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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. Comments not conforming to BLOG rules are deleted. Blog author serves as a moderator. For new topics or suggestions, email


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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The End of Lab Associates Erodes Both Institutional Expertise and Individual Benefits

From SPSE/UPTE July monthly memo:

The End of Lab Associates Erodes Both Institutional Expertise and Individual Benefits  

Rather than bring recently shrunken retiree medical benefits into compliance with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) management eliminated an entire job classification: the Lab Associates. Lab Associates are Lab retirees, many with decades of expertise, who work less than 1000 hours per year and are paid by the hour. They neither get regular employee health benefits nor earn sick or vacation leave.

The Lab’s lawyers have determined that for purposes of compliance with the ACA, Lab Associates are Lab employees, but their employer-provided health care benefit, the retiree health care benefit, does not meet the requirements of the ACA. Instead of fixing the retiree health care plan to bring it into compliance with the ACA, Lab management decided instead to terminate all the Lab Associates. Every one of them --- we think some 200 in all --- received letters terminating their employment with the Lab. Some fraction of them --- and we have been unable to determine that fraction --- will continue in their current assignments, but as Akima employees --- subcontractors --- rather than as Lab employees, at approximately twice the cost to the programs at the Lab that benefit from the experience and expertise that Lab Associates bring.

The loss of Lab Associates is but the latest consequence of a steady erosion of pay and retirement benefits since the privatization of the Lab in 2007. This erosion in pay and benefits is consistent with a national trend toward increasing income inequality (see April 2014 monthly memo).  LLNS management has proven unwilling and unable to buck this national trend. Consequently, many SPSE-UPTE members now face financial hardships, and a few face financial disasters, such as eviction or foreclosure and consequent loss of their home.

The erosion of retirement benefits has hit both active employees and retirees hard. The erosion began with the elimination of the Defined Benefit Plan (pension) available to employees hired after the transition from UC management to LLNS management. Then, those transitioning employees who opted to roll over their UC pension funds into the new company’s pension plan (TCP-1) were hit with a big increase in employee contributions that were not offset by pay increases. Then, Lab retirees were thrown off the old retiree medical plans, and instead given a fixed sum (either $1200 per year for a single retiree or $2400 per year for a retiree with a dependent spouse) with which to purchase supplemental health insurance on the open market. For many, if not most, retirees this change meant a huge increase in out-of-pocket costs for health insurance.

SPSE-UPTE’s fix for the loss of Lab Associates is medical benefits for all retirees that comply with the standards of the ACA. SPSE-UPTE’s fix would retain institutional access to capabilities possessed by all Lab Associates, rather than a subset hired through a subcontractor.

We welcome your comments to, or to any SPSE-Board member, including President-Elect William Smith at We also solicit your help in advocating for all Lab employees and retirees by joining SPSE-UPTE if you are not already a member.

Another waste scandal brewing for LANL?

Independent Oversight Review of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Transuranic Waste Facility Safety Basis and Design Development
July 2014

Findings indicate significant deficiencies or safety issues that warrant a high level of attention from management. If left uncorrected, findings could adversely affect the DOE mission, the environment, the safety or health of workers and the public, or national security. Findings may identify aspects of a program that do not meet the intent of DOE policy, DOE orders, or Federal regulation. Corrective action plans must be developed and implemented for Independent Oversight appraisal findings. Cognizant DOE managers must use site- and program-specific issues management processes and systems developed in accordance with DOE Order 227.1 to manage these corrective action plans and track them to completion.

Los Alamos National Laboratory
Finding F-LANL-1: Several engineering calculations contained technical errors and failed to identify and track assumptions used in the calculation, and some calculations were not independently verified, as required

Obama Favoring Atomic-Arsenal Spending Over Nuclear Security: Report

Global Security Newswire

Obama Favoring Atomic-Arsenal Spending Over Nuclear Security: Report
July 30, 2014

The White House last year rejected a proposal to speed up nuclear-security work, opting instead to spend more money on modernizing nuclear arms.

The Energy Department, in a secret May 2013 report, laid out a plan to ramp up efforts to finish securing and disposing of vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear material around the planet by December 2016. However, the White House in its fiscal 2015 budget plan ultimately decided to cut back its nuclear nonproliferation spending in order to make certain enough monies were available to update the U.S. nuclear stockpile, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Tuesday.

The 12-page report, obtained by the center, was produced by Global Threat Reduction Initiative staff in the National Nuclear Security Administration. The report said that in excess of two tons of movable, weapons-suitable uranium continues to be held in scores of atomic research reactors around the world. At the same time, global reactors are generating more plutonium, enough to fuel some 740 warheads annually, according to the proposal.

The NNSA report said that despite the Obama administration's high-profile, multi-year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material, there were "still serious threats that require urgent attention."

During internal administration negotiations, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz campaigned for more money for both nuclear security and arsenal modernization from the Defense Department's share of the budget, according to the CPI investigation. The Pentagon objected to this on the grounds that it had already given billions of dollars in the last four years to Energy Department weapons activities, which were not progressing as quickly as the military wanted.

Ultimately, a deal was worked out in a Cabinet-level meeting to cut nonproliferation spending while protecting the weapons budget. An unidentified ex-White House official said there was internal agreement that it was okay to dial back nuclear-security efforts because of progress made in the last four years.

"They had basically achieved their goals. The stuff that was left was the stuff that was hard to do," the official said.

The budget that the Obama administration submitted to Congress earlier this year reduced spending on Energy Department nuclear nonproliferation efforts by $399 million while increasing by $534 million funding for atomic-arms programs, concludes a new study by Harvard University's Project on Managing the Atom.

Laura Holgate, National Security Council senior director for combating weapons-of-mass-destruction terrorism, said that cuts in nuclear security spending were appropriate because of how much progress had been made on that front.

"The president's nonproliferation and nuclear security priorities were protected," Holgate said in an email to the investigative news organization. "The decreased budget reflects natural and predictable declines based on project completion."

Monday, July 28, 2014

LBGT at Sandia

LGBT intolerance problem at Sandia?

I was just checking and noticed several comments suggesting intolerance to LGBT at Sandia. Is it really that bad there? Can anyone else provide any more info on what is going wrong there? Is it some sort of toxic bleed-over from Lockheed?
July 26, 2014 at 4:39 AM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
An certain senior manager in Security & Reliability at Sandia National Laboratories Livermore (you can use Google to find his identity) made several disapproving comments about the LGBT lifestyle to his staff when he was (and still is) a manager. These comments are well known to his staff, and he should be fired for making these comments to his staff.
July 26, 2014 at 5:11 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Some of the glass door comments are scathing. Too bad for Sandia that they are true. They use workplace bullying and discriminatory practices to protect their own. Sandia is the worst of the three labs when it comes to issues regarding minorities and LGBT.
July 26, 2014 at 5:57 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I can confirm the 2nd post on July 26, 2014 at 5:11 PM.

The individual referenced used to be a manager in Org. 8200. A better Google search is: "Security & Reliability" at Sandia National Laboratories Livermore linkedin (don't forget to use quotation marks)

I can also confirm the disparaging comments he publicly made to staff that expressed his disapproval of those in the LGBT community.

Friday, July 25, 2014

22 LANL people RIFed yesterday?

Does anybody have any scoop on the 22 LANL people RIFed yesterday?

July 25, 2014 at 7:14 AM

One possible clue is that about two months ago our Maintenance Manager at TA-55 indicated that they had a severe shortfall in funding, were ending some Code (e.g. NFPA) required maintenance, and were going to RIF folks. Maintenance folks are always the first RIFed, management (i.e. Essential Personnel) are pardoned.

UC borrows $2.7 billion to Fund Pension Debt

UC borrows $2.7 billion to Fund Pension Debt

UC regents last week approved borrowing another $700 million internally to help close a pension funding gap, bringing the total borrowed to $2.7 billion in a pension bond-like strategy with risks or rewards, depending on investment earnings.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Too many chiefs?

What is the mission value added to have a LLNS engineering Senior Superintendent, chief electronics engineer, or chief mechanical engineer?
July 23, 2014 at 4:33 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question.

And how about the Chief Engineers for each and every one of the GS divisions.
July 23, 2014 at 11:59 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
These highly compensated managers, shielded from reorganization in any negative way, do provide power point salary presentations for engineering once a year.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

LANL ‘inadequate’

Nuclear criticality safety report: LANL ‘inadequate’

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 10:00 pm
Updated: 11:07 am, Wed Jul 16, 2014
By Patrick Malone
The New Mexican

Even before a radiation leak in February halted the flow of nuclear waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, the federal government had identified deficiencies in Los Alamos National Laboratory’s safeguards against potentially catastrophic nuclear fission accidents, a new report shows.
Los Alamos “does not meet expectations” in overall performance of its criticality safety program, states the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report on Nuclear Criticality Safety, delivered Monday to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
July 16, 2014 at 12:11 PM
Anonymous Anonymous said...
The report clearly states that LANL is the only location in NNSA that was rated 'inadequate' for its criticality safety program. And, just to make it sting even more, PF-4 was not even operating for over half the year. Come on folks, this is nuclear operations 101!
July 17, 2014 at 6:42 AM

Monday, July 14, 2014

Temperature estimates of breached LANL waste drums at WIPP

Based on the photographic evidence3 of the color of the steel on the breached LANL drum, a small area of the drum reached a minimum temperature of 340°C4. The maximum surface temperature of the drum is bounded by the critical temperature of low-carbon steel5,6 (700-870°C)7 due to the apparent lack of structural deformation on the site of the discoloration. The immediately adjacent drums do not show signs of radiant heat damage that would exceed 230°C, the auto ignition temperature of paper8. The damage to container gaskets, polypropylene backfill bags, shrink wrap, and slip sheets indicate a room wide temperature sufficient to cause the polymers in these items to flow or melt without burning which will happen at approximately 170°C9. Based solely on the photographic information it appears that some surfaces on the LANL drum may have reached temperatures of up to 700-870°C10 and the waste in a large portion of the room reached temperatures up to 170°C11 to 230°C12. The evaluation that follows is based on this temperature range.

Livermore, Berkeley national labs win seven R&D awards

Livermore, Berkeley national labs win seven R&D awards
By Jeremy Thomas
Bay Area News Group
July 13, 2014 

LIVERMORE -- Researchers at the University of California affiliated Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories have won a total of seven R&D 100 awards for 2014, recognizing the world's top 100 industrial inventions for last year.

The trade journal R&D Magazine on Thursday announced four awards would be handed out to Livermore lab scientists for advances in thin-layer chromatography, a new spectrometer that measures X-rays 10 times more precisely than current technology, an optical technology combining many small laser beams into a single high-power beam, and a method of optical polishing for use in the National Ignition Facility.

This year's award winners, according to Livermore lab officials, could aid in identifying explosives and illegal drugs, make high-accuracy X-ray fingerprinting available to nonexpert users, upgrade fiber lasers for defense applications, and offer new techniques for polishing high-quality glass optics.

The Livermore lab has captured 152 R&D awards since 1978.

Lawrence Berkeley Lab scientists will take home three R&D awards, for developing faster ways to analyze the chemical composition of cells, new genetic tools to improve crops, and a bioinformatics platform for screening 3-D cell models.

The technologies could lead to advances in biofuels, food crops, drug screening and biomaterials, and to a better understanding of microbial communities, Berkeley lab officials said.

The Berkeley lab has won 73 R&D 100 awards.

The winners will be honored Nov. 7 in Las Vegas.

ASC program

As a former NNSA Lab employee, I have followed the ASC program from the original ASCI initiative.  There has been plenty of hype, but also some good science.  Is it about time for a critical discussion of how far scientific computing - particularly MP computing - can go to serve the NW mission?  By the way, how many of the more important problems actually scale on the new machines?

Dan Segalman

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Lab admits violating nuke waste permit

Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 8:36 am

Monitor Staff, Wire Reports

Los Alamos National Laboratory says it made mistakes in packing waste that has been linked to a radiation leak at the government's underground nuclear waste dump, but it remains unclear if the violations or its use of organic cat litter to absorb moisture played a role in the accident.

In a letter released by state regulators Thursday, lab officials told the New Mexico Environment Department that their internal probe of the handling of the toxic waste from decades of nuclear bomb building has uncovered several violations of its Hazardous Waste Facility Permit. The lab says it failed to follow proper procedures in making the switch from inorganic to organic litter and in its lack of follow up on waste that tests showed to be highly acidic.

Next Engineering AD?

When will the LLNS Director announce the selection of the next Engineering AD?

Has the "high foot" campaign saved NIF?

Has the "high foot" campaign saved NIF? Is the strategy of defining success to be be two orders of magnitude lower that the original predicted yield impressed the NNSA? Are people at NIF happy that only one person, Omar Hurricane, gets credit? Will funding continue indefinitely for the high foot tuning campaign? Will anyone admit that the high foot approach will never ignite?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

pop ups ?

  1. Scooby, the intrusive pop-up advertising your blog now sports is highly annoying. If you are trying to monetize this blog, you're doing it all wrong.
  2. I read this blog regularly. There is NO pop-up advertising.

    You have a virus/adware infecting your computer.

Exodus. at LLNL

Can anybody comment on the continued exit of Lab employees a year after the Voluntary Separation? Have any numbers?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

LLNS fee

In my opinion the current NNSA Lab "for profit" management fee structure has caused most of the damage to LLNL. The annual management fee is taken from the overhead "tax" and was not an added amount by DOE/NNSA to the Lab's annual budget. So this is an additional $40 - $45 million less that is available for Lab activities. While UC puts its half mostly back into UCOP funded research collaborations between UC campus and LLNL, the LLNS industrial partners pocket their share of the fee and use none of it for Lab activities. 

Prior to LLNS the Lab had more overhead funding available for infrastructure projects and activities (aka GPP - General Plant Project). However since the management fee hit to the overhead, basically all direct GPP funded capital improvements have disappeared. A major reduction in the fee - which is being considered by DOE/NNSA - could free up $10 to $20 million a year for infrastructure and site improvement GPP projects depending on how much the Director's Office decided to lower the overhead rates.

Will NMED fine LANL over waste?

SANTA FE – New Mexico state government has denied requests from Los Alamos National Laboratory to extend deadlines for cleaning up decades-old toxic waste at the lab.

This waste container with at the underground Waste Isolation Plant near Carlsbad shows its lid unsealed and apparent heat discoloration. Investigators believe misprocessing of transuranic waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory may have led to a radioactive leak that has closed WIPP since February. 

The New Mexico Environment Department recently sent numerous letters denying the lab more time to meet deadlines established in a legally binding 2005 consent order.

The department said it has granted time extensions in the past because LANL needed to divert resources to moving thousands of barrels of already processed transuranic waste to the underground Waste Isolation Pilot Plan near Carlsbad. The barrels, stored above ground, attracted international attention when threatened by wildfires in recent years.

But the lab’s effort to move out the final containers has been stymied because WIPP is now closed. A radiation leak — which investigators believe may have been caused by mishandling of the waste by LANL — has shut down the storage facility since February.

All the of the barrels were supposed to be gone from Los Alamos by the end of June under a two-year-old agreement with the Environment Department. LANL recently acknowledged it would miss the Monday deadline because of the problems at WIPP.

The lab did not provide comment Friday on the Environment Department’s rejection of the time-extension waivers for projects aimed at much broader lab clean-up issues. NMED spokesman Jim Winchester said the letters rejecting the waivers “speak for themselves.”

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