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This BLOG is for LLNL present and past employees, friends of LLNL and anyone impacted by the privatization of the Lab to express their opinions and expose the waste, wrongdoing and any kind of injustice against employees and taxpayers by LLNS/DOE/NNSA. The opinions stated are personal opinions. Therefore, The BLOG author may or may not agree with them before making the decision to post them. Opinions not conforming to BLOG rules are deleted. Blog author serves as a moderator.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hiring frenzy?

I've heard the reduction in workforce is slowing down, no fear of layoffs, and possibly a hiring frenzy?

Any truth here?

Value Added of SPSE-UPTE

"Why doesn't SPSE-UPTE produce a comprehensive summary of their contributions to Lab employees including non-members, instead of allowing themselves to be marginalized, stigmatized, and deemed obsolete and irrelevant?"


Lab Senior Management may publicly claim to welcome SPSE-UPTE involvement in one forum or another, but privately I suspect SPSE-UPTE is viewed as problematic, being impediments to Management and Staff Relations by challenging departures from policies (employment practices) and eroding employment conditions. 

By not reminding lab employees of their accomplishments in a manner that demonstrates broad relevance to all lab employees, SPSE-UPTE open themselves up to be characterized as on the fringe, with little modern day relevance in the workplace or only of value to a small subset of employees. If they want to grow as an organization, they need to provide clear and concise unequivocal examples of their value added and relevance over the last ~10 years to a wide pool of lab employees.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Human Role at WIPP was being Minimized

Human Role at WIPP was being Minimized

By James Moore, Retired Engineer

Albuquerque Journal, excerpts

PUBLISHED: Friday, February 27, 2015 at 12:02 am

I found Mark Oswald’s article, “WIPP woes due to wrong word?” on the Journal’s front page of Feb. 10 quite interesting.

Unfortunately, I fear it may leave your typical reader inappropriately relieved that we finally have a perfectly reasonable explanation for the radioactive release which occurred at WIPP approximately one year ago. The article did not address the very important follow-up questions that the Los Alamos explanation should generate.

The article was informative on the Los Alamos National Laboratories admitted “mistake,” which ultimately led to the radioactive release incident that occurred at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, N.M., approximately one year ago. In the article, the “incident” was reportedly caused when a low level “note taker” failed to recognize the technical difference between the words “inorganic” verses “an organic” absorbent.

Now, the important questions are: (1) How many such “bombs” were constructed and placed into WIPP since August 2012; (2) How can they be safely approached and made safe; and lastly, the most important question, (3) What was the WIPP hazard assessment’s estimated probability of such a perfectly reasonable “human error” leading to a release of radioactivity from WIPP during the next 10,000 years plus?


Now, we see that the cost of recovery from the Los Alamos mistake is estimated at over $500 million and three more years by the Department of Energy. This is the cost of minimizing and ignoring “human behavior issues” because they make it impossible to achieve the desired safety numbers. It would cost less to acknowledge, identify and manage these potential “human error” issues. Doing so would also make the project safer.

James Moore is a retired engineer who lives in Albuquerque.

http://www.abqjournal.com/547124/north/human-role-at-wipp-was-being-minimized.html

Justice for All Requires A Contract for All By SPSE-UPTE Stewards

Justice for All Requires A Contract for All
By SPSE-UPTE Stewards
 
In addition to guaranteed wage increases and the provisions for enhanced safety and job security, the new Skilled Trades employment contract retains an important provision: all the due process rights and the “just cause” standard for discipline that all Lab employees once enjoyed as UC employees prior to the transition to private company management of the Lab in 2007.
 
The consequence of the loss of the “just cause” standard was recently highlighted for us in the decision in a grievance arbitration we handled for a non-skilled trades SPSE-UPTE member. In his written decision in this case the Arbitrator said the following:
 
The problem with those arguments (the union arguments) is that each of them is   applicable only where the standard against which to measure the disputed disciplinary action is ‘just cause’ or a similar standard. While each of these Union-argued elements may well have had varying degrees of merit when measured against the ‘just cause’ standard, and particularly so concerning whether the Laboratory has met all of the requirements for a finding of ‘insubordination’, they are simply not applicable where, as here, the standard which the arbitrator must apply is ‘unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation.’ Put simply, there is nothing ‘unlawful’ in the Laboratory’s actions here.
 
Likewise, the concept of progressive discipline argued as not followed by the Union is a concept arising within the above-described ambit of ‘just cause’ or a similar standard. The arbitrator has reviewed pertinent sections of the Laboratory’s Personnel Policies Manual, and can find no mention of that concept in those materials. Were this a ‘just cause’ matter, that element of the Union’s argument might well have at least some merit, in that this Arbitrator has in his prior ‘just cause’ cases generally been an advocate of the positive elements of progressive discipline.
 
In short, for those of us without a union contract that embodies the “just cause” standard, the Laboratory is free to treat us unjustly, as long as the treatment is not demonstrably illegal.
 
Since managers can treat employees unjustly, many will continue to do so, taking full advantage of the extra latitude private sector law gives them in dealing with non-unionized workers. Employees without a union contract have no say in the policies and procedures that govern their working environment, and every change that LLNS management has made to the employee conduct and formal complaint policies has left non-union employees with fewer and fewer ways to challenge unjust treatment.
 
SPSE-UPTE believes that an injustice to one is an injustice to all. The ultimate fix to workplace injustice is for everyone to be covered by a union contract. In the meantime, just being a dues-paying member of SPSE-UPTE, even one who is not covered by a contract, gives you some protection, since all our members have access to trained stewards to help them navigate the Lab’s labyrinthine formal complaint resolution process to address workplace issues. Many members find that this benefit alone is worth the modest price of membership. They understand that it makes no sense to wait until the house is on fire before going out to shop for homeowner’s insurance, and that preserving one’s job is as important as saving one’s house.

SPSE-UPTE's New Skilled Trades Contract Promotes Run to Succeed

360 Performance Review
A series of constructive critiques of LLNS and SPSE-UPTE 
 
SPSE-UPTE's New Skilled Trades Contract Promotes Run to Succeed 
By William Smith, President SPSE-UPTE
 
Society of Professionals, Scientists and Engineers of the University Professional & Technical Employees (SPSE-UPTE’s) Skilled Trades Unit and LLNS (Lawrence Livermore National Security) management have agreed on a new contract that runs from January of 2015 until December of 2019. Provisions in the contract slow, and may even reverse, the steady erosion of take home pay and other benefits, especially retirement benefits. Other provisions create a safer and more productive work environment.
 
General provisions in the contract promote better working conditions for all LLNS employees, including protection of take home pay. Our Skilled Trades employees have the right to bargain the effect of increases to employee pension contributions, reductions in 401K matching funds and other decreases in benefits. To maintain uniform benefits across LLNL (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), LLNS management may agree to extend to all employees any offsetting gains negotiated by SPSE-UPTE’s Skilled Trades Unit.
 
The contract also locks in other benefits. These benefits include paid holidays, vacation and sick leave accrual rates, and shift, holiday and on-call differential rates. 
 
After nearly a decade during which LLNS has aggressively deferred maintenance to reduce operating costs, the contract puts in place procedures and requirements to moderate this policy and advance SPSE-UPTE’s Run to Succeed campaign. Deferred maintenance, as we have pointed out in previous articles [see Monthly Memos of April and December 2014], has reduced our ability to support world-class science and engineering. Under the new contract, our Skilled Trades workers spend more time maintaining facilities and equipment and less time with the paper work and other duties associated with non-technical aspects of monitoring the adherence of subcontractors to federal, state, Department of Energy and LLNS health and safety regulations.
 
Our work place will be safer as provisions in the contract lower the risk of work place accidents. New limits on mandatory overtime enable workers to get adequate rest. An expansion of the SPSE-UPTE / LLNS Joint Management Safety Committee will provide workers more opportunities to share their knowledge of work place hazards and to address them directly with a broader cross-section of management. Better procedures for the locking and tagging out of hazardous equipment is an example of a simple safety improvement that is surprisingly complex to implement and is best addressed by the expanded joint committee.
 
Cost of living raises throughout the contract term and prevailing wages mandated by the Davis Bacon Act will reverse the erosion of take-home pay for some Skilled Trades Unit members and slow the erosion for others.
 
Our Skilled Trades Unit contract encourages LLNS management to maintain current levels of benefits for all employees. You can support our effort to maintain take-home-pay and benefits for SPSE-UPTE members and non-members alike by joining us. To join, contact either SPSE-UPTE office manager at spse@spse.org, SPSE-UPTE President William Smith at either smith324@llnl.gov, or 925/422-6378, or download a membership form from our website at http://www.upte.org/local/spse/join/

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Battelle intrigued by NNSA possibilties


Interesting comments by Battelle - which is part of LLNS but not LANS, the key difference between the two LLCs. 

If LANS looses the LANL rebid in a few years, would Battelle team with someone new like Lockeed Martin or Grumman to form an LLC to bid on LANL. 

Or if LANS goes down, would UC see little value in continuing to team with Bechtel (and the other industrial partners) in LLNS and create a solely UC-Battelle owned LLC to bid and run LLNL. 

===
Knox News
2/25/15

Ron Townsend, Battelle’s executive vice president for global laboratory operations, was in Washington, D.C., last week for the 7th annual Nuclear Deterrence Summit, and it was very much a business trip. Townsend was there to better understand the challenges facing the NNSA and evaluate what roles Battelle might play in the nuclear weapons complex and what it might be able to contribute.

“We’re intrigued,” Townsend said in an interview. “We have a very strong science and energy portfolio. We manage three Science labs (Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Brookhaven) and both Energy labs — Idaho and NREL. We don’t have a significant presence in the weapons area, the national nuclear security arena. But we’re intrigued by that.”

Currently, Battelle’s only work in the weapons complex is a subcontracting role at LLNL. “We’re responsible for work for others in the nonproliferation, counter-terrorism area. It’s a small role, but it’s an active role,” he said.

Townsend said it’s premature to say Battelle aspires to a greater role. “We’re assessing whether or not we ought to aspire,” he said.

But he said he thought that skills developed in managing five Department of Energy laboratories could prove valuable in the nuclear security enterprise.

“They translate directly,” Townsend said. “We believe that the best-practices principles that we’ve developed at the other laboratories translate directly, and it’s a question of is it something we really want to do.”

There’s a lot of talk swirling these days about changes in contractor governance and the introduction or re-introduction of in-the-public-interest contracting in the weapons complex. Townsend said that’s very much a Battelle thing.

“We love it,” he said. “Battelle embraced the public-service model before the public-serve model was even known. That’s who we are. I think it’s a great idea.”...

...Townsend didn’t specify any upcoming NNSA contracts of interest to Battelle, but he also didn’t seem to place any limits on possible roles.

“There’s a lot of churn in the NNSA complex in terms of potential management opportunities, whether it be the laboratory or (other)...I’m just curious.”

http://knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/2015/02/25/battelle-intrigued-by-nnsa-possibilities/

How can the DOE "whistleblower" Contractor Employee Protection policy protect employees

How can the DOE "whistleblower" Contractor Employee Protection policy protect employees, if the DOE IG in good faith, can't acquire investigation relevant documentation from the DOE Contractor in question? 

"...According to the Inspector General, Bechtel and URS, the contractors involved in the matter, have refused to provide more than 4,500 documents to the Inspector General, claiming attorney-client privilege. I understand that the contractors have refused to provide these documents despite a clause in both the prime contract and subcontract which expressly consents to the provision of attorney-client privileged material to the Inspector General. I request that the Department provide a briefing to the Subcommittee about DOE's plans to address the contractors' lack of cooperation with the Inspector General's request. The briefing should also include the mechanisms that are available to the Department to hold the contractors accountable for their noncompliance, including withholding of fees and recovery of costs incurred by the Office of Inspector General. I request that this briefing be provided as soon as possible, but no later than October 31, 2014..."

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/10/21/doe-office-inspector-general-rewards-contractors-non-cooperation-donna-busches

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/10/f18/IG-0923.pdf

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is Charlie going to be held accountable?


This is from a different thread; however, it brings up the looming Office of Enforcement action over the Sellers cover-up. As described in the IG report, Charlie was aware of the ethical violations that led to Sellers' debarment from government contracting and yet continued to shield her for over a year. 

Other than being caught by the IG, what was the direct punishment to LANS senior management employees for harboring the Beth Sellers "conflict of interest" secret for a year or so?

February 23, 2015 at 7:48 AM

Just wait. The next step in the process after the issuance of a report by the IG finding wrongdoing, is the involvement of the IG's Office of Enforcement. The IG is not toothless by any means.

February 23, 2015 at 9:04 AM

LANL is still bungling security

As the recent IG report shows, not much has improved at LANL since the below quote was published. How many more problems must come to light before real change is forced by Congress? 

"It suggests that, despite years of bungling and the critical media and Congressional scrutiny generated as a result, Los Alamos, the keeper of many of America's�and other nations'�most sensitive nuclear and intelligence secrets still has not resolved serious problems with its information security."

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2006/from-one-lab-to-another-los-alamos-info-breach-and-meth-trailer-story-develops.html

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nuclear Lab Whistleblower Case Moves Forward

"...In 2013 a contract employee at the Los Alamos National Laboratory found himself stripped of his security clearance and suspended from his job shortly after he published an article arguing the benefits of getting rid of nuclear weapon stockpiles. This month he begins mediation with the lab after his second whistleblower claim was accepted by the National Nuclear Security Administration..."

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2015/01/20150120-nuclear-lab-whistleblower-case-moves-forward.html

Amid Safety Concerns at LANL, Udall Weighs in on Lab’s next Mission: Pit production


Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015 8:00 pm
By Patrick Malone, The New Mexican, Excerpts

Even as the birthplace of the atomic bomb continues to reel from its role in a radiation leak last year that stranded nuclear waste indefinitely at labs throughout the country, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said Los Alamos National Laboratory remains the nation’s only option for ramped-up production of nuclear weapon triggers.

“As long as we have nuclear weapons, they have to have pits, and Los Alamos does that,” Udall, D-N.M., told The New Mexican on Friday.

“What I hope for is that we have aggressive efforts by our president and by the Senate, and we get nuclear agreements in place where we can reduce the amount of weapons, and we need fewer pits and you don’t have to have the robust kind of facility that some people talk about,” he said.

“If you’re weighing in and saying they’ve made a big mistake and they need to pay for it and there are consequences, I support them,” Udall said.

“It’s pretty clear that Los Alamos’ people, the scientists and others that were working on this, made a mistake. … The big question now is how do we move forward?” Udall said. “How do we make sure we don’t make mistakes like that again?”


Anonymous 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Will the labs really improve when LANS and LLNS are out?

Will the labs really improve when LANS and LLNS are out?

1. Will funding priorities, operational efficiency, safety culture, Contractor accountability, and employee morale, materially improve and remain improved, when LANS and LLNS are replaced with new for profit LLCs?

2. Is waiting and hoping for a change in management at LANL and LLNL for "better times" like saying, "my next marriage will be better, so in the meantime....". Is this a constructive and healthy approach? 

DOE: Cleanup Fund Will Pay WIPP fines

DOE: Cleanup Fund Will Pay WIPP fines

By Mark Oswald / Journal Staff Writer
PUBLISHED: Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 12:05 am

SANTA FE – The federal Department of Energy is taking the position that any state fines it pays for a radioactive leak at the nation’s nuclear waste repository near Carlsbad will come from money appropriated to clean up decades’ worth of contamination from nuclear weapons work in New Mexico.

“Any fines and penalties assessed on the EM (environmental management) program would be provided by cleanup dollars, resulting in reduced funding for cleanup activities,” says a 2016 budget year summary presented earlier this month by the DOE’s Office of Environmental Management.

The New Mexico Environment Department has fined the DOE $54 million for the leak from a drum of radioactive waste processed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The drum ruptured in February 2014 and has shut down the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Project, halting delivery of waste from Los Alamos and other weapons complex sites to the underground facility.

http://www.abqjournal.com/544613/news/doe-cleanup-fund-will-pay-wipp-fines.html

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