Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A few facts about Friday's hydrotest

A few facts about Friday's hydrotest. First, without Pete's shutdown, the test would have fired, albeit slightly behind schedule, last September. Second, after the great purge, DX Division is running on fumes with a massive exodus of key personnel in recent months. That exodus continues today unabaited. Third, the inane processes that have been put in place by Nanos et al. actually increase the hazards to LANL workers. One example of this fiasco is the use of gigantic foam silos designed to "mitigate" beryllium and improve public perception of LANL waste streams. Despite a wealth of data that clearly indicates absolutely no beryllium hazard to the public from over 40 years of hydrotesting, Pete and the SET unilatterally decided (ignoring the views of experts involved) to build these silos on each and every shot where beryllium is involved. The net effect is that countless workers are potentially exposed to not only increased levels of beryllium residue, but must also build, and dispose of, these huge silos with heavy equipment in a process that takes months and adds millions to the costs of each hydrotest. On this particular hydrotest, all of the major safety accidents that did occur were a direct result of silo construction. One man nearly lost his fingers on silo construction, and another crashed a government vehicle into a gate "protecting" the unnecessary silo work. Good job Pete! Once again, you have every reason to be proud...or ashamed of the monsters you have created. Scott Watson (lead experimentalist on hydrotest 3625).

Scott: Do you know how overspent the hydro program is? I last heard it is overspent to the tune of $25 million. This will undoubtedly come from other programs.
What is this silo system you refer to? I recall, in my day,GMX firing hundreds of open air shots without a problem. Has something changed?
Honestly, how do you begin to estimate such costs? A fair fraction of DX, MST, P, and X-Division charge to the hydrotest program. If we fire 0, 1 or 100, the cost is essentially the same. I can tell you that the DARHT first axis alone costs ~$50,000 a day just to exist. It doesn't take a genius to figure the cost of the shutdown at DARHT at >$5M by itself.
I'm certain shot 3625 was by far the most expensive hydrotest in the history of the Western world. Once again, depending on one's perspective, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. At one point in history, Los Alamos fired shots at 10am, 2pm, and 4pm almost everyday. When I was growing up here you could set your watch by the explosive tests fired at 4:00pm daily. In the 80's we dropped back to something like one major shot a week. By the 90's, it was more like once a month or less. Now we fire a shot once a year and create a mess that takes months to clean up and trumpet our successes at about 6 managment levels. I guess it just depends on who is at the helm, and what is meant by success. Personally, I think we at Los Alamos are moving in the wrong direction in many many ways. I don't think I am the only one who wants to see things turn around or get off the rocket before it hits the ground.


I admire your post to the blog. It takes courage to leave your name on a post critical of LANL management. You sound like you know what you are talking about. That also distinguishes you from upper LANL management.
It is very interesting that Lab management did not comment on the shot set-up accidents. Does anyone remember the last time DX-Division suffered an accident, on the firing point, as serious as nearly severed fingers?
Maybe while the organizaion was called "DX" .... "finger" accidents have happened before ---I am a personal witness. That said-I echo, "accidents are part of being human". If we are part of a "discovery" exercise, we must accept some error--it is part of being a fallible human(s)-- If we are part of discovery, we should be willing to accept some risk to further the safety and security of our nation...Perhaps more language such as this should be put into our "signing-on" agreement.....?. But if not the letter, isn't this the spirit?

If we believive in the mission, perhaps we need to get on with it--even if we have been profoundly wronged?????
Maybe while the organizaion was called "DX" .... "finger" accidents have happened before ---I am a personal witness. That said-I echo, "accidents are part of being human". If we are part of a "discovery" exercise, we must accept some error--it is part of being a fallible human(s)-- If we are part of discovery, we should be willing to accept some risk to further the safety and security of our nation...Perhaps more language such as this should be put into our "signing-on" agreement.....?. But if not the letter, isn't this the spirit?

If we believive in the mission, perhaps we need to get on with it--even if we have been profoundly wronged?????
6:20p, The silo that Scott is referring to is essentially a silo-shaped containment system for a bunch of foam that is supposed to capture any beryllium. It is expensive, messy, and sometimes interferes with diagnostics. Apparently, it is also dangerous to the workers. So, like Scott, I'm also unclear about the real added value.

I heard that LASO got congratulated for a "job well done." Yeah, thanks for all those highly valuable signatures and approvals guys! Great work! Taxpayers really enjoyed paying you to do that! Whatever. What a bunch of crap. DX is still operating under a Level-0/3 exemption!!! Lab is "back to normal"... yeah, right. The propaganda generated by this place is truly incredible. I miss the days when the truth I knew, and what my bosses said, were sort of the same.

Ok, enough ranting...

Scott, you saved their bacon from problems of their own making. You owe them no more heroics. They owe you - and we all know. Happy hunting.

-One of your customers
Thank you for response. I am sad.
40 years down the drain but I suspect It might get better
Do you really believe that the beryllium found in the AD building is natural background? Wake up people-you've been dumping this stuff in the air for decades, and now it is becoming a health problem. Sounds like management got this one right. The problem is that they can never admit the real origins of the AD building problem.
That's what Lee McAtee said isn't it? LANL mamagers would not lie to us, would they?

They heve either got it right on this one, or they have it wrong. You can't have it both ways.
No actually management didn't get it right. You are correct in stating that the Be found in the Ad Building came from years of hydrotesting. The prevailing winds take the plumes from DARHT and PHERMEX (now decommisioned)directly over TA-3, the town site, and have been tracked all the way to the Taos valley. The test Friday had a large black plume that followed the same path. The foam does concentrate more Be at Darht but a substantial portion is still released to the environment.

When this first became an issue Pete and the SET were briefed on mitigation techniques and Pete was told that foam wouldn't do much. In Fact he was told that the technique would only be about 20% TO 50% efficient. Petes response was that it didn't matter if it worked as long as we were perceived to be doing something about the problem. He had no interest in the hazards as long as he looked good. So in the end we got a much more hazardous work environment at Darht, as Scott desribed, and the public still got a healthy dose of Be. It's the worst of both worlds which is what you would expect from Pete. Facts don't matter as long as he is "perceived to be doing something".
Pete should be pretty happy then, as he is certainly "perceived as doing something".

Doing something wrong, but most definitely doing something.
Beryllium is not anthropogenic. It has been here a long time. Like the lighter elements that float on the earth magma to form terra firma it exists in detectable levels everywhere comprising about 0.001 percent of the Earth's crust. In up thrust areas like ours, the concentrations may be even higher. As a result, believe it or not, you can find beryllium at the same low level concentrations up wind from DARHT, PHERMEX, and Ancho Canyon.
An overview of foam "containment" can be found at LA-UR-02-7408.
7:26 is spouting the party line. The information he supplied is true but he fails to mention that it is only the refined form of the element that causes CBD (Chronic Beryllium Disease) Naturally occuring beryllium is generally coupled with other elements and these compounds are not light enough to be respirable on their own. The refined material is light enough and once it reaches the alveoli it cannot be coughed up to expel it from the lungs. There are a number of people that work at or around DARHT that have contracted CBD and they will die from it. The disease has no cure. The symptoms are much like emphysema and it is debilitating before it is fatal. This is the information they don't want you to know.
If a hydotest can be delayed by 6 months for a non-existent problem, one must ask if the task really that important? DX and X-div need to look in the mirror and decide,what gives? I hope certification will once again become important and LANL staff will make this clear to managment. The arguments of the designer,I assume, hold at least some weight. Maybe not and destiny is simply failure.
The respirability of particulates is based on their diameters not their chemical compositions. The term respirable refers to particulates less than one micrometer that they penetrate the lungs to depths where they can no longer be purged by the mucociliary escalator. Persons with compromised mucociliary systems, e.g., persons who smoke or who work in dusty environments, have more difficulty even purging particulates in the middle respiratory tract (trachea and brochi). Once a particle enters the lower respiratory tract (alveoli), regardless of its chemical composition, it is removed through different processes, viz., through dissolution and absorption by the vascular system or transported by microphages to the terminal bronchi where, in healthy lungs, they are again available to the mucociliary escalator.

You are correct that beryllium in combined forms such as beryl or bertrandite are realitively insoluble. Even in respirable diameters, these natural materials require removal by mirophages vice absorption. On the other hand, beryllium in fly ash from coal-fired electrical generating plants or from combustion of fuel oil constitutes the largest contributor of beryllium in the environment. This class of beryllium bearing particulates and beryllium oxide from other anthropogenic processes can be absorbed.

Susceptibility to chronic beryllium disease (CBD) as determined by BeLPT (berylllium induced lymphocyte proliferation test) exists in about 1-5% of the population. For individuals with this allergic-response susceptibility, absorption of beryllium, even in small amounts, can lead to CBD which as you indicate can be a extremely dehabilating disease. Onset of this disease can be either rapid or very slow in developing with first symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, fevers and night sweats. As you know an exhaustive treatment of the subject can be found at http://www.eh.doe.gov/be/docs/berule.pdf

That said, I have seen no specific data on the morphology and composition of the "background" material found in the Administration Building. As such, I cannot comment further as to which specific categories of particulates were involved. My point was that, in the absence of this specific information, assertions that the mere presence of beryllium at background levels indicates a nexus to the testing at DHART or PHERMEX cannot be substantiated.
interesting response. you seem to be well schooled as to the health effect of beryllium. Is the health effect not nearly as severe as asserted in a previous post. Do these silio structures save the worker or worse maybe even hurt them?
Good point. If the material was so innocuous then why spend all of these millions of dollars and take on the operational risks of building the silos in the first place. LLNL spent $25 million to build an indoor firing facility so that they could stop contaminating Tracy California.
This thread illustrates how the current problems at the lab are due to long term mismanagement at the top. Drastic and irrational measures get adopted to "appear" to be responding to problems of long standing.

When the Tiger Teams came, they were appalled that people could walk right up to firings sites in their street shoes and walk where there were obvious signs of various contaminations on the ground. I decided then that long term plans would need to include much more stringent control of firing sites, probably including some kind of confinement. I was chided by upper management for even ordering people to begin wearing paper booties in firing areas! I was overacting, I was told.

I don't know what all has transpired since then, but it seems clear Nano's shot from the hip to look like he was fixing something.

All the problems with computer security seem to be traceable to long term problems like the infamous O'Leary declassification and the unwillingness to make upgrades to networks.

I think the rankor seen in this blog is a result of the fact that there really have been serious problems at the Lab but staff don't feel they have done anything wrong. The management at division level and above has been deteriorating for years. Management has made a mess and the staff are paying the price.
In response to 10:00, LLNL did build a giant indoor facility (at a cost in excess of $60M, not $25M). However, it WAS NOT designed for beryllium; they bring their own beryllium containing shots here. Meanwhile, LANL has wasted decades and more millions building a wide variety of vessels that still cannot be used in any form. Nonetheless, these same vessels were credited as a "success" on the DARHT Construction Project years ago and multiple awards went around. Sadly, these vesssels are just one more example of catering to the public and political need to appear responsive, while really being another example of just plain incompetent management and taxpayer waste. Why does nobody understand how badly LANL has deteriorated and how terribly irresponsible the management has been? When will we get a mission that actually helps the country?
I must disagree with one point you made. CFF was built to contain numerous toxins and hazardous materials. Beryllium was a strong driver in that. We have actually considered building one here at DARHT. But I whole heartedly agree with your statement about the vessels. LANL has wasted over $100M so far on this effort and still does not have a functioning vessel program. Even at $60M CFF was cheap by comparison.

I think the mission we have is extremely important we just need to get the bureaucrats and politicians out of the way so we can accomplish it.
What is this "mission" that posters are talking about? The word makes me sick. I hope the meaning translates to certify the stockpile, and if it is, the word should be used differently. I would hope it is "obligation".
"MISSION" is a perfectly good word that has just been abused horribly. In a large diverse organization like LANL it must be generated by the staff from the bottom up. That way all segments can agree to it and you get a sense of ownership. Obligations like stockpile certification will be included as well as important science that has evolved from those obligations.

MISSIONS that are glib, arrogant, or even stupid catch phases made up by upper management deserve the contempt they get.
The Lab's primary mission is to provide employment and money for the people of northern New Mexico.
Certainly seems like that is one of its "core competencies".
Rather than let DX division come back into operation, I predict that our ADWP will disband it and put Physics Division in charge of future hydrodynamic experiments.
Here are a few more facts about the Beryllium issue discussed in earlier posts. First, the antigenic form of Be (the chemical form that results in Chronic Beryllium Disease, CBD) remains unknown, despite years of research at Los Alamos and elsewhere. Second, while it is clear that some individuals have a genetic propensity to develop CBD, the genetic signatures have not all been identified (consequently it is not yet possible to accurately predict the likelihood that an individual will contract the disease). Finally, while there is no known cure for CBD, it is quite possible that chelating agents could be developed to clear the body of Be contaminants and thus mitigate the disease. Why is so little known about this deadly disease and how to fight it? One reason is that DOE/NNSA has never funded a serious effort to address these issues. LANL, to its credit, has poured millions of LDRD dollars into basic research in this area, but this has not been enough. Ask yourself, if DOE/NNSA seriously cared about the safety of LANL operations, why has it invested so little on this research? There are countless other examples of DOE's lip-service regarding safety and security. I really don't think it matters what entity manages LANL, the safety and security problems will continue as long as DOE/NNSA does not provide the resources to fix these problems.
Safety, security, and environmental problems...all these are solvable if someone cares. It's obvious that the bloated upper management at LANL doesn't care. (Nor does St. Pete Domenici, really. -And fuggedabout DOE/NNSA/UC.) All they care about are their perks. I hate to say this to a 95% Republican conservative patriotic audience, whose mission (sorry) is to provide the nation with a stockpile of safe nuclear weapons, but these failures of management are precisely why the Lab needs a union. Not for the salaries, not for the benefits, not for the pensions (though these are not trivial issues, by any means), but for the protection of the workers--a safe, secure, and rewarding environment for scientific research.
OK, now for the flames...I'm ready.
Years ago when I worked a Big Union shop my union rep told me they would make sure my job was safe except if I got hurt, if I got hurt it would be my fault.

We missed the boat on unions anyway. We should have joined the teamsters back when we were testing and they needed us.
8:35: I don't see anything particularly flame worthy in your comments. I would disagree about the 95% conservative audience though. As one of those who is on the right I see the political spectrum here to run about 50-50. But probably about 95% of the people I work with seem to believe that our job of maintaining the stockpile is a worthy and laudable endeavor. It is a job we do extremely well in spite of the bloated and, I would add, corrupt
managment here at LANL.

Being a staunch republican I have always disliked unions for several reasons. One is that they are controlled mostly by the democrat party and I didn't want money that I was required to pay in union dues being used to support political candidates that I opposed. It was also my opinion that in this day and age the unions had out lived their purpose because large organizations couldn't get away with abusing employees in the manner that they did in the early 1900's. OOPS!! I got that one wrong. Your statement that; "these failures of management are precisely why the Lab needs a union. Not for the salaries, not for the benefits, not for the pensions (though these are not trivial issues, by any means), but for the protection of the workers--a safe, secure, and rewarding environment for scientific research." is not without merit. The level of abuse that I have witnessed here in the last nine months is appalling. I'm still not sure that a union is the answer because they have numerous problems as well. No matter what side of the fence you're on power is a corrupting influence and these people are on a power trip from hell. It's well past time for Nanos and his winged monkeys to have their wings clipped.

Also, as a staunch republican, I am deeply disappointed in the self serving and spineless actions of Pete Domenici. I know he isn't seeking re-election but if he did he certainly wouldn't get my vote.
Amen about Domenici. I always called him ST. Pete. Now I'm out of NM, but if I wasn't I don't think I could vote for him again, at least not happily.

Now I get to worry about Sen. Huthcison
Thank you 10/18, I couldn't have said it any better. As a life-long republican, I can't see how I could vote for Sen Dominici if he were to run again. He has failed us and failed the Nation.
Hey 4/8 9:47, that's gotta be the lamest prediction. Scott Watson lost most of his experienced people long before the shot; some went to P-Division, other took good care to move outside ADWP. A mission-critical P-Division employee had to drop everything to do image analysis. Personnel from other experiments were shuffled so the hydroshot can be run with a "Diagnostic Coordinator" from P-Division. After the shot, even before anyone in X-Division got to see the data, a certain Fellow in P-Division (who was not assigned to work on the shot) has already put out some ambiguous "analysis" (but he's got a reputation for talking fast, so that's no problem). DX was to be dismantled a long time ago but even the most incompetent managers realized that obviously a real bang would make Nanos look good more than another knee-jerk reorg. I suppose now there's plenty of time to take DX apart.

Lots of people pitched in and performed above and beyond their usual call of duty. I certainly hope that all those hard-working folks get credit for the success of the shot. At least, Admiral Butthead should get no glory from this!

Scott Watson, good luck to you, wherever you are going. I admire your integrity. You've worked with my mentor, and I wish we had worked together.
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