Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Questions, anyone?

Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, December 25, 2005

Questions Surround New LANL Management

By Jennifer Talhelm
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON— The questions began almost as soon as Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced that the University of California would continue to lead Los Alamos National Laboratory.

After a run of embarrassing financial and security lapses, how could the Department of Energy return LANL to the university? Would UC continue to be in charge of safety and security?

The answer, say UC President Robert Dynes and other champions of the new arrangement, is that the Energy Department did not award the contract to UC.

Rather, the contract went to Los Alamos National Security LLC, a group of three corporations— engineering giant Bechtel Corp., BWX Technologies and Washington Group International— and UC.

"It was LANS that was chosen," Dynes said. "This is not the same old world that it was in the 20th century."

But convincing skeptical lawmakers, employees and watchdogs that Los Alamos and UC have entered a new era may be more difficult.

Energy Department officials on Wednesday announced that UC beat a team led by defense contractor Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas. The contract begins June 1, and the winners will be paid up to $512 million over seven years.

UC has run the lab, which now maintains the nation's nuclear stockpile, since Los Alamos was started during World War II. But after the past several bumpy years, culminating in a decision last year to temporarily shut down the lab, UC's leadership has been widely criticized and the Energy Department decided to put the contract to operate the lab up for bid.

Many observers had assumed that because of UC's history, the Lockheed team would win. They were surprised at the news, and rumors swirled that politics played a role in the contract evaluation.

Energy Department officials have said they are confident they made the right decision.

They have offered few details about how the new team will work, however.

Instead, they have described LANS only in broad terms, calling it an "integrated team" that will draw on each member's strengths to manage different aspects of the lab.

Each has experience in science, management, safety or nuclear security and has worked in various branches of the nation's sprawling nuclear weapons complex. UC, for example, will focus on science and technology and on bringing world-class scientists, researchers, advisers and peer reviewers to the lab, Dynes said.

Michael Anastasio, who heads Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and who will direct Los Alamos, said the new team brings the best and the brightest from all four organizations.

But Hugh Gusterson, an anthropologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has studied the nation's weapons labs, said that relationship could turn into a "bureaucratic nightmare" as the members figure out how to divide responsibilities and communicate.

"My prediction is that they will suck up enormous time and resources as they figure out how to talk to each other," he said.

The Energy Department and the team will also have to convince critics things are headed in the right direction.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a frequent critic of the lab, has demanded that the department explain in detail by Jan. 6 how it reached its decision. He said he had "no belief that UC can reverse its record of consistent failure."

A spokeswoman for Barton was not immediately available Thursday to say whether Barton had heard back from the government.

"Questions, anyone?"

"Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a frequent critic of the lab, has demanded that the department explain in detail by Jan. 6 how it reached its decision. He said he had "no belief that UC can reverse its record of consistent failure."

Chairman Joe Barton,
R-Texas, sent the following letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman regarding the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
December 21, 2005

The Honorable Samuel W. Bodman
Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20585

Dear Secretary Bodman:

As you know, over the past several years the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has held numerous hearings to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse of government resources at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. These hearings have also reviewed several security breaches that have put our national security at risk.

Most recently, in 2004 several safety and security incidents by the University of California (UC) - DOE's contractor at the site - resulted in a seven-month stand-down at Los Alamos that cost the taxpayers approximately $370 million in lost productivity.

Based on the track record by the University of California and the seemingly invulnerable culture of mismanagement at Los Alamos, I am surprised to learn that the current contractor has been invested with new trust. I have minimal hope and no belief that UC can reverse its record of consistent failure.

I ask that the Department provide a detailed briefing regarding this action, as well as the decision documents developed by the procurement panel that provide the basis for the new contract award no later than Friday, January 6, 2006.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Thank you,

Joe Barton

However---UC manages to receive a contract mangament award--lump sum via other business entities--even though LANL continues to and has been receiving ongoing
substandard reviews in relation to LANL's nuclear hazardous material handling, training, management, --the whole shebang.

LANL Weekly reports and reviews while under UC's management....

The following document is a 13 page document, in full, only excerpted here....


December 9, 2005

MEMORANDUM FOR: J. Kent Fortenberry, Technical Director
FROM: C. H. Keilers, Jr.
SUBJECT: Los Alamos Report for Week Ending December 9, 2005


"While their report is still draft, the recent DOE Office of Independent Oversight (DOE-OA) review at
LANL raises questions on the TA-55 ventilation and fire suppression systems, as well as safety basis.
LANL has actions underway that may address many – but perhaps not all – of these specific issues
over time; these actions include the TA-55 Reinvestment Project, the LANL conduct of engineering
technical baseline reconstitution, and the LANL efforts in response to Board Recommendation 04-2
on active confinement. Given (a) the importance of NNSA and LANL reaching timely resolution on
confinement strategy and (b) the potential impacts on that resolution from these issues, it may be
appropriate for NNSA to initiate a focused safety system oversight (SSO) review at TA-55 soon after
the DOE-OA report is finalized, which is expected before the end of the month.

Nuclear Safety Oversight: The NNSA Site Office (LASO) partial stand-down continues (site rep
weekly 11/25/05). LASO is working on a procedure to integrate federal activities during the 3-month
pause, which has now been underway 3 weeks. LASO also appears poised to shift staff to address a
growing backlog of LANL safety basis proposals requiring federal action; the backlog grew from 7 to
about 30 during the first two weeks of the pause. The NNSA Chief of Defense Nuclear Safety (CDNS)
office had 2 people on site this week focused on TA-18 and TA-55 operations; several NNSA Service
Center managers were also on site Thursday to discuss future Service Center support for LASO.
On the contractor side, LANL has embedded 8 people in facilities as institutional oversight; their first
weekly report to LANL management is due today and will be discussed with LASO next Tuesday.
Training: As part of the Operational Efficiency (OE) project, LANL has assessed most of its lab-wide
courses (~600) and determined that the majority of course-providers have not used the systematic
approach to training required by the DOE nuclear training order and LANL policy. This standard
approach has five sequential steps: analyze needs; set objectives; develop materials; deliver training;
and evaluate effectiveness. Full implementation would not only strengthen sustainability of many
resumption-related corrective actions but also address concerns among many on the need for more
meaningful and effective training. LANL plans to develop a prioritized list of courses needing
improvement within the next few weeks and have a schedule for course revisions by mid-February."

"Am-241 Contamination Event: Last week, the LASO Manager signed the report on the NNSA Type
B investigation into the inadvertent contamination release that occurred in July 2005 (site rep weeklies
8/12/05, 7/29/05). NNSA release of the report is expected shortly."



MAY 5, 2005

Late last year DOE issued a draft Request for Proposal for the LANL contract.
The Board reviewed this draft Request for Proposal with respect to provisions that affect
safety. We concluded that it contained unnecessary and ill-advised limitations on
DOE’s oversight of the contractor and undermined DOE’s system for identifying and
implementing safety requirements. The Board has worked with DOE to correct this
condition. The latest version of the Request for Proposal addresses the Board’s
concern by preserving DOE’s system for identifying and implementing safety
requirements, and by not limiting the ability of DOE to direct or oversee contractor
activities in the safety area.

Summary of Testimony
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board provides nuclear safety oversight of
DOE’s defense nuclear facilities and is an advisory agency created to provide advice
and recommendations to DOE concerning nuclear safety.
The DNFSB’s primary interests at LANL include plutonium operations,
processing and stabilization of nuclear materials, the potential for nuclear criticality,
nuclear waste processing and storage, and tritium operations. Nuclear safety programs
are also of interest to the DNSFB, including integrated safety management,
authorization bases, work control, and quality assurance.
A number of safety improvements have resulted from the DNFSB’s nuclear
safety oversight at LANL. During 2004, prior to the laboratory shutdown, the DNFSB
provided advice to NNSA identifying the need to address a number of safety issues at
LANL in areas such as conduct of engineering; the stabilization, repackaging, and
disposition of excess nuclear materials; the application of Integrated Safety
Management for work planning and control; nuclear operations at Technical Area-18;
the development and maintenance of safety bases; and DOE Facility Representative
training and staffing. Progress in resolving these issues varies.
In response to the shutdown of LANL last July, the DNFSB provided several
observations to NNSA including the need to maintain safe and stable conditions during
the shutdown, the need to aggressively pursue the implementation of improvements in
the laboratory’s work control process, and the need to continue to address several longterm
safety initiatives that would be delayed by the shutdown. In general, the DNFSB
concluded that near-term actions and compensatory measures appear to be appropriate
to support the operations that have been restarted.
The shutdown resulted in the identification of numerous corrective actions. If
appropriately implemented, these corrective actions should improve the safety of
nuclear operations at LANL. The DNFSB plans to closely monitor this effort. In
conclusion, the DNFSB believes that the physical and programmatic safety
improvements being pursued at LANL are needed, and that close oversight by NNSA
and the continuing efforts by the DNFSB are required to ensure that needed
improvements are realized."

Is this an example of having your cake, and eating too?
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