Monday, February 14, 2005

Here's the latest update from Doug Beason

From Anonymous:

Here's the latest update from Doug Beason - it really looks like he's trying to help with morale issues. The cynic in me says I wish him well, but he won't last. The optimist in me says he's being groomed to replace G. Peter Nanos if UC wins the recompete. I don't know the man, so it would be nice if people who have worked with/for him came forward with their observations. Does he walk the talk?

Colleagues -
I was in Oakland, California most of this past week at the UC President's office, and made a quick stop at our sister lab, Lawrence Livermore. I learned that DOE's final "Request For Proposal" (RFP) to re-compete running Los Alamos is expected to be released anytime after 15 Feb. For those of you interested in the gory details of the RFP, you may find updates at DOE's web-site:

I returned to Los Alamos on Friday, and because of the flurry of activity, I decided to cancel the first part of my visit to Washington DC - so I'll be around Monday and Tuesday, before I head out.
One of the hot items last week was the claim in the CBS news piece that TA-18 has the potential to be "the next Chernobyl" because of inadequate containment of a reactor there. I asked Nancy Ambrosiano, our fearless PA person to give me some talking points on the news item, and instead of me butchering her words, here's what Nancy prepared for me in case I speak to someone outside the lab:
"Our devices, called Critical Assembly Machines, are reactor-like -- they use special nuclear material, and we follow many reactor-safety guidelines in our operations. But they run at power levels that are many orders below a normal reactor, and they do not produce the levels of fission products reactors do. Plus, they don't require cooling, and unlike a reactor they are reconfigurable for research purposes. They are turned on and off for very brief, remote-controlled experiments that provide valuable data for reactor safety experiments -- they're especially valuable because they are able to do some reactor-like things. So in a way, the confusion is understandable, but the overstatements on the part of CBS, et al, go to far. Comparing the machines at TA-18 to a commercial nuclear power reactor is like comparing a lawnmower to a bulldozer."
Well, put, Nancy. I'm going to TA-18 this coming week to talk about some recent activity surrounding the "Early Move" and take questions about how we can best ensure the future of programmatic activity - i.e. life after the move.
In other news around TR, I toured the D-Division office building (DDOB) and got a chance to get outside and walk around the top of the building. The new air system seems to have fixed the overpressure problem in the DDOB, but I'd like to be appraised of any breakdown; it's a safety hazard when the outside doors are blown open from the inner air pressure, and I want to fix any problems as soon as possible.
I understand the CXD move in ISR will finally take place "real soon now," but again, I'd like to learn of any bottlenecks. The workers in ISR have shown incredible patience with the move process, and since a lot of other sensor work depends on CXD moving to the NISC, I'd like to help.
And to our colleagues in B-division who were kind enough to provide me with some e-mail and advice on the note I sent around answering some rumors, I appreciate your feedback. (Really!) A good percentage of B-division responded, and I am trying to reply to each comment, so please be patient if you haven't yet heard back from me.
I learned from the D Division Leader screening committee that they have completed their interviews. I want to interview the top few candidates, and then discuss the results with Pete, so the process is pushing forward.
Because the B Division Leader process was further along, Don Cobb retained the right to remain the selection authority - I do not know where Don is in the process, but I will ask him.
The ISR Division Leader screening committee has met and they are "casting their net widely" - internally and externally - to find the best candidates. I encourage you to review the ISR Division Leader job ad, and if you're interested, please apply. Don't disqualify yourself just because you don't think you've met all the criteria - remember, the ad is aimed at getting the best candidate. (As an analogy, writers sometime disqualify themselves from submitting their work because they think their writing isn't good enough. In the writing field, that's called "having an editor on your shoulder." What I tell new writers is let the editor disqualify you - don't do it yourself.)
Finally, being on travel gave me time on the plane and in the hotel room to catch up on some reading, and this week's book was a big one (and disturbing, if you have a daughter in college like myself):
Book of the week: "I Am Charolette Simmons," by Tom Wolfe [one of the best writers of today] -- but, wow, this is certainly not "your father's college!"
Album of the week: "Stormfront," by Billy Joel [check out "I Go to Extremes"]
Quote of the week: "A mandate without funding is an hallucination," Commander, Marine Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate

Best regards - Doug

The comments from the PA flack are so convoluted and off topic its hard to believe she knew what she was talking about. The real problem here is the possibility of an improvised nuclear device -- which is probably what CBS was talking about. Physical security testers have repeatedly been able to steal or get control of special nuclear materials at TA-18 in recent years. See
I dont know him well at all but I can tell you he is the only person I have ever seen stand up to the tyrant Don Cobb in a meeting of managers. I like him so far.
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