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 .
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-449-4846 or Richard Espinosa of UPTE-LANL at email@example.com or 505-603-9034.