Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Reduced Role for LANL?

A comment from the


post, in which a VERIP was being discussed as a part of a larger plan to drastically reduce the scope of work performed at LANL:


That does make sense, 7:04. Los Alamos has probably become almost more trouble than it is worth. Even the "nuclear mission" work can mostly be done elsewhere. Livermore can do weapons design (please, let's not start that arrogant crap of "but we are so much better than Livermore" again). None of the other non-nuclear research has ever really been sanctioned by DOE. At best it could be said that DOE grudgingly "allowed" LANL to branch off into non-weapons areas. About the only work that could not readily find a home elsewhere is pit manufacturing.

Who needs Los Alamos' "The World's Greatest Science, etc." anyhow, now that we have "Intelligent Design"?
Don't be too sure about pit manufacturing. There's been a strong case made for doing it in Nevada, where all the nuke materials tech could be located. That leaves Los Alamos with...science! Because LM could move Intelligent bomb Designers to Sandia, and Livermore-or-less could become the Green Lab for Homeland Security. Happiness abounds everywhere! (Fellow LANLites: Assume nothing; wait; tremble with fear. -Don't worry, dear; They know what They're doing.)
So, what we're saying here is that the next contractor for LANL can be the shutdown operator.
I'm glad that the poster knows what the DOE "really" sanctions. This is a unverifiable statement of opinion and not based on any fact. I've seen many non-nuclear "sanctioned" research programs by DOE at Los Alamos over the years. Many of these have been leaders in their field world-wide. I doubt that the poster is speaking from any real knowledge of LANL.
Quite the contrary, Dave. I am the original poster here, and in fact, you and I have worked together. I am speaking from plenty of years' experience when I make the contention that DOE only grudgingly allows non-nuclear, non-weapons research. How do you suppose non-nuke work gets funded at LANL? First you "borrow" funding from the weapons program to seed a project. Strictly illegal, but outside of LDRD funds that is the only way to bootstrap up a non DOE-sponsored initiative. Then you go out and find a non-DOE sponsor to pay for the rest of the work.

I call that "grudging" consent from DOE. If it is not weapons program work, DOE is not interested.
Ditto that,11:46:52 AM. Even though, as their name implies, (The US Depeartment of Energy), they sure couldn't have been bothered with a proposed US elecrical power infrastructure simulation system a number of years ago. Some other program managers and I tried to get them to just take a look our proposed project, which was to have provided analytical capabilities with respect to the stability and security of the US power grid.

Complete apathy was the best response we could muster at headquarters.
Just because all the nuke materials are at DAF, doesn't mean they have the infrastructure or facilities to support a manufacturing facility. Is the government going to build a multi-billion dollar plutonium facility out at the Nevada Test Site? I highly doubt it. Who's going to staff it? They can't even recruit technical staff for the TA-18 relocation project.
Headquarters always speaks out of both sides of the moutn. Actually headquarters wants WFO and DOE work, but complain about facilities and infrastructure. Just look at the recent Allocation 0 documents from ADSR and ADTR -- the total funding for DOE programs is about 180 million, and for NN/Intel/DoD is 600 million. The total rivals the program piece for DP.

The premise that the DP work could go elsewhere is largely false. It is true that other labs could cherry pick some work like the science campaigns and asci, but there is much that can not be done right now anywhere else.

The issue of taking fee and grt out of program will hit DP most strongly. No matter who wins, this is going to be tough. I don't know which new contractor is going to propose keeping the most science and work for others, but these will be key issues to our future.
Regarding 11:46 comments, we may have worked together but I've worked on numerous non-nuke DOE funded projects over the many years. Although DOE may like to fund some of its other Labs in preference to LANL for non-nuke work, I've not found them all that "grudging" when the work is compelling, which it can be in many cases. Some "non-nuke" projects may start that way, but by no means is it the only way and perhaps not the predominant way. I don't have numbers to determine this, only my experience. And it is true that many other organizations besides DOE are interested in the Lab's capabilities in non-nuke areas. I don't know what is wrong with this. For example, what about the global climate modeling? This is DOE funded as has been the human genome work. Much of the bio work is world class as are the applied math programs at the Lab. The latter may have dual-use, but is funded also by the non-nuke part of DOE.
The statements about DOE "grudgingly" supporting non-NW work is groundless. There are and have been many non-NW projects at LANL that were successful and met the country's needs. These were not at all subsidized by the NW Program. Indeed, I believe that a very good arguement can be made that these projects subsidize the NW Program. Some of these projects include threat reduction, human genome studies, and the Strategic Defense Initiative.

The other thing that needs to be remembered is that the non-NW work has served as a conduit for bringing some very good talent to LANL.
"There are and have been many non-NW projects at LANL that were successful and met the country's needs"

I would like to see specific examples of these projects, and learn more about how they were funded. I suspect you won't be able to come up with much that

a) wasn't funded by LDRD, and
b) therefore were small projects.

I'm willing to be proven wrong, but I don't think I will be. I don't know of any large DOE-funded non-weapons program projects at LANL.

Surplus Weapons Plutonium Disposition (sometimes called the MOX Project). Funded by NA-26 to the tune of an average of more than $30 million for LANL annually over the last 6 or 7 years. This program is the opposite of a weapons program in that it disassembles weapons and converts the plutonium to feed material for nuclear reactor fuel.
Doing research on how to dispose of excess weapons-grade Pu, while valuable work, is still related to the weapons program.

Dave Beck sure doesn't think so.
Guess it depends on what Doug thinks is a "big" program. Some examples:

Climate Modeling -- 5.8 million a year for the last decade -- did not start as an LDRD

Measuring the Atmospheric reflectivity -- 6 million a year for 6 years, did not start as a LDRD

Modeling and measuring the geologic system for yucca mountain. 12 million a year for 20 years, did not start as a LDRD

Monitoring nuclear explosion testing (not a DP program) with ground based systems. 6 million a year for a decade, never had any LDRD funding.

I could go on and on -- in short, there are lots of 4-6 million dollar programs at LANL that are not LDRD driven, but are stable research topics.

Can you please define what you think is work related to the weapons program? Is creating Pu based thermoelectric generators for outer planetary systems space probes? Is advanced sensor technology to detect the proliferation of nuclear technolgy by bad actors? What about NEST activities? Have you ever noticed the NISC (Non-proliferation and International Security Center) building next to Metropolis? The majority of what goes on there has nothing to do with the US weapons program.

So, I was just wondering what your definition was? The Threat Reduction directorate is a growing and important part of the lab. There is necessary synergy with the weapons program (it takes a thief to catch a thief), but most of the funding does not come from the weapons program funding lines but other parts of DOE.

I think your comment just demonstrates how stovepiped LANL still is in its internal thinking.
Along the lines of the previous comment, the Strategic Defense Initiative work was NOT in anyway DOE-funded.
In response to 06:23:30 AM's somewhat antagonistic response to my questions about DOE funding for non-NW research, yes I have noticed NISC, thank you for asking.

As was pointed out by an anonymous comment earlier in this thread, the DOE has the word "Energy" in its name, and I am interested in what significant energy-related, non-weapons research has been funded by DOE.

As far as what might be considered significant, recall that just prior to our now famous shutdown, ~22% of our then $2.2B budget was comprised of WFO. That was significant. A few million here and a few million there, on the other hand, is comparatively insignificant.


You might want to look at DOE's non-weapon labs to get a better answer to your question.

I am the 9/29/2005 06:25:33 AM poster. Please accept my apology for my passion appearing antagnonistic. I thought you were asking about programs not funded by the weapons program line. My examples were still in the National Security category, but not the Energy catagory.
Thanks, 07:07:33 AM, no harm done. You brought to light the valid point that there is important non-weapons research at LANL which is funded by DOE.


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