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  • Study Group to host forum tonight at Fuller Lodge, LA Monitor, 23 Sep 2014
    clear non duplicative missions and unique capabilities for current and future energy and national security challenges CRENEL will evaluate the size of the labs whether consolidation or realignment are appropriate whether universities or other technology centers would be better for some of their work as well as how to improve lab directed research and development LDRD The Los Alamos Study Group has been engaged with these and related issues for 25 years The Study Group began with public discussions on this topic at Fuller Lodge in October 1989 In addition to its own work the Study Group has consulted on laboratory missions and management through the years for organizations in Livermore and Santa Fe The Study Group regularly advises congressional committees executive branch officials and others in Washington on laboratory issues In addition to the general public the Study Group is inviting officials from the Los Alamos Site Office and LANL as well members of the New Mexico congressional delegation and the Governor s office to attend and take part in the moderated discussion There will be plenty of time for comments and discussion from the audience The questions before the CRENEL and Congress include these among others Should there be two nuclear weapons physics labs and if so at what scale and with what missions To what degree should LANL and LLNL undertake non nuclear weapons missions and if so what missions where and who will pay for them Should SNL California be combined with a residual LLNL Should LANL construct new plutonium chemistry and research facilities to replace those at LLNL Should NNSA labs undertake national competitiveness or industrial innovation missions If so where and how Should the NNSA lab contracts be re structured e g separated further and if so how Which facilities at LANL and LLNL

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LAMonitor_23Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Our View: Safety first? Not always, SFNM,13 Sep 2014
    all might not be well in the secret word of nuclear science and waste storage On the WIPP accident s heels comes the first report of its kind in 15 years Examining lessons learned in various disasters everything from oil spills to a Japanese nuclear meltdown the study seeks to determine whether the U S labs are prepared for disasters One interesting finding is that a focus on catastrophic disasters seems to have slowed efforts to handle the more common yet still dangerous scenarios The report s findings are clear Facilities need to step up safety training and emergency planning and the Energy Department must hold administrators feet to the fire to ensure proper planning takes place State Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn already unhappy about the Energy Department s stonewalling his agency on answers about the WIPP accident also should seek additional training at New Mexico facilities Should a disaster occur it is likely that state and local emergency responders will be working with federal workers to protect people and property so Flynn has every right to demand to see what the facilities are doing Local governments alo should weigh in and keep their residents informed This month for example is Santa Fe s Preparedness Month Citizens can go to www 30days30ways com and find ways to be prepared in case of fire or other disaster Sandia was dinged for scheduling evacuation drills rather than real world exercises that take everyone though disaster or accident possibilities After being told of the deficiencies Sandia officials said they had corrected the mistakes but didn t So add dissembling to the list of concerns everyone must have about safety We need to know that the many contractors who work with the labs also are prepared One weak link a careless employee a failure

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_13Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Federal study: U.S. nuke labs unprepared for catastrophe, SFNM, 13 Sep 2014
    said Blind spots at LANL created by myopic planning for only the worst disasters would not lead to the initiation of protective actions for accidents of a lesser degree the assessment found The report identified similar deficiencies at Sandia Throughout the national nuclear weapons complex emergency action plans were too generic to be effective according to the report Last year the safety board reviewed hazards and threats considered during emergency planning at Sandia National Laboratories and found them to be incomplete a shortcoming shared at WIPP that the radiation leak there exposed according to the report Emergency readiness drills at Sandia also earned low marks in the assessment The drills involving facility personnel are only evacuation drills and are essentially the equivalent of fire drills the report said Assessors further criticized Sandia for not conducting simulated emergency exercises at all of the on site facilities At Sandia National Laboratories the staff team was particularly concerned that emergency management personnel are not scheduling drills and exercises that address the different types of hazards and accident scenarios possible at its nuclear facility the report said The drills and exercises should train and test the various elements of their capability for responding to radiological hazards and scenarios During a review of safety at Sandia last year a federal assessment team revisited findings from a 2009 safety report that identified poor execution of emergency plans by response personnel Assessors blamed poorly drafted emergency response procedures for the weaknesses The staff found them to be of poor quality and difficult to implement according to the report Sandia responded to the finding by reporting that it had corrected the deficiencies but the federal assessors found that claim to be untrue The staff team found that the original problems still existed according to the report Sandia National Laboratories did not address the implications of the systemic program weaknesses identified Oversight of contractors emergency readiness also proved to be weak at Sandia and WIPP according to the report Based on its review of numerous contractor assessment reports the staff team observed that many of the assessments were not effective at identifying problems and weaknesses with their programs the report said After reviewing a draft copy of the report last month Moniz vowed to fix the most disturbing deficiencies within a year DOE agrees that actions are needed to improve emergency preparedness and response capabilities at its defense nuclear facilities Moniz wrote in a letter to the safety board A Los Alamos spokesman declined to comment about the report s findings deferring to Moniz s letter The report comes as federal officials are actively seeking to step up production of components to replace aging bomb parts in the nation s nuclear weapons stockpile Los Alamos stands to significantly boost production of plutonium pits the small nuclear bombs that detonate full scale weapons Congressional budget documents outline a plan to produce up to 80 triggers annually at Los Alamos within 15 years In the quarter century since the Cold War

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_13Sep2014a.html (2016-02-16)
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  • UDALL: Takes position to make impact for NM, ABQ JRNL, 7 Sep 2014
    dramatically since the onset of the 2008 recession the senator contends his appropriations perch has helped him stave off potentially deep budget cuts to New Mexico s military installations and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories which employ thousands of New Mexicans The labs and bases are tremendously important to New Mexico Udall said Members of Congress have tried to cut programs at the labs or even shut them down We ve stepped in and stabilized the situation Both labs budgets are indeed relatively stable compared with other federal programs which have suffered cuts as a result of the 2013 budget sequestration and overall fiscal belt tightening in Washington Despite the restricted budget climate Udall persuaded his colleagues to provide full funding for a project to extend the life of the B61 bomb at Los Alamos and Sandia in the 2015 budget proposal However since Udall was elected to the Senate in 2008 LANL has lost about 1 000 jobs which the senator attributed to the lab s evolving mission Part of that is the mission being a little bit re evaluated there he said Meanwhile Udall is on the campaign trail and on television in New Mexico touting his ability to bring home the bacon for the labs But not all New Mexicans are convinced that pumping billions of dollars into nuclear weapons programs and military installations is the best use of federal resources Greg Mello executive director of the independent nonprofit Los Alamos Study Group argues that the state sees little private sector job spinoff from the billions the federal government invests in the labs He said the state would be better off if Udall used his power to bolster education and clean energy initiatives The more time he spends on the labs the less time he has to become an effective leader for the state said Mello who was careful to stress that he wasn t advocating for or against Udall s re election because of his group s nonprofit status Udall pointed to his position on the Veterans Affairs Committee and particularly its military construction subcommittee as a boon for New Mexico We are doing a significant amount and have been doing for years and years of military construction on almost all of our bases the senator said Almost every year there is a major multimillion dollar project at our bases Udall said that construction could be invaluable if Congress contemplates another Base Realignment and Closure Commission in the coming year Political roots Udall s rise to political power is well documented The senator hails from one of America s famous political families His late father Stewart Udall was a congressman and U S interior secretary under Presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson His uncle Morris K Mo Udall served in the U S House and his cousin Mark Udall is a fellow Democratic U S senator Tom Udall speaks in 2003 at the University of New Mexico Udall represented northern New Mexico s

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/ABQJRNL_7Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Flynn accuses feds of blocking WIPP probe, SFNM, 6 Sep 2014
    WIPP has ceased receiving waste indefinitely since the release Increasingly in recent weeks the federal Energy Department has thwarted attempts by the state Environment Department to gather information for its investigation according to Flynn Six weeks ago at a legislative hearing in Los Alamos Flynn lauded LANL s cooperation with the state investigation into the radiation leak including the lab s confession to treating the suspected drum without a permit a process that left behind a lead laden glove that s being eyed as a contributing factor in the leak On Friday Flynn accused the Energy Department of muzzling scientists with crucial information about the waste stream He said at times during the state s investigation into the leak LANL personnel have provided outstanding communication about the possible cause of the radiation release But when the Environment Department has asked for documentation supporting the scientists observations the Energy Department has repeatedly refused to provide it During those positive meetings information will be referenced and there s a willingness by LANL personnel to provide information that s referenced during those meetings or presentations Flynn said After those meetings information gets communicated up the chain of command and someone back at Energy headquarters decides that no they re not going to provide that information to the state Flynn said his frustration with the Energy Department grew as its denials of his department s requests for information became more frequent When it happens once it s not really a big deal When you start noticing a pattern and it happens repeatedly that s when you start to get really concerned he said You d have to ask Department of Energy headquarters why they don t provide certain information and why they don t make staff available It would be interesting to know how many people need to sign off before someone at Los Alamos National Laboratory can return a phone call to me or one of my staffers A Los Alamos spokesman referred questions to Energy Department officials on Friday In a written statement responding to Flynn s criticisms a department spokesperson said The department is fully committed to reopening WIPP and will continue to work with the state of New Mexico to do so safely and as expeditiously as possible Greg Mello executive director of the watchdog organization Los Alamos Study Group echoed Flynn s angst that the Energy Department hasn t openly shared details with regulators about the radiation leak and the waste suspected of causing it Anything else is a sign of a poor safety culture and could be a danger signal for workers and the public Mello said Mislabeling drums and withholding information can be criminal That s one way serious accidents can happen Already regulatory penalties from the state are likely for both Los Alamos and WIPP according to Flynn Potential penalties range from fines to suspension of operations at the sites At Los Alamos treating waste without a permit and labeling waste as less volatile than it

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_6Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • NMED Comes Down on Los Alamos in WIPP Response, WCM, 5 Sep 2014
    statement The Department is fully committed to reopening WIPP and will continue to work with the State of New Mexico to do so safely and as expeditiously as possible Compliance Actions Could Come Within 60 Days The final assessment of penalties will occur as the state completes its own nvestigation into the Feb 14 radiation release at WIPP which stemmed from a breached drum packaged at LANL We are not necessarily waiting on DOE s Accident Investigation Board We are actively working on our investigation right now I anticipate there will be some compliance actions that will be initiated in the next 60 days regardless of where the AIB comes down and we already have compliance orders that are being drafted as we speak Flynn said Rather than launch one large compliance order there will be a series of compliance actions from NMED as portions of its own investigation are completed LANL Communications Issues Could Increase Fines Communications issues with LANL will be taken into account if NMED levies fines At LANL there has been really poor communication with the regulator It is damaging DOE s credibility It s not only damaging DOE s credibility but it s increasing their potential liability Flynn said in remarks at the RadWaste Summit The harder we have to fight to get that information the more resources we have to pour into it to figure out precisely what occurred the less forthcoming you are then the less generous we re going to be when it comes to assessing fines and exercising our discretion on how to move forward and what an appropriate sanction is for violations At the same time there have been great improvements in NMED s relationship with the WIPP site after poor communication in the initial days and weeks after the accident Flynn said They stumbled out of the gate on communicating both to the public and the regulator After their early missteps WIPP has recovered very nicely They have done an outstanding job briefing the public with a series of town hall meetings That s been one of the strengths at the WIPP site in getting this turned around he said He added The communication with the regulator has been outstanding and the manner with which they have been communicating at WIPP with the regulator has been outstanding They haven t been holding back information At LANL We Hear Crickets But there are numerous examples of LANL being unresponsive when NMED has requested information Flynn said That includes requests for the results of independent tests regarding the root cause of the radiation release It would help us and we believe it would help the investigation but we hear crickets when we ask for it That s unacceptable Flynn said Additionally while LANL has held regular briefings with NMED it has failed to provide reports cited in the briefings to support conclusions You are eroding the credibility with the regulator when you do that If you re not going to give

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/WCM_5Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • New Mexico Rolls Out Its Conditions for WIPP Restart, WCM, 5 Sep 2014
    for Waste Management in DOE s Office of Environmental Management said at this week s meeting Before we can fully define the recovery plan and any program changes we must first understand what happened at the WIPP facility he said adding later The technical assessment team and the Los Alamos groups are all working from the scientific point and that will feed into the Accident Investigation Board I m not sure what they are going to find but we are going to wait for those findings in order to assess I don t know that we are going to get a 100 percent certainty that we know what the cause but based on their best technical judgment they are going to give us an idea of what happened so we can make sure we ve got procedures and processes in place to ensure that there is no duplication of what had happened that led to this event EM Should Take Over Legacy Waste at LANL Flynn Says In addition to identification of the cause of the radiological release at WIPP NMED believes DOE s Office of Environmental Management should take over management of all legacy waste cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory which is currently managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration Flynn said numerous issues encountered at LANL would be resolved by such a move see related story NNSA should not be in the business of cleaning up the legacy waste at the sites he said in remarks at the Summit The money is already coming from the EM program so EM sends NNSA the money but they don t get to determine how to spend the money for the cleanup I believe very strongly that EM needs to be given control of legacy waste cleanup because it s part of their core mission and because they are already funding the cleanup Such a move has been suggested before DOE s Marcinowski said I can say that all aspects of this are being discussed as to how we move forward within headquarters and at the site what is the best way to move forward he said All aspects are being discussed at this point I can t say that there s been any decisions on anything in that regard We re evaluating every approach on how best to move forward Manager With Stronger Authority Needed at DOE s Carlsbad Office NMED Says Another step DOE should take is appointing a manager at the Department s Carlsbad Field Office which oversees WIPP with stronger authority Flynn said Headquarters cannot manage this recovery from Washington D C When you have an emergency situation you need boots on the ground he said adding This entire situation will be expedited and will be improved by having someone assigned to the Carlsbad Field Office who has a direct line to headquarters who is empowered with decisionmaking authority to make the decisions and provide the approvals that are necessary in order to move the recovery

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/WCM_5Sep2014a.html (2016-02-16)
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  • DOE signals broader safety concerns on Los Alamos, WIPP waste drums, IHS Energy Daily, 28 Aug 2014
    life and earth sciences said the lab was looking at the possibility of a chemical reaction potentially involving kitty litter which is used to absorb liquids in waste drums along with neutralizers acids nitrate salts and tungsten lined lead gloves inside the drum The presentation suggests that the breached drum contained a mixture of materials that others processed at Los Alamos did not referring to the unique chemistry of the drum Following the WIPP event DOE officials reclassified the breached drum as potentially containing ignitable materials but did not extend that reclassification to other nitrate salt bearing drums from Los Alamos until the formal notification of NMED last month In a statement to IHS The Energy Daily Wednesday Los Alamos said it decided to reclassify some nitrate salt bearing waste drums as potentially containing ignitable materials to provide an additional measure of safety for certain waste streams that already were being safely stored at the lab and WIPP Lab officials made clear that the reclassification was not necessarily permanent and might be changed in the future depending on continuing investigations into the breached drum by Los Alamos and DOE s Carlsbad field office which oversees WIPP In an effort to conservatively manage specific waste streams of concern the Carlsbad Field Office CBFO and Los Alamos National Laboratory LANL have determined that certain nitrate salt bearing waste containers indicate characteristics of potential ignitability Los Alamos said in the statement As required by federal regulations CBFO and LANL have applied the U S Environmental Protection Agency Hazardous Waste Ignitability Code to this waste stream and notified the state regulators The application of the waste code does not affect the permanent underground disposal of the waste at WIPP Los Alamos added The reclassified drums at Los Alamos are stored safely and securely in robust structures with high efficiency particulate air filtering and fire detection and suppression systems The drums are visually inspected and monitored for temperature daily NMED officials did not respond Wednesday to repeated requests for comment on the reclassification of the waste drums or what that might mean for their view of the WIPP drum event However in an August 7 letter to Los Alamos New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn asked Los Alamos officials to provide the analyses and data supporting the provisional reclassification of drums as potentially containing ignitable or corrosive wastes Los Alamos told NMED in a July 30 letter that it was provisionally applying EPA Hazardous Waste Number D001 for the characteristic of ignitability to 89 nitrate salt bearing waste drums stored at the lab The permittees are re evaluating the waste characterization information concerning these nitrate salt waste streams Los Alamos said in the letter Pending completion of this re evaluation permittees are conservatively adding the D001 waste number Because this evaluation is ongoing the application of D001 is considered provisional and may change to include and or remove containers waste streams in the future But Flynn appeared to question Los Alamos action ordering the lab

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/IHS_Energy_Daily_28Aug2014.html (2016-02-16)
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