Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Letter to Secretary Bodman

Dear Secretary Bodman:

Director Nanos is responsible for unprecedented damage to Los Alamos
National Laboratory by his unilateral shutdown last summer. The reasons
he cited for it have all gone up in smoke: When he called us
"arrogant," "buttheads," and "cowboys," he accused LANL, where he had
but two years experience, of having a "culture" of disregard for
security and safety. Yet the "missing" classified removable electronic
media (so-called CREM) is now declared nonexistent by the FBI (it was
reported to Nanos and NNSA Administrator Brooks to be so within days of
the shutdown, and Senator Domenici admitted it just a month later). The
safety statistics, which I presented in a peer-reviewed opinion piece
in the December 2004 issue of Physics Today, demonstrate that, since
1998, Los Alamos continued to lead Sandia and Livermore with lower
accident rates--at least until the shutdown, when (counter-intuitively)
the LANL rates climbed sharply, primarily due to minor accidents caused
by the stress of the shutdown itself.

Now it has been reported in the news, as we suspected all along, that
NNSA had data on security incidents at the three nuclear-weapons labs,
showing that--as in safety--LANL security practices are comparable to,
or better than SNL and LLNL. With all the original "reasons" having
come up groundless, Nanos now resorts to making vague references to the
incidence of "near misses" in safety as the REAL reason he shut down
the Lab ("before DOE did so," according to him), yet he has not
produced the "data," with comparisons to other national labs, to
support such a charge.

Workers at LANL are concerned about salaries, benefits, and their
University of California retirement, but these are secondary to the
science produced at LANL. During the shutdown, the delivery of
salaries, benefits, and one of the best retirement systems continued as
usual, apart from the handful of people who were disciplined for the
security and the safety incident. What caused the utter demoralization
of the LANL staff was the interruption for up to half a year of their
primary concern--their livelihoods--the science that is not only
central to their careers but a vital cornerstone of our national
security. Here, instead of a skillful, patient, and understanding
Director who knows the value of the science produced by LANL and who
can calm the worries of Congress, DOE/NNSA, and UC, we have a Director
that has attacked us from within--before the whole world--and with no
objective grounds for doing so! And who defended us? Surely not
Congress; surely not DOE or NNSA; and sadly, UC stood by and did
nothing.

I suggest that, as the new Secretary of Energy, and as one who has had
a career in science yourself, you must strive to once again put science
first at LANL, or else life here will be a hollow shell of what it once
was. There is only a narrow window of time for you, Secretary Bodman,
to address the damage to the scientific atmosphere at LANL, and the
damage to national security, that Nanos' shutdown has caused.

Since the Director of the Lab is solely responsible for the shutdown
(his words), then surely, he must take sole responsibility for his
misguided actions. If his pride prevents him from resigning gracefully,
then the Secretary of Energy must step forward and relieve him of
command.

-Brad Lee Holian
(LANL Technical Staff Member, Theoretical Division)

Comments:
Hi Brad, good job. I will be sending a letter as well. I think it right thing to do. I believe Bodman has an open mind and will seriously consider staff concerns.

Charles Reichhardt
T-13 Staff Member
and former Feynman Fellow
 
Bravo..., Brad...BRAVO!I could not have said it any better than your post... I think we all should write a nice, straight to the point letter to Bodman. Maybe enough letters will bring action?

Again Brad...Good job!
 
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