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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

De-privatizing the Labs


By Jeff Colvin

SPSE-UPTE Legislative Director and UPTE Executive Vice President

In February 2014 a sealed drum containing low-level radioactive waste that was shipped from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), a radioactive waste underground repository near Carlsbad, New Mexico, caught fire and exploded, exposing some 23 workers to radioactive contamination. The accident closed WIPP, and the whole facility remains closed to this day.

Another consequence of the WIPP accident, in addition to the large fine levied against Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), the private company that manages LANL, was the poor performance rating that LANS received from the Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and having one year lopped off the management contract. Thus, the contract that LANS has to manage the laboratory for DOE/NNSA now expires 30 September 2017.

If no further contract extensions are awarded (a distinct possibility, especially since several serious electrical accidents have occurred recently, one leading to a serious injury and the most recent leading to a work stand-down at several technical sites), then the contract may be re-bid. If that happens the whole process, which starts with writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) could begin as early as this Fall with notification to LANS. Although the LLNS contract to manage our lab here in Livermore expires at a later date, there is sure to be political pressure to re-bid that contract also, especially since LANS and LLNS are in essence the same corporate entity with the same board of directors.

If the lab management contracts are to be re-bid, we want it done right this time. University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) has believed for a long time that the real problems plaguing both labs stem from careerism and profiteering by corporate management, leading to everything from the failures to meet unrealistic programmatic goals set to earn the maximum management bonus at LLNL to the WIPP accident at LANL. These issues were discussed at a public forum UPTE leaders held in Los Alamos last spring.

At the forum, UPTE announced the launch of a new RFP Committee to put together a plan to influence the RFP process. UPTE’s RFP Committee has now expanded to include participants from both Labs, and is holding monthly meetings via conference call. Our success is tied to engaging as much of the workforce as we can at both labs. Accordingly, we urge you to join UPTE (if you are not already a member), and participate in the work of the RFP Committee. We want to hear your ideas and comments. To join us please contact either Eileen Montano of SPSE-UPTE LLNL at spse@spse.org or 925-449-4846 or Richard Espinosa of UPTE-LANL at respinosa@upte-cwa.org or 505-603-9034.

Monday, July 27, 2015

There is a list of major problems where lax NNSA oversight was blamed for the issue, most of them at LANL. So, is the solution to have stronger oversight?
http://www.gao.gov/assets/680/670777.pdf

Just what IS going on at LANL?

What is going on – or isn’t – at Los Alamos National Laboratory?

That’s the gut reaction to a new government report that slams the nuclear weapons lab for its lack of nuclear safety compliance.

Certainly science and nuclear defense work is being done. After all, that’s what the lab is supposed to do.

But at what risks to workers, the public and the nation?

Reports of bureaucratic red tape, project delays, budget overruns and outright incompetence are nothing new for the northern New Mexico lab (a worker writing down “organic” kitty litter instead of “inorganic” litter leading to a radiation release and the indefinite shutdown of WIPP, the nation’s only nuclear waste repository, immediately comes to mind).

But a safety audit by the Department of Energy’s Office of the Inspector General lays out serious ongoing issues the lab seems to be taking way too long – in some cases years – to address.

...

The report gives LANL credit for making progress in some safety areas, and a DOE response accompanying the audit notes the lab’s contract operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC, has made management changes “to affect a culture change that is needed to address systemic weaknesses.”

Good to know, because LANL’s culture has needed a makeover for years.

U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for what appears to be lackadaisical efforts to get up to full speed in fulfilling the lab’s national security mission.

With daily terrorist threats and a growing global political powder keg, the U.S. needs to know its nuclear arsenal is up to snuff as a key deterrent to those who would harm us.

http://www.abqjournal.com/618149/opinion/lanl-safety-flaws-should-be-addressed-with-alacrity.html

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Working at LLNL

How do you like working at the lab? Pros & Cons?

Investigation sought

Legal papers served in Washington asked Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz to investigate “substantial and specific danger to employees or to public health or safety” due to “technical failure and incidents” at the High Explosive Application Facility (HEAF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

According to attorney Tony Bothwell, his client Anthony T. Rivera, a 28-year veteran of the lab, said he was harassed and fired in October 2013, after reporting the hazards and other violations to lab management. Bothwell added, the Department of Energy Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) dragged out his case until March 2015 when it said it would not investigate. Rivera asks Secretary Munoz to either order reinstatement and compensatory damages or order OHA to conduct an investigation and hearing on the matter.

A California administrative judge who conducted a hearing found that lab management gave false reasons for firing Rivera.

Rivera appealed to the Secretary of Energy pursuant to whistleblower protection provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations, 10 C.F.R. Part 708."


http://www.independentnews.com/news/valley_roundup/investigation-sought/article_d0d656b6-30e3-11e5-8807-871ac6d5ea6c.html?mode=jqm

Friday, July 24, 2015

Moses departs

Ed Moses departs from Giant Magellan Telescope Organization:


The GMTO Board would like you to know that, effective immediately, Dr. Ed Moses
is on leave for substantial and significant family matters
that require his attention.

Dr. Moses will not return to GMTO. The GMTO Board thanks Dr. Moses for his
important service to the GMTO.

The GMTO Board has appointed Dr. Pat McCarthy as interim President and looks
forward to his leadership of the GMTO project.

A public statement will be made at a later date.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Office of Inspector General report on LANL

The Office of Inspector General has issued a report titled “Follow-up on Nuclear Safety:  Safety Basis and Quality Assurance at the Los Alamos National Laboratory," (DOE/IG-0941).

This report is now available for viewing and can be accessed by clicking the link below:

Protect your Head!


By order of management

https://www.llnl.gov/news/laboratory-rolls-out-bike-helmet-program

"As part of LLNL's commitment to safety..." management will treat you like baby. 

6 years and running. 

and on a complete unrelated topic of babying of America:
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2015/07/22/american-teens-having-less-sex-according-to-study/

More financial waste by Sandia

Here's more financial waste by Sandia, with taxpayers footing the bill (confirmed by DOE):

http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/larry_barker/secret-sandia-settlement-taps-taxpayers

and here's another from an old post:


http://www.sandia.gov/LabNews/100730.html

From the Sandia article itself:

" Tim Shepodd (8223) liked the moniker and agreed to call it the “chili cookoff.” But there was no chili involved, and the only “cooking” had to do with the kind of chemicals not usually found on Sandia grounds. "

For profit LLCs and waste

Under the for-profit LLCs, the NNSA weapon labs have become enormous black holes that suck in billions of dollars in funding but produce little in the way of productive value. Here's yet another example:

==================
Audit: Nuclear lab lets safety gaps languish for years 

The Center for Public Integrity July 22nd, 2015

An obscure facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory for nine years provided vital scientific data about a critical gas used in America’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, until it was shuttered four years ago due to a raft of safety problems that have stubbornly persisted.

The Energy Department, which oversees and finances the lab’s work, has poured tens of millions of dollars into fixing the problems, but so far, the expenditures haven’t borne much fruit. The facility – known as the Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility – is “vital” to the lab’s national security mission, but it remains closed, the department’s inspector general said in a report released July 20.

In fact, Los Alamos managers have been unable – after seven years of effort – even to prepare a sound analysis of the site’s safety hazards and the steps being taken to ensure that the radioactive gas at issue does not leak or explode and harm either workers or those living nearby, according to the DOE report.


Note from doobydew: the link provided is bad.


yahoo.com/audit-nuclear-lab-lets-safety-185news611930.html

TCP1 COLA for 2015.

Did anyone see an announcement of the 2015 COLA? Either I am looking in the wrong places or LLNS pension managers need a satisfactory stakeholder communication strategy...some any 3rd year MBA candidate is taught in corporate ethics.
C'mon LLNS.

Meanwhile I got 1.7%. Can I verify if it correct? Nope. Why? LLNS aint saying.

What a complete difference from customer oriented, transparent UCRS, that announced adjustments three months before implementation.

Even retired Tarter, Miller Anastasio And Mara care about this. S'up?

Yet another LANL report from the IG

However, LANL continued to have problems in fully implementing a number of critical nuclear safety management requirements. This contributed to multiple safety basis iterations and lengthy update, review, and approval processes. Specifically, LANL had not always developed safety basis documents that met NNSA's expectations to ensure that nuclear hazards had been fully identified and that mitigation controls had been implemented; resolved issues identified in the annual updates to the safety bases for two nuclear facilities; and resolved significant and long-standing nuclear safety deficiencies.

We found that LANL had not effectively implemented its Safety Basis Improvement Plan, which was designed to enable LANL to build upon lessons learned and assessment findings. In addition, nuclear safety deficiencies were not always resolved because corrective actions were not effectively designed to prevent recurrence. Further improvements in nuclear safety are essential if the Department is to be in a position to ensure workers and the public that safety risks associated with nuclear facility operations have been effectively mitigated.


http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-doeig-0941

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Women should get more money

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/07/britain-gender-pay-gap-world/398684/

Accident Investigation Team Report

To: LANL

From:  Charles F. McMillan

Date: July 13, 2015


Subject: Release of Joint Accident Investigation Team Report – Arc-flash Event

On May 3, 2015, a Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) employee was seriously injured by an arc-flash while doing preventive maintenance work at an electrical substation that supports Technical Area 53 (TA-53). I am pleased to report that the employee has been released from the hospital, although he has not returned to work. I hope you will continue to extend your support and best wishes as he progresses through the recovery process.

Immediately after the incident, a Joint Accident Investigation Team (JAIT) comprised of personnel from LANL, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) began investigating the root causes of the accident. The JAIT will release its report soon. The report outlines 13 Judgments of Need (JONs) that are being addressed. The findings in the report are intended to help prevent similar accidents here and at other national laboratories in the future. I commend the JAIT for its thorough and thoughtful work. I encourage every employee to read the JAIT report so that we may all learn and benefit from it.

In summary, the report underscores that our Laboratory has an Integrated Safety Management (ISM) process that can help us all do our work safely; but the report points out that, in the broadest sense, we may not be adequately and consistently implementing these processes. Specifically, with regard to the May 3 arc-flash accident, we did not adequately consider the potential hazards that arose from a change in work scope; we did not establish physical barriers; we did not consistently require all electrical workers to validate zero voltage; and some workers were not wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

As an immediate result of the accident, interim guidance for electrical work was issued even as the JAIT was conducting its investigation. The Laboratory is taking further actions to ensure that our ISM processes are being appropriately implemented—with specific focus on medium and high-hazard operations—and that our work planning takes into account the possibility of intentional or unintentional changes to work scope.

There is nothing more important than the safety and security of every employee at the Laboratory. I have met with Laboratory managers to ensure that this value is shared and acknowledged in every organization across the Laboratory. As you know, we initiated a requirement for ongoing, interactive engagements in all work areas by managers, from the PAD-level to the group level. These manager engagements will support employees by creating opportunities for dialogue and hands-on interactions. Such interactions can enable our safety processes to account for hazards and risks associated with the job, including unforeseen circumstances such as human error, situational awareness, or equipment failure. These engagements will also help employees fully understand the work they are performing and the hazards they face, and that ISM processes are appropriate and will be adequately implemented. Perhaps most important of all, these interactions will underscore that every Laboratory worker has the authority and responsibility to stop work if they see something that is potentially unsafe, or believe that some aspect of the work is unsafe. This authority and responsibility extends to any area of the Laboratory, not just areas where a worker might normally work.

The JAIT report reminds us that even robust safety processes may not be effective if they are not properly implemented. I am confident that the Laboratory has a committed, talented workforce that can work together to place our safety, security, and operational performance on par with our science and mission delivery. Thank you for your continued commitment to a safe and secure workplace.

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