvement of McMillan s own staff The report makes no recommendations but does lay out options that could save time money and reduce program risk options that do not require large construction projects There are other obvious options the report does not consider the author limited his analysis to the highest capacity case and assumed that capacity would need to be in place and ready to go rather than put in place over a relatively short time by reprioritizing missions and switching out equipment in existing facilities at LANL and elsewhere McMillan mischaracterizes one option in that report which would provide AC services by massive upgrades to the Radiological Utility and Office Building RLUOB to create a Hazard Category HC II facility In fact only a HC III facility is needed containing far less plutonium and it is not known if

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LAMonitor_22Apr2014.html (2016-02-16)
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