Friday, May 20, 2005

How did LANL become the poster child for security and safety mistakes?

A comment from the


How did LANL become the poster child for security and safety mistakes? Think about it, most of the security failures which made us famous for incompetence were not really security incidents at all. But they gave openings to politicians who wanted to win a contract for their favorite corporation.

A 2 billion and growing budget is a plum for any corporation and several are interested in having such a plum. They can profit from the management fees and the intellectual property they will own as a result of operating the lab. They can get also intel on all kinds of other government programs that they might wish to go after from LANL's participation with DOE and other agencies.

The safety incidents were bad, but everyone has noticed that other laboratories don't make the news when one of their employees is killed, much less injured. That is because those laboratories have already been outsourced.

We, as a nation, voted for Bush, whether you like it or not, and Bush and his party are in favor of putting everything in the hands of private business. They were looking for an excuse and had lots of help in trumping up excuses. And Bush's campaign manager from the last election sits on the U.C. Board of Regents. Admiral Foley served on Bush's transition committee. So even if UC wins, LANL will still be privatized.

Now that we are being privatized, I hope all you good Republicans will enjoy what you voted for. If not, there will hopefully be elections in the future.

"Now that we are being privatized, I hope all you good Republicans will enjoy what you voted for. If not, there will hopefully be elections in the future."

Perhaps you should save this dramatic language for situations that actually call for it, instead of for saying that you really dislike the Republicans. If you keep the volume dialed up to 11 all the time, there's nothing left in case of an actual political crisis (such as when the Democrats try to close us down :-)).
Good point Dug!
LANL became the poster child for security and safety mistakes the old fashioned way, they earned it. There is a LO/TO error once per week, cranes put in to power lines, rad uptakes on and on….These are the events that are not hidden or concealed. The culture does not currently reward being open and reporting events. That is beginning to change, but there is along way to go be get up to DOE complex standards. Now that this situation has the attention it has gained these deficiencies will be corrected. There is hope, look what happened to NWIS management recently.
I think the point of the left vs right sniping on this blog comes down to two things:

1) The current administration is hellbent on privatization. You can argue that this is a good thing, but it seems hard to argue that it is not happening. You might be able to argue that what is happening to us is not driven by that, but I'd like to hear a convincing version of that arguement. I haven't yet.

2) Liberals tend to be more dove than hawk and more green than not... so they don't like tools of war like nuclear weapons or risky environment hazards like nuclear waste... Even if we personaly don't work on such programs, that is our identity, so yes, we re likely to be attacked for this.

So what is the arguement here really? I'm pretty radical in my politics(and identify with neither major camp) and I see both left and right, democrat and republican, liberal and conservative threats to our future as it is.

Perhaps those of us who like the conservative movement to privatize everything should give over to it in our own backyard. Those of us who don't like war and pestilence should give over to having places like Los Alamos shut down.

I personally believe that science is an important endeavor and having big government running it is a lesser of evils. Big Industry scares me more. I don't always like our foriegn policy and our environmental policy but we are the last superpower standing and we have to make sense of ourselves in that light. It's not easy.
Poster 7:17

We did not earn it. Do you know the facts?
Get you damm facts straight first. We are the safest and most secure lab in the DOE complex. Please get your facts right.

Over and over again on the blog you statements like 7:17. Before you post
again think to yourself "Do I know the
facts" "Do I know the facts" "Do I know the
facts" Did you not see the Physics Today
article? Facts are your friend. Get
them, use them. Think before you speak.
Physics Today, wow there is a sound source. My feet are on the ground here. We are not the safest, I see this with my own eyes. The facts are not on your side and the contract was re-competed as a result. Saying GET THE FACTS won’t change the facts.
To the 8:14 poster.

It is a documented fact that LANL is the safest lab in the DOE system. The Physics Today articles list the exact sources where this information is found, and yes it is a extremly reaible peer reviewed journal. Get your facts straight. Name a death that has occurred in LANL due to a safety issue in the last 5 years. There are a number of smaller DOE faculty where this occurred.

I am realty getting sick of some of the incredibly stupid posts from idiots like 8:14 that give no information or facts.
They simply state something without anything to back it up. Saying "I see it with my own eyes" means nothing if it is coming from someone so stupid they do not even know how to interpret what they are seeing. How your "seeing" better than real numbers grounded in facts. You know this is the problem. If it is in the newspaper that does not make it true. By now we should know politics is a huge factor.

By they 8:14 are you some loser who was so bad at your job at LANL they the fired you and now you are trying to get back at them? That is just totally pathetic. You are so angry at you own incompetence that
you deny facts. People like you are sad and worthless. Tonight go look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are of any value to anyone on earth or are you just a complete waste of a human being. You know why you hate "THE FACTS" because you would have to admit what you truly are.
Wow, I'm sure President Bush was really out to get us after the Wen Ho Lee affair, and after the hard drive foulup, that made the President really mad! Oops! I forgot, Mr. Bill was El Presidente at that time! Good ol' boy George was merely Governor of Texas!

There's a word for folks who are wont to blame all the country's ills on Mr. Bush, and that word is "wacko". There are lots and lots of things that we can blame Mr. Bush for, but getting us into the situation we are in is not one of them.

Personally, I think there's a pretty good chance that the institution will recover nicely from the diaster known as Nanos, but it does depend not only on what organization gets the contract, but how WE respond. The biggest albatross we have is likely the set of folks in DC, but we really have no control over them, so we should be optimistic and fight back as best we can.
From the ORPS report yesterday, in case anyone thinks these things do not get read by others...

National Nuclear Security Administration
1) Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Area 3
ALO-LA-LANL-ADOADMIN-2005-0004-Subcontractor Ruptures Temporary Two-Inch Natural Gas Line While Excavating With Backhoe-(Significance Category 3)
During subcontractor excavation activities at the National Security Sciences Building Project in Technical Area-3, a backhoe ruptured a temporary two-inch natural gas pipeline. The operator immediately shut down the backhoe. Subsequently, the area and adjacent buildings (Buildings 38 and 261) were evacuated until the gas line rupture could be contained, and the area deemed safe. There were no personnel injuries. Preliminary indications are that the subcontractor had been absent from the site for three months, was unaware of the installation of the temporary gas line during the interim, and did not review the updated excavation permit (which identified the gas line) before starting work. Management has stopped all excavation-related work on the project, pending further review.
From a life long Democrat.
You are right about Bush wanting to privitize everything.But weren't the most recent members of congress to want to shut us down Democrats.Politicians for the most part are all snakes.
KSL.The most unprofessional ill prepared managers to ever be allowed on the hill( Except Pete N)
K= KellogBrownand Root--subsidary of Haliburtin.
S=Shaw.Don't know who owns them
L=LATA.Used to be locals who owned LATA but I don't know anymore
It is not documented that LANL is the safest in the complex.. and repeating the lie over and over when you are not in power just makes you look stupid.

The documented "facts" about the safety at the lab are poor at best. None of the labs use the same criteria to judge a reportable safety issue, and depending on what DOE jurisdiction, your security incidents are different too (cell phone behind the fence at LANL or LLNL).

Thus a rational comparison is not possible from the published statistics. The classified and outside audited statistics are different and are what the Congress gives more weight to. Those paint LANL in a different light.. with it not being the worst, but a better poster child than some of the smaller places.

Secondly, the Lab's academic culture is its worst enemy when coming to this. We come across time and time again as the know-it-all that has to rub it in everyones face when we are right and never admit if we are wrong.

Keep going on and on about 1 Physics today letter to the editor only pushes this view. It sounds like the UFO-alien technology expert who goes on and on about his published works which end up being letters to the editor.

When you have a peer-reviewed study made by an outside agency that uses the same yardstick for each lab in the complex.. you can then say who is the best or the worst. Until then.. it just looks silly.
Sadly it is not just Democrats that want to shut down the lab. At least one esteemed Republican from Ohio and one from Texas has made the comment that if the lab culture wont change it should be shutdown.

The biggest opponents to the possible testing of bunker busters or redesigning the older bombs has been ranking Republicans...

[Registered Republican..]
The following is from a 3/29/2005 06:18:00 PM posting by Bernard Foy.

Number of security incidents, by site and calendar year (source: NNSA Public Affairs)

CY2002 CY2003 CY2004
LANL 45 42 16
LLNL 11 53 23
SNL/CA 14 13 15
SNL/NM 69 44 47

A similar comparison of safety from NNSA Public Affairs would be interesting, if not useful.
"Physics Today, wow there is a sound source. My feet are on the ground here. We are not the safest, I see this with my own eyes. The facts are not on your side and the contract was re-competed as a result. Saying GET THE FACTS won’t change the facts."

Trusting empirical data over personal suppositions is not one of those conversations I expected to have among (presumed) employees of a science lab.
The details of safety and security records among the laboratories ARE obscured through differences in gathering and reporting. This undermines both stories.

We ARE the safest and most secure!
LANL has a horrible record in safety and security!

Both can be argued, but not well. Which one we take up says more about our motivations than the facts. When Nanos shut us down, I wanted to believe we *were* safe and secure and he was an idiot. Because of the way he did it and the implications.

When a Congressperson wants to pull the pork out of Pete(Domenici)'s barrel, it is convenient to hear how horrible we are. When a Congressperson wants to sell us to the highest bidder, to hand us over to their defense contractor cronies, it is convenient to hear how horrible we are. When someone resentful or afraid of our weapons mission and environmental risk, it is convenient to imagine we are about to fail catastrophically and fulfill their prophecies at any moment.

Brad Holian did a very good job of showing in a public peer-reviewed journal that our safety and security RECORD was in fact not what our director, Pete Nanos claimed it was.

Pete Nanos did a lousy job of showing that we were significantly unsafe or insecure. He merely stated it to be true and refused to retract it as the facts of the situation unfolded. He may very well have done this for very specific reasons that had nothing to do with safety or security. But that also would be hard to prove.

All of us have our anecdotal experience about how safe or secure things really are, but these are narrow views at best. I've seen a few things in 25 eyars that made me uncomfortable, but little if anything that comes close to what we have been accused of. Maybe I just haven't been in the right place at the right time.
10:53 poster,

Thank you for the info. Now normalize
by the number of people and see who is the best. Looks like LANL to me.

To the 9:30
By the way LANL does not have an academic culture. Not even close. I visit over 25 universties every year. LANL has very little in common with them. How on earth did you get this idea? Have you ever been to a university? By the way please lay off those drugs, it will make you think a bit better.

9:30 poster. I really have to know,
how on earth did you get a job in
LANL? I mean really. Do you have
a degree of any kind? Have you ever
done anything? Where do you people
come from and why are you at

You know I do not mean to be a jerk
but there are a lot of stupid people
from the US who come from fourth tier schools who have never published a single paper, ever given a talk, ever did a single thing at all. You guys are LANL's real problem. You think you know something and you do not.
Regarding Physics Today: it is a well-respected journal. Each article published in PT is extensively peer-reviewed and examined for accuracy prior to publication. Brad Holian's December, 2004 LANL safety article, is no exception. The piece received an extensive peer review prior to publication. The numbers presented in the article are the best normalized data available, and as such presents a realistic view of safety at LANL in comparison to other DOE labs and industry. Attacking the credibility of Physics Today will only backfire, and I suggest that the poster who has attempted to do so stop.
This is an interesting thread. Can someone please explain to me why if LANL is so well managed by UC, that the DOE felt it necessary to re-competed the contract? Also, why do some many news articles include phrases like “scandal plagued” when discussing LANL? There must be an explanation.
Phrases like “scandal plagued” are sensationalism. Bottom line: sensationalism sells papers, magazines, and advertising. Does anyone really believe that a similar article about all of LANL's positive research, discoveries, patents, and awards would sell? Almost without exception, the negative articles are shallow rehashes of older articles even to the extent of repeating grammatical and factual errors in the reporting. I have seen very little in the way of original news articles and almost none that have required a true ethical research into the facts that would refute many of the allegations.
10:51 poster.

You bring up a great point.
The media can make anything seem
like it is a big deal. Remember the
"Summer of the shark" all those shark attack stories. It made it
seem like out of nowehere there was all these shark attacks. The
reality was that there was actually
less shark attacks that year. Also I hope you do not really think that there is rash of kids being killed. If you watch the news you might think so. The thing is you can take the best place on earth and say it has problems. The best places. Take anything you want. Pick say the news media itself. Look below.

Change must occur in the the modern
news media which has been rocked in
a series of troubling scandals that
that have many calling for an entire
overhall of modern news media as we know it. This has been highlighed by series of recent high profile scandals, which include the Jayson Blair, episode, pictures of Sadam in his undies, Dan Rather forced to leave his post, and Peter Jennings covering up personal health problems. These point to the news media having very serious problems down the level of the individual
reporter. George Smart of the media watch-dog group of De Moines, says "These news people just do not
get it, they live in their own world
yet they are reporting on it. You
just cannot have a good news organization if every year there is
scandal after scandal, clearly thing
must change and NOW, you can no
longer trust a single word in a
paper or program." It is unclear where things are going to be headed now. One thing is for sure it is just matter of time before another high level scandal in the news media occurs, again bringing down further the news people who some say are at the very last chance, to save the jobs.

Ok you just read it. It can be done
to anything.
To 5/21/2005 02:15:21 PM: Excellent example of what the 5/21/2005 11:04:00 AM stated.
Anonymous : 5/20/2005 08:14:35 PM said:

"My feet are on the ground here. We are not the safest, I see this with my own eyes."

Your feet are not on the ground. If you see an unsafe operation and don't demand that the operation be made safe, you are the same as those who look the other way to protect their eyes and feel the laser beam hit the back of their head.

People deny safety problems because they are afraid of retaliation or don't want the hassle it causes.

Management should reward employees who report safety problems and be thankful that they ducked another bullet. Everyone should remember that accidents happen. The more bullets you duck the better off you are.

I hope that someday management realizes that covering safety issues with paper is a poor substitute for engineering controls because it always fails eventually.
Privatization is a goal of the Republican party and is synonymous with the movement to have "less government". These are not the goals of the Democratic party. Nor is the Democratic party anti-nuke. That is the Green party which started partially because the Democratic party wasn't anti-nuke.
The people on both sides who have called for LANL to be shut down are responding to the exaggerated news stories about chaos at LANL in both safety and security.
For years, I have watched out of state Senators and Congressmen come to LANL on hunting expeditions, usually in response to some tempest in a teapot such as "lost zip drives" which turn out not to be lost. Just watch the reserved spaces in the parking lots. You will see Barton of Texas and other well known conservatives. They don't come to praise us, but on fact finding missions. Next thing you know they accuse us of being nincompoops and propose privatizing us. The point is that if UC is discredited, they can hand the contract to private industry. Not that UC has done a brilliant job of managing LANL. It is just that we all know what life is like at non-UC labs and prefer the UC contract. But even if UC wins, LANL will be privatized. Things will be more like private industry than they are now.
I know for a fact that our safety numbers do not represent all of the accidents at the lab. They are underreported as are the accidents throughout industry and other government laboratories. But it is true that accidents at LANL draw much more attention than those at other laboratories. We break a gas line and it is big news. A truck rolls over and kills a guy at Savannah River and it is only reported in the local press around Savannah River. LANL is "in play" as they say in the stock market. Several companies desperately want the contract. It is no accident that every little incident at LANL is national news.
I notice that Los Alamos is usually votes Republican and that all these Republicans are squealing with pain at the thought of being privatized. It is quite ironic. It is my hope that Republicans will enjoy what they have voted for.
Perhaps we've forgotten the Busolini incident. It appeared that there was lots of theft going on at LANL and a young contractor tried to call it to the attention of several LANL managers. The managers responded by firing two ex-policemen who were thetrying to deal with widespread crime. A few people resigned over the affair but the incident defined the lab.
This is what the public saw. By the way, what happened to the toung man?
Poster 7:54.

What do you mean by "widespread crime" ? One person is not widespread. We need to get the facts straight here. If you compare to any orgnization LANL has to have some of the lowest amounts of white collar crime anywhere. Again LANL was treated in an unfair manner. Why was this not made clear?

Poster 7:54, try using facts
next time.
Anonymous : 5/22/2005 11:04:48 PM wrote:

"Poster 7:54.
What do you mean by "widespread crime" ? One person is not widespread. We need to get the facts straight here..."

I think poster 7:54 was showing the picture the public saw which is exactly the way it was painted by LANL PA and the press.

The real question is "How do we get a story reported fairly?" It's too bad the press and LANL PA don't have peer review.
What did happen to the contractor who took a real risk when he gave his name and turned in Busolini? The ex-policemen were well-rewarded, I believe. I agree that the public has only seen what 7:54 described. I'm not sure, however, that one should believe the claim that there was no other evidence of theft and/or embezzlement at LANL.
For more information about the Savannah River Site (SRS) see This site is used by SRS employees to discuss SRS isues. Get the inside scoop.
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