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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 jlscoob5@gmail.com

Friday, August 22, 2014

Energy secretary finally states the obvious at WIPP



Albuquerque Journal - Editorial
August 19, 2014

After months of the congressional delegation and the Gov. Susana Martinez administration asking, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz made time last week to visit the nation’s only underground nuclear waste disposal facility – still closed after two serious safety breaches in February. It may be several years before it reopens.

At a town hall in Carlsbad, Moniz attempted to reassure Waste Isolation Pilot Plant workers and members of the community of how important the facility really is to the U.S. government. Well, the people of southeastern New Mexico knew that, but the U.S. Department of Energy hasn’t been acting like it is convinced or it would have made sure:

* That the 29-year-old salt mining truck that caught fire on Feb. 5 in the 2,150-foot-deep mine had been properly maintained and had a working fire suppression system.

* That its Carlsbad Field Office had corrected long-running problems related to nuclear safety, maintenance and emergency management.

* That it had provided better oversight of the field office and the WIPP contractor.

In other words, that it had paid better attention.

The cherry on top of this sundae of neglect was that the DOE gave the WIPP contractor a nearly $2 million bonus for exemplary performance just five days after the truck fire and just four days before the radiation leak, even though investigations into the incidents show deficiencies that go back years.

The safety breaches represent unprecedented warning signs. When it comes to the federal government, just what does it take not to get a bonus?

All along, DOE officials blindly held that a radiation leak couldn’t happen, putting the odds of such an accident at one chance in 10,000 to one in 1 million during any given year of WIPP operations.

Now nearly six months after the Feb. 15 radiation leak, Moniz tells New Mexico, “This is really an absolutely core facility for the country,” getting it back online is “a very high priority” and “safety has to be the driver” of that recovery.

Indeed. Secretary Moniz should make sure that happens – and that oversight is given a higher priority.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Moniz should reconsider the decade long mad rush to privatize and "profit-ize" all the NNSA facilities.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Moniz should reconsider due to the fact that his DOE oversight staff is comprised in large measure by third rate nincompoops.

Anonymous said...

The root cause of this was Governor Martinez forcing LANS to meet an unrealistic deadline on the 3706 Campaign. Unfortunately, McMillan was ignorant enough to bite off more than he could chew here. I worked in LANL's EWMO (TRU Program) and I can personally tell you every rule/policy was broken to meet this deadline. It was a Chinese "sweatshop" in every sense of the word.

Anonymous said...

In the scheme of things, this isn't a showstopper, but it needs to be understood and rectified. Neither is it necessarily bad management.

McMillan in agreeing to reach for Martinez goal focussed the project resources to get to this point sooner and likely for far less costs than in a comfortable schedule. The marching army completed the project and was sent home, now a smaller team of specialists must resolve the few deficiencies the army left behind.

Because this storage facility is the first item of its kind, there will be surprizes, both predictable and "breakthrus". Some of the deficiencies are not predictable ahead of time, but must be discovered. Getting to them sooner, resolves them sooner therefore at lower cost.

It's a balance between risk and progress. Martinez set the conditions under which he would agree to proceed, and McMillan agreed to those conditions. The team responded with the resources and capabilities available.

Same as it ever was. Project Management ain't a picnic.

Anonymous said...

Innovative, higher risk projects will always have significant problems.

If the outcome of risk/reward trade-off were predictable private industry would do it.

Anonymous said...

For something this important, Moniz pockets are so deep and the timelines are so long that the solutions necessary to safely isolate material will be found and implemented.

Vexing, trying, but not a public safety disaster. Not on Obama's radar.

Anonymous said...

"Same as it ever was. Project Management ain't a picnic.

August 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM"

Nice post, Freud calls this rationalization.

Anonymous said...

Same as it ever was. Project Management ain't a picnic.

August 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM

You must be the Program Manager for the LANL TA-55 security "fence"?

Anonymous said...

Nope. 40 years leading teams building real hard innovative stuff. Listen and learn, junior.

Anonymous said...

"Nope. 40 years leading teams building real hard innovative stuff. Listen and learn, junior.

August 26, 2014 at 8:31 PM"

And now you see the problem bytches, the inability to remove bad team leaders. It has been said before and will be said again and again, the festering problem at the NNSA labs for has been profoundly poor management and leadership. The results speak for themselves. It is time for congress to listen and learn.

Anonymous said...

"...It has been said before and will be said again and again, the festering problem at the NNSA labs for has been profoundly poor management and leadership. The results speak for themselves. It is time for congress to listen and learn..."

Unfortunately, unless the annual NNSA performance (report card) metrics include your area of concern, it doesn't exist to your NNSA field office. Congress maybe.

Anonymous said...

Wallace (and Team - Chavez) have conducted 3,000 experiments (and counting) to determine the conditions under which the LANL drum farted, exploded, or whatever. What a waste of taxpayer resources. Science gone wild!

Anonymous said...

Same as it ever was. Project Management ain't a picnic.

August 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Project Management ain't rocket science either. The problem with LANL is that they don't know how to conduct or implement Project Management. Never have, never will, especially with Bechtel at the helm.

Anonymous said...

August 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM - Thanks for the post, and later educational follow-up for "Junior". Nice to know that there are real people dropping by this blog occasionally.

Anonymous said...

" August 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM - Thanks for the post, and later educational follow-up for "Junior". Nice to know that there are real people dropping by this blog occasionally.

August 28, 2014 at 5:47 PM"

Ahhh, no. 3.24PM is a the problem. Think about it and you will see why. Please before you post next time think really...really hard about this.
Maybe just...maybe, a number of the problems at the NNSA labs might have something to do with the bad management. Just a thought but look into it, think about it, and you might realize something. There is a hidden pattern.

Anonymous said...

Why do you have to grab any chance to bash "Chinese" ?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Wallace (and Team - Chavez) have conducted 3,000 experiments (and counting) to determine the conditions under which the LANL drum farted, exploded, or whatever. What a waste of taxpayer resources. Science gone wild!

August 28, 2014 at 4:06 AM


Waste on top of waste.

Anonymous said...

The risk management compensation comments above don't apply in the layers within projects where heirarchy, objectives and reponse culture become well-developed over time, but rather between the manager(s) of the value high, high risk, innovative project and hopefully, the savvy, experienced sponsors (sponsor project manager(s), congress and congress staff).

Bumps occur and teams respond. Innovation means a less sure path, so backtracking or bogging down might be expected. More experience folks probably do a little better pathfinding and explaining the outcomes. This amid a healthy and heartfelt attack by detractors, for risky projects have sound reasons for not going forward as well as for proceeding.

Hopefully communicated with mostly mutual respect, and in admiration for the teams advancing science.

Anonymous said...

Distinguishing between a well-managed effort on a difficult rock-strewn path and a poorly managed effort on a similar rock-strewn path is not as hard as it may seem, the well-managed effort survives longer. (not what you wanted to hear?)

Also, the remaining staff are cohesive,committed, exhausted, focused and working hellacious hours.

Switchyard 2 of NIF was one such path. Look at it today. It is a simple, elegant thing of beauty.
A dedicated few know the casualties there.

Anonymous said...

"And now you see the problem.."

controverisial high risk projects both stumble due to the risks and remain in the spotlight due to the history and therefore generate frustration for those who haven't seen it end before.

Once the project is completed or cancelled, the rabble subsides and an post-mortem can illustrate best practices and places for improvement. This is best done with an eye toward the future rather than a finger pointed toward the past.

Nimitz, no poor judge of men under duress, said when speaking of one of storied Admiral Halseys surprizing number of failures said, "Every dog gets two bites".

The country had a lot invested in those dogs.

Anonymous said...

California's DOT will benefit greatly when a quiet post mortem of peers is completed on the Bay Bridge renovation. Many lessons, both places for improvement and success stories, will be presented.

This bridge stands today. It was not unduly swayed by a 6.0 quake though the epicenter was almost 50 miles closer than the 6.9 quake that closed it for 6 months.

Not all outcomes of controversial high risk projects are poor, but many remain unpopular in the public forum until the critics die.

Anonymous said...

Come use your hard earned Phd to work at Los Alamos were you will spend your career studying.... drum farts!

It's an exciting new field with lots of potential.

Anonymous said...

NNSA has been renamed as the Federal Administration of Radiological Testing and Simulation and the former Administrator of NNSA is now referred to as the Administrator of FARTS.

Thanks, LANL!!

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