Thursday, February 10, 2005

LANL Auditor Claims Retaliation

Albuquerque Journal North
Thursday, February 10, 2005

LANL Auditor Claims Retaliation

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer
A nuclear facility quality assurance auditor contracted by Los Alamos National Laboratory filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month alleging that he was demoted in retaliation for his reviews critical of lab safety and security.
Donald W. Brown, 59, asserts in his complaint filed Jan. 14 that despite repeated written and verbal notices "regarding dangerous failures in safety and security practices" at LANL, his concerns were never adequately addressed. Following his reviews, Brown's "duties were severely restricted" to jobs well below his ability, according to the complaint.
Brown­ who appeared this week on the "CBS Evening News" to report his findings on safety problems at several of LANL's highest-risk facilities­ is seeking to have his job reinstated and compensation for "emotional distress and the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering."
Hired by LANL as a contractor with Butler Services in May 2003, Brown is also seeking through the complaint to require LANL to institute proper quality-assurance programs across the laboratory.
"From day one, I started seeing this was a serious problem," Brown said by telephone on Wednesday. "In my career, I have never seen anything that would even compare."
In his complaint, Brown said he found no quality-assurance programs to ensure the reliability of the nuclear components in the W88 and W76 nuclear warheads and that several of LANL's nuclear facilities threaten worker and public safety.
National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Bryan Wilkes challenged Brown's assertions.
"What makes him a weapons design expert?" Wilkes asked, adding that NNSA has found no reliability issues with any of its weapons designs. "We are absolutely confident," he said.
Wilkes also stressed that during LANL's recent shutdown, initiated in July following a series of safety and security concerns, laboratory and NNSA managers reviewed many of the lab's systems in restarting work.
"We are confident his claims are on old concerns," Wilkes said. "He may have had a case a year and a half ago, but this shutdown really did a lot to clean up and get things in order and take care of necessary safety and security issues."
LANL spokesman Jim Fallin said the laboratory is addressing Brown's situation through two independent reviews. One will evaluate the merits of Brown's reviews of LANL's quality-assurance programs, while the other will determine whether LANL managers retaliated against Brown for his audits.
"This institution has learned from past mistakes, and it is vitally important to us that people understand that we are committed to protecting our employees to ensure that they feel they can speak up when they have concerns," Fallin said.
"There is no room for unfair treatment here," he said. "Reprisals will absolutely not be tolerated."
On Oct. 22, 2004, Brown wrote and widely distributed a 22-page analysis of the failings of LANL's quality-assurance program, often suggesting the problems were common across the DOE complex.
He said writing that review and several highly critical audits angered LANL managers and forced him to file for whistle-blower protection.
"I had hoped I wouldn't have had to report it at the laboratory, but when I started looking at the audits and where the problems were with the quality-assurance program, and I looked at the consequences of failure ... after many sleepless nights I decided I needed to report these problems up the chain," he said.


Comments:
The Journal reports:
Brown found "no quality-assurance programs to ensure the reliability of the nuclear components in the W88 and W76 nuclear warheads...."
And National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Bryan Wilkes says "he may have had a case a year and a half ago, but this shutdown really did a lot to clean up and get things in order and take care of necessary safety and security issues."

It seems to me that the W88 and W76 were produced much more that "a year and a half ago." The weapons now in the stockpile conform to the processes of an earlier time. If those processes were less than adequate then the weapons are suspect. Unless, of course, the existing stockpile has been re-examined and re-certified during the past six months.
 
Look at GAP:

http://www.whistleblower.org/

for a copy of Brown's "white paper", pictures of defective welds, and defective concrete.

LANL is just learning the Product Realization Process (prp.lanl.gov so some of Brown's concerns are real, but the Lab has to take a graded approach to the implementation. Check with DX-1 for a good example of a group that is working hard to comply.

GAP made no mention of W76/W88.
 
The inconsistent attitude UC management has had over the years on QC is an ongoing joke, one of the many reasons we will have corporate partners.
 
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