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Monday, May 26, 2014

The management at WIPP says they they don't foresee getting back to normal operations for 3 years after the radioactive leak. Large sections of the WIPP underground storage area will need to be completely sealed off forever.

LANL says they now think there are 500 of those kitty litter "time bombs" sitting around WIPP, LANL and the temporary site in Andrews, TX.

This whole fiasco is going to be extremely expensive for NNSA and LANL to fix. I'll bet the final cost to handle it will make the $200 million security system screw-up out at LANL's TA-55 look cheap by comparison.

You have to wonder why these changes in the packing of the barrels were allowed, given all the heavy education about formality of operation and precise documentation of all steps for getting even the most mundane types of work done at the lab.
Anonymous said...
Where is the outrage at LANS LLC management failures that lead to the WIPP mess. If UC was still the sole manager of LANL you can bet there would be screams from watchdog groups and politicians that UC was to blame. Clearly the LLCs are a failure and have done nothing to improve management of the Labs - unfortunately, no one outside the Labs care or is willing to admit the obvious. Why won't the media do an investigative report into corporate for profit private management vs non-profit public UC management of the labs. Seems like there's now 7 to 8 years of data to look at and reach some conclusions.
Anonymous said...
Where is the outrage at LANS LLC management failures...

May 24, 2014 at 7:46 AM

I don't know about everyone else, but I have had it up to here with all of this manufactured "outrage" about everything that happens. This constant need to find someone to blame and to chop off his head is juvenile and demented. The sane response to problems is to identify why and how they happened, put corrective measures in place so they don't happen again, and move on. We have become a nation of self-absorbed, spoiled whiners. Give it a rest, already!
Anonymous said...
You have to wonder why these changes in the packing of the barrels were allowed, given all the heavy education about formality of operation and precise documentation of all steps for getting even the most mundane types of work done at the lab.

May 23, 2014 at 8:49 PM

Have worked in the Los Alamos Waste Disposition Project (WDP), I can tell you first hand that the entire LANL Transuranic (TRU) Operation was a "hurry up and rush it" attitude. It was a Chinese sweat shop to meet the deadline of the 3706 (cubic-meters) program and "follow the money to this PBI"! They need a Congressional Investigation of this.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fitting that LANL would end up shutting down WIPP (maybe permanently) in their haste to get waste there. This is LLNS biggest and most costly f-up yet I'm sure LLNS is looking for scapegoats (probably some poor Cognizant System Engineer) to fire over who switched the kiddy litter on them.

Haste makes waste and waste makes haste.

Anonymous said...

It cost $19 Billion to design, build, and authorize the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Multiply by a factor of 100 in today's dollars, so $1.9 Trillion to build a new WIPP. What a deal!
May 25, 2014 at 8:27 AM
Anonymous said...
Who in the world at LANL authorized using organic kiddy litter in their transuranic drums? My 4th grade son knew better. It's too bad LANL lost all of it's competent engineers and scientists who knew better. All due to the conversion of LANL to LLNS, the first real price of "privatization".

Anonymous said...



All of these failures have had the common element that LANL knows best. This approach to work was wide spread in the UC days, but was not as evident for the initial years after transition.

Another evident change under Charlie is that LANL has become less of a national team player and withdrawn more to the mesa, with the resultant "we can do it all better" approach.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the radiation contamination that was spread from LANSCE on Charlie's shift.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the radiation contamination that was spread from LANSCE on Charlie's shift.

May 26, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Calm down. That sort of thing has happened under every Director since Agnew. It is nearly impossible to prevent completely, and has never resulted in demonstrable harm.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget LANS (i.e. McMillian) allowing the civilian "Annie Oakley" to fire 18-mm machine gun rounds from the turret of a NNSA/DOE armored vehicle.

Anonymous said...

Did they ever find the missing gun from the guard that also happened under Charlie's stellar leadership?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the radiation contamination that was spread from LANSCE on Charlie's shift.

May 26, 2014 at 11:02 AM

How many personal vehicles did LANS have to acquire (via taxpayers) that were contaminated from this fiasco?

Anonymous said...

One of McMillan's major failures, that goes unnoticed, is the on-going shutdown of the LANL Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility (WETF) for at least 4-years. Given this, there has been absolutely no R&D on gas transfer systems (GTSs) for more that four years!

Anonymous said...

R&D on GTS is a boondoggle and completely unnecessary. Modern stockpile systems work just fine. Get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

Just for laughs, could somebody please post the facts of this situation (or a pointer to them)? Apparently the packing material used in TRU waste drums was changed to something less stable? What is unstable about kitty litter? Inquiring minds want to know!

Anonymous said...

Try google on the Albuquerque Journal every day for the past three weeks or so. Your mind isn't "inquiring" enough to do your own research?

Anonymous said...

Headline: "LANL prevents millions of feline deaths by demonstrating previously unknown instability in kitty litter"

"Your cat may be at risk of sudden exothermic breakdown of his kitty litter, says Director of prestigious nuclear laboratory"

Anonymous said...

here's a representative article:

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/23848-radiation-release-from-federal-facility-still-stymies-experts

Basically, the critical difference is between mineral-based kitty litter and "green" kitty litter made from grains. The combination of grains and "nitrate salts" is suspected of being a culprit in unexpectedly opening the sealed drums

Anonymous said...

From the latest news reports, there are up to 500 containers that were packaged by LANL in the improper material. While 60 or so of them are still percolating outside at Los Alamos, most are already in WIPP. Then there are about 100 of them that were rushed to Texas from LANL after WIPP was closed down.

Give Charlie credit for keeping track of where the waste drums are located. At least it is not a typical LANL case of a few disks lost behind a copy machine, or a large number of classified files in temporary storage in a trailer with a drug dealer, or a gun just disappearing into thin air from inside an occupied guard shack.

Anonymous said...

The big lie is that it is safe to store nuclear waste underground and out of sight for thousands of years. You can not store radioactive waste safely and this kitty litter accident is proof of that. It's just luck that this accident happened so soon rather than when WIPP was long forgot and people on the surface started getting mysterious cancers.

Anonymous said...

Don't fear everyone, Charlie McMillan (LANL Director) appointed Terry Wallace to "take over" the Transuranic Program al Los Alamos. Wallace was wearing a t-shirt with the words: "Here I Come to Save the Day".

Anonymous said...

It's just luck that this accident happened so soon rather than when WIPP was long forgot and people on the surface started getting mysterious cancers.

May 28, 2014 at 2:40 PM

That God we can thank the Managers from Savannah River Site (SRS) who came to Los Alamos to shove everything but the kitchen sink in 55-gallon drums to meet the 3706 Program (cubic-meters) PBI for Governor Martinez and LANS.

Anonymous said...

So there are 440 pressure cooker tanks of waste underground at WIPP that are ready to blow at any time now????

May 28, 2014 at 2:45 PM

There are actually at least 500 at WIPP, a few hundred in Texas cooking aboveground in the heat, and at least 200 in double-containment which could result in a larger explosion. No worries...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Don't fear everyone, Charlie McMillan (LANL Director) appointed Terry Wallace to "take over" the Transuranic Program al Los Alamos. Wallace was wearing a t-shirt with the words: "Here I Come to Save the Day".

May 28, 2014 at 5:25 PM

Someone's idea of sick humor.

Anonymous said...

You can not store radioactive waste safely...

May 28, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Uh, ok, so what do you think should be done with it? Surely you realize it will continue to be created indefinitely? Nuclear power plants and the various nations' nuclear weapons programs are not going away. Are you going to plug your ears and keep crying "lalalalalala" until it all goes away?

Anonymous said...

"Yes and yes. Don't forget the blob and 10-foot tall red ants."

I think you need to tone it down a notch. They are actually fire ants and only 6 feet tall. Get it right next time.

Anonymous said...

My aunt is way less than 6 feet tall, but she sure can cook over a wood fire. So I think fire aunts are even smaller than you say.

Anonymous said...

Good info here on the WIPP issues:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/05/25/response-to-nuclear-kitty-litter-is-moving-fast/

Anonymous said...

After this unexpected fiasco with LANL's packing of the drums during late 2013, what is protecting the other thousands of WIPP drums from also having unusually materials packed in the drums that will cause them to "pop" at some point down the road?

Where is the formality of operating and the deep understanding of nuclear chemistry? Perhaps LANL is no longer the Center of Excellence that they claim to be.

Anonymous said...

While LANL still claims that they are the best in the world at all topics transuranic, this looks to be a costly error. With some estimates of the recovery running into multiple years and many billions of dollars, the screw-up will be in the press for a long time. Just remember that it all is the result of a change in kitty litter that caused the problem. Someone needs to go back and review elementry college chemistry.

On the bright side, lawyers in the area just gained long term job security from the mistake.

Anonymous said...

"Loss of public trust" is a demonstrable harm.

Anonymous said...

From this morning's Albuquerque Journal, it appears that the problem was caused by a subcontractor overseer who overstepped his authority and exceeded his expertise, in approving the use of organics without understanding the incompatibility with the nitrates in the waste. The lower subcontractor, who actually packages the waste (EnergySolutions) drives 20+ year-old, beat up pickup trucks around town with their company name and logo on the sides. Pretty low-rent.

Anonymous said...

9:11 AM is a cute attempt to shift responsibility onto another party. This is classic corporate communications to deflect away from the real issue. It does not matter if someone drives a "20+ year-old, beat up pickup truck" or a 200K vehicle parked in the Director's reserved row, it real issue remains that it was LANL waste that caused the problem. In the end, the actions of everyone working at the Lab, no matter what kind of car they drive, come to rest with the Director.

Anonymous said...

real issue remains that it was LANL waste that caused the problem...

May 29, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Sorry, the world is a little more complicated than that. It was how the waste was handled that caused the problem. The organic material caused the problem, and it was NOT part of the waste. Someone in the subcontractor organization made a serious error and should probably be fired for it. Maybe the LANL employees charged with overseeing the subcontractor's work should also be reprimanded or fired. It is certainly true that the Director bears responsibility for everything that happens during his tenure, but it is certainly NOT true that he is to blame for the problem. If you think the person who actually made the error bears no responsibility, but the Director does, I can bet you've never been in charge of anything, and that's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

If there were no policies in place to review what went into those drums then the Lab has failed miserably and heads need to roll. This was the labs responsibility they can't shirk it off by hiring a subcontractor and saying it's all his fault. That is total bull shit and you all know it. The subcontract is action for the LAB. The Lab is the responsible party. They needed to make sure things were being done right whether it was a lab employee doing the work or a subcontractor.

Anonymous said...

"If you think the person who actually made the error bears no responsibility, but the Director does, ..."



Huh? Not sure what you are reading, but this comes out of the wild blue.

Anonymous said...

May 29, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Nailed it, spot on.

Anonymous said...

Huh? Not sure what you are reading, but this comes out of the wild blue.

May 29, 2014 at 1:41 PM

May 29, 2014 at 10:34 AM said: "...the actions of everyone working at the Lab...come to rest with the Director.

No personal responsibility on the part of individual employees, apparently.

Anonymous said...

If there were no policies in place to review what went into those drums then the Lab has failed miserably and heads need to roll.

May 29, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Who said there were no policies in place? You can have all the policies you want, and people will still screw up. I guess your attitude is that only the person at the head of the organization should have to pay any consequences, not the person who actually screwed up. As long as you never get put in charge of anything, you're golden, right? Great attitude.

Anonymous said...

The whole chain of command for the LANL/WIPP screwup should be jailed for endangering the public.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a whole lot of extra activity today from Charlie's defender staff.

Anonymous said...

The whole chain of command for the LANL/WIPP screwup should be jailed for endangering the public.

May 29, 2014 at 3:19 PM


Ok, want to cite a criminal statute? Nope, I thought not. And exactly what "public" was "endangered"? And what evidence? Nope, none of that either. Ho Hum.

Anonymous said...

McMillan has turned out to be quite the pretty boy, vain, "GQ" Director with a plethora photos of himself on the lab Web, his new publication, photo opportunities with dignitaries, with students, etc. One of the LANL photographers indicated McMillan likes to review the photos to ensure "he looks his finest" before they are released. This "nauseates" me.

Anonymous said...

Its a sad state of affairs at LANL when the priority in the Lab Director's Office is a photo opportunity (with makeup and powder) instead of the status of Nation's Nuclear Stockpile.

Anonymous said...

Charlie is apparently under the mistaken impression that his face in the public eye is important to anyone beside himself. He's confused "large" with "in charge."

Anonymous said...

The long list of failures of Charlie McMillan are not all there is during his reign. He has had some successes. for example....

Lansce and... MaRIE !!!!

Oh, wait. The NNSA just said that they are shutting down the Lujan Neutron Center because it is of no real value. Never mind, get back to the dismal job of keeping the TA-55 operations in mothballs for another year and reading your new EnRoute magazine with those really cool pics of Charlie "GQ" McMillan.

Anonymous said...

Those expensive brochures for LANS Strategic Goals that Charlie had sent out to all employees at LANL were a nice touch, weren't they?


Anonymous said...

The fanfare and evident extravagent cost associated with the 'Strategic Plan' roll out are classic examples of when you can not control the discussion direction, create a new topic. When it became clear that LANL was the cause for the WIPP closure, something had to happen to change the conversation - and fast. Not to worry, three years into his reign, here comes Charlie with a 'Strategic Plan!'

You have to wonder if one reason no one had time to spend ten minutes looking at the elementary chemistry of the WIPP waste is that they were all too occupied working to make sure that Charlie looked good. All this could have been avoided under different leadership.

Anonymous said...

LANS will get another 80% score at the end of the year, and another year tacked on to the contract. No one in DOE has the cajones to cancel the contract,even after LANL managers singlehandedly shut down WIPP.

Anonymous said...

At this pace, we'll see the National Lab Directors (past and present) in Playgirl Magazine.

Anonymous said...

Enroute?

Yeah, enroute to managerial disaster at LANL.

Anonymous said...

Enroute? Enroute to the money! Charlie McMillan

Anonymous said...

I heard a rumor last week that Brett Knapp is returning to LANL and is pissed off as ever. He coming to kick some asses in the LANL Transuranic Program.

Anonymous said...

Charlie indicated that three goals associated with Enoute is to "learn what I (McMillan) do, learn more about me (McMillan), and learn more about my goals".

Hey Charlie, I guess the world revolves around you apparently!

Anonymous said...

Why is he still here?

Anonymous said...

Because no one else wants the job!

Anonymous said...

Brett Knapp returning to LANL? Say it ain't so!

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