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  • Solving Nuclear Base Foul-ups and National Laboratory Mismanagement the Easy Way, FPIF blog, 19 Nov 2014
    abuse security violations training lapses and inspection failures Last year one senior officer at Minot summed it up by lamenting rot at the heart of the force LASG Executive Director Greg Mello is quoted thusly in the press release No amount of money or silly made up medals will ever lead to good morale in ICBM officers in particular who must sit in a deep hole in the ground awaiting orders to end the world The mental gymnastics of nuclear deterrence theory do not make human sense to those who must live day and night in an inhuman environment with world ending orders locked in a box in front of them They know they and their children will be first to die They know that in that final moment their sacrifice of years their struggle against doubts will have been meaningless and they know that they themselves will have been the agents of unspeakable war crimes Continuing in this eloquent vein Mello says of the DoD reviews sly image emphasized in italics These reports miss the forest for the trees They are crafted within an ideological system that is itself irrational and bizarre and examine management details AS IF they could possibly make sense The only thing missing is sanity a sane appreciation for the world as it is outside the walls of the national security echo chamber itself a capsule buried far from sunlight and air He then points out what should be perfectly obvious about improving the morale of the missileers but isn t I think any honest person with an ounce of common sense realizes that the only real path to higher morale in the nuclear weapons business lies in gradually shutting it down starting with the most stupid parts first The hope that the nuclear sword

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/FPIF_19Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Former nuclear waste inspector for LANL says corners were cut, KOB TV, 16 Nov 2014
    55 gallon drum of nuclear waste shipped from Los Alamos 300 miles away to the WIPP storage facility cracked open and exposed workers to radiation One drum from Los Alamos burst its lid and it got very hot said Los Alamos Study Group executive director Greg Mello The drum in question was basically kind of a time bomb Valentine s Day inside the WIPP nuclear waste storage facility a 55 gallon drum of waste shipped from LANL burst leaking radiation At least 20 workers were contaminated A switch from clay based kitty litter to a highly acidic organic kitty litter used to soak up excess liquid in the storage process created the volatile mixture Everything suggests that they should have known that said Mello Now a major question remains Why did they make those ridiculous chemistry errors Mello asks E mails and memos obtained by the New Mexican suggest it was known that mixture was a potential explosive one e mail written by James O Neill from the National Nuclear Security Administration told the Carlsbad Department of Energy Office putting the type of kitty litter created a patented explosive mixture The field officer wrote back How can the explosive mixture be in the drum content that could be sent to WIPP The Los Alamos Study Group reacted to the New Mexican s 6 month long investigation Sunday night We do know that one subcontractor wrote and asked a question Is this really safe said Mello Mello is a former nuclear waste inspector for LANL He now runs the study group a watchdog group that keeps tabs on the lab Corners were cut he said In the pursuit of a 2 2 billion contract renewal Mello says the e mails and memos suggest the privately run lab ignored warning signs and

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/KOB_16Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL officials downplayed waste’s dangers even after WIPP leak, SFNM, 16 Nov 2014
    water gel and slurry explosives according to a memo All of the required components included in the patent claims would be present Clemmons wrote in the May 21 memo Personnel at WIPP were oblivious to Clemmons discovery for nearly a week after he made it Only after a Department of Energy employee leaked a copy of the memo to a colleague in Carlsbad the night before a planned entry into the room that held the ruptured drum did WIPP get word that it could be dealing with explosive components inside Waste Drum 68660 Have you heard that we at the lab have confirmed that the material used in the drum DOES create an explosive mixture James O Neil of the Department of Energy s National Nuclear Security Administration wrote May 27 to Hung Cheng Chiou who works at the Department of Energy s Carlsbad Field Office In a follow up email O Neil clarified what he meant A letter from the LANL chemistry group here stated that putting the type of kitty litter of sorts mixed with the nitrate salts created a patented explosive mixture Wow that is the news to me Chiou wrote back How can the explosive mixture be in the drum content that could be sent to WIPP O Neil expressed his own surprise that such a dangerous load was allowed to be shipped to WIPP Not sure how that type drum which does not meet WIPP waste acceptance criteria even got shipped to you guys he wrote From there word of the memo reached managers at WIPP I am appalled that LANL didn t provide us this information Dana Bryson deputy manager of the Department of Energy s Carlsbad Field Office wrote in an email to WIPP based field office manager Jose Franco and others when she learned of the memo LANL officials in a written statement from a spokesman said scientific testing has eliminated the explosive nature of the waste as the cause of the radiation leak Numerous experiments trying to replicate the conditions in Waste Drum 68660 have failed to yield the same result officials said But Greg Mello executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group a watchdog organization that tracks activities at the lab said LANL should have recognized the potentially volatile mix it had concocted before shipping it to WIPP rather than three months after it burst It took only seconds with Google to find explosives patents when the foremost ingredients in Waste Drum 68660 were punched in he said On May 27 when they learned of the memo about patented explosives that the lab hadn t shared with them supervisors at WIPP abandoned plans for the next day to sample the area where the breach occurred fearing it was too dangerous In a phone call with LANL they indicated that there is a possibility that any sampling of the kitty litter drum contents could cause another event David Freeman Nuclear Waste Partnership s chief nuclear engineer wrote in an email Bryson demanded answers from Peter Maggiore the National Nuclear Security Administration s assistant manager for environmental programs at LANL We have a formal letter on LANL letterhead implying there is a real and present danger in the WIPP underground Bryson wrote This is contrary to everything I have heard from LANL on this issue The email you sent from LANL implied there might be more of these hidden yet formal warnings Chiou too was livid when he learned that the Los Alamos based employee who first alerted WIPP personnel to the threat was reprimanded by the Department of Energy s Los Alamos Site Office for sharing that information This is direct contradiction of DOE NNSA policy and what we believed in Chiou wrote to Franco Bryson and others It is most important that we have the information regardless official or unofficial so that we as the Carlsbad Field Office of the Energy Department can make better informed decisions as best we could However it may not work that way as it seems I hope that we can do better in getting relevant information from LANL so we can make a better decision for the WIPP project After a conference call with LANL officials WIPP decision makers on May 30 sent workers in protective suits into the room to collect samples But a June 17 report by LANL personnel based at WIPP found the intense underground flare may have destabilized up to 55 more drums of waste that were in close proximity to Waste Drum 68660 when it ruptured calling into question whether they too had become poised to burst The high heat event may have dried out some of the unreacted oxidizer organic mixtures increasing their potential for spontaneous reaction the report said The dehydration of the fuel oxidizer mixtures caused by the heating of the drums is recognized as a condition known to increase the potential for reaction Keeping secrets Frustrations over LANL s reluctance to share what it knew about Waste Drum 68660 had been percolating at WIPP long before the discovery of the memo that suggested the drum contained all the ingredients of a patented plastic explosive A May 5 email between WIPP employee James Willison and federal contractor Fran Williams suggested LANL was reluctant to acknowledge the most basic details about what Waste Drum 68660 held LANL used a wheat based kitty litter rather than clay based kitty litter as a stabilizer Willison wrote They fessed up after we nailed down the general area At least now we know Wow Williams responded How bad is that On paper the volatile combination of contents inside the drum that burst were not evident to experts who reviewed them because they were not included in the list of ingredients Los Alamos is required to generate for regulatory purposes and to assure the waste is stable enough to be accepted at WIPP In the case of Waste Drum 68660 that report known as acceptable knowledge was woefully incomplete and portrayed

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_16Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Report blasts LANL’s project oversight system, SFNM, 14 Nov 2014
    saying a review of the lab s system this summer yielded 92 corrective actions and found it out of compliance with 31 of 32 accepted guidelines for systems of its kind Over the course of three reviews in the five years that the tracking system has been in place Energy Department reviewers found repeated deficiencies and an increasing trend in repeat findings Among the failures identified the report were planning scheduling budgeting and accounting The report said the lab had trouble managing projects and encountered massive cost increases that delayed one construction project and caused major cost and schedule overruns on another Data is not reliable accurate timely auditable traceable or reconcilable and therefore any performance Measurement baseline would be invalid such that neither the current project status nor the forecast completion cost and schedule are determinable Paul Bosco Energy Department Acquisition and Project Management chief wrote in an Oct 30 memo to lab and NNSA officials according to the Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor As a result the Government cannot have confidence in any project s reported financial position and the Government s ability to manage and take corrective actions has been hampered One review of the system found

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_14Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • NNSA Set to Decertify Los Alamos Earned Value Mgmt. System, NSDM, 14 Nov 2014
    in planning scheduling budgeting and accounting The lab struggled with project management with massive cost increases forcing the deferment of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility and causing major cost and schedule overruns on the Nuclear Materials Security and Safeguards Upgrade Project The Review Team determined that the LANS EVMS data is not reliable accurate timely auditable traceable or reconcilable and therefore any performance Measurement Baseline would be invalid such that neither the current project status nor the forecast completion cost and schedule are determinable DOE APM chief Paul Bosco said in an Oct 30 memo to NNSA Associate Administrator for Acquisition and Project Management Bob Raines and Los Alamos Field Office Contracting Officer Robert Poole As a result the Government cannot have confidence in any project s reported financial position and the Government s ability to manage and take corrective actions has been hampered In a review of the EVMS system DOE APM said that the system appeared to be structured as a contractually mandated system rather than as an effective management tool Contributing to the systemic issues in properly implementing a solid EVM System was an apparently lack of rigor in the review of the Earned Value Management System from a compliant viewpoint to include the analysis and value of the data produced DOE APM said adding There was a general lack of knowledge in regard to even the most basic of Earned Value concepts Recertification Plan Due by Dec 10 Chesnutt said the lab s plan for recertification is due by Dec 10 It is paramount that your EVMS achieves recertification at the earliest possible date to ensure that accurate reporting of cost and schedule performance on the mission critical capital asset projects both planned and currently underway at the Los Alamos National Laboratory is

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NSDM_14Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • LANL chief’s compensation tops $1.5M, ABQ JRNL, 13 Nov 2014
    corporation and other partners Although LANS is a private enterprise its compensation figures for top lab officials have been made public in the past few years as part of disclosure forms required for recipients of federal stimulus money distributed in the wake of the 2008 economic crash What appear to be two of the most recent disclosure forms 2013 reports on funds awarded in 2009 and 2010 show McMillan s annual compensation at 1 538 256 The second highest amount was 567 949 for the chief financial officer at the time covered by one of the disclosure forms McMILLAN Los Alamos National Lab director LANL provided this brief statement about McMillan s compensation The amount reported reflects total compensation that includes salary and the change in current value of pension benefits Not all of the compensation comes directly from taxpayer money a significant portion comes from the private corporation that manages the Laboratory Note that the change in pension value is not a salary wage but a change in the current value of future pension benefits The last time the Journal reported on McMillan s compensation also from the stimulus award forms was in 2012 when the amount was about 1 1 million No similar information was available for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque A spokesman said pay for officials at Sandia also run by a private contractor was proprietary In 2012 Sandia provided a statement to the Journal that president Paul Hommert s total compensation was 1 3 million That was down from what stimulus disclosure forms showed was 1 7 million for former Sandia president Tom Hunter whom Hommert replaced in 2010 Los Alamos lab watchdog Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group in an email calling attention to McMillan s compensation referred to the performance based

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/ABQJRNL_13Nov2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Los Alamos lab’s safety lapses faulted for radioactive leak, chemistryworld, 7 Oct 2014
    contaminating the facility and exposing personnel to radiation according to a report from the DOE s Office of Inspector General OIG Operations were immediately suspended at the facility and the event reportedly led to the reassignment of four LANL employees The drum in question was processed at LANL and is known to have contained nitrate salts and organic material which the DOE has said are likely to have been contributing factors in the release The repository s closure is expected to last two years and the financial implications are estimated from the tens of millions of dollars to more than half a billion dollars The closure will slow remediation at numerous DOE sites by delaying permanent waste disposal the OIG said The report raised the concern that not all of LANL s waste management procedures were properly vetted through the established procedure revision process and they didn t all conform to established environmental requirements For example the office said contractor officials failed to ensure that changes to waste treatment procedures were properly documented reviewed and approved and that they incorporated all environmental requirements for transuranic waste processing These weaknesses led to an environment that permitted the introduction of potentially incompatible

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/chemistryworld_7Oct2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Report IDs 'weaknesses' at nuclear weapons lab, AP, 1 Oct 2014
    environmental requirements according to the findings The report reinforces the findings of internal reviews done by the lab and the Energy Department following a Feb 14 release of radiation from a barrel of waste that came from Los Alamos The release contaminated 22 workers and forced the indefinite closure of the nuclear waste repository Our review identified several major deficiencies in LANL s procedures for the development and approval of waste packaging and remediation techniques that may have contributed to the radiological event the inspector general said The inspector general has outlined several recommendations to correct the lab s failures saying changes need to be made before the cleanup of radiological waste continues The lab said Wednesday it is addressing the recommendations as part of its efforts to learn from these events and improve our operational practices Four lab workers have already been reassigned as a result of the incident and the DOE has pulled nuclear waste cleanup operations from the contractor that runs the lab Watchdog Greg Mello said he was pleased that the latest report identified the lab s role in causing the contamination and shutdown of the waste repository Mello described the violations of well established procedures by the lab as shocking and said lab officials need to be held accountable for violating their operating permit and causing the leak at the waste repository Cleaning up the waste repository and resuming full operations could take as long as three years The cost has been estimated at more than 500 million including the installation of a ventilation system and exhaust shaft While it s unclear what caused the barrel to breach investigators suspect a chemical reaction in highly acidic waste that was packed with a lead glove and organic cat litter to absorb moisture A final report on

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SF_Gate-AP_1Oct2014.html (2016-02-16)
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