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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

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What led to the WIPP waste explosion

Excellent summary of what led to the WIPP waste explosion


"...the lab’s belief in its own “exceptionalism” is the problem and that LANL feels it doesn’t have to follow DOE rules."

http://www.abqjournal.com/744791/news/los-alamos-lab-officials-outline-safety-program.html

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Which DOE rule was broken? Please be specific.

Anonymous said...

Which DOE rule was broken?

Thou shall not get caught....?

Anonymous said...

If you had listened to any of Wallace's lectures on what happened at WIPP, then you know the LANL party line. They did nothing wrong! Nothing at all!! There is no way the drum explosion was their fault! No way at all!! The best scientific minds in the world have studied it to death, and can not reproduce the event. Ergo, LANL is innocent in the event.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Wallace, PAD for Global Security, was asked by the Lab Director to take on the assignment of cleaning up what can best be described as one of several Bechtel debacles. Bechtel, with their consistent business partner, Energy Services, and under the leadership of Michael Graham, consciously worked around any formality of operations requirements in order to achieve the ship-to-WIPP requirements negotiated by DOE, the State of New Mexico, and LANL. The LANL General Counsel reviews, an external review team led by Bill Madia, and the DOE and IG reports on WIPP all tell the story. Madia, a confidant of Secretary Moniz, led a review that has been largely scuttled but highlights the myriad short cuts in procedures and subcontractor management that led to the infamous organic versus inorganic remediation of nitrate salts. In the process, the dubious FOD model and the role of the lab's ES&H organization were compromised.

In the end,the comedy of errors led to Moniz's decision to call an end to the failed LANS, LLC contract experiment. The LANS Board knows all of this but has no effective way to hold Bechtel accountable. Yes, several top managers were reassigned but they were only pawns.

Wallace never defended the WIPP operations that led to this debacle. Nor should he. But he did try to insist that the chemical and biological bases for the incident should be thoroughly understood since the multiple reviews indicate systemic failings across the board, including the National TRU Program and management of its waste acceptance criteria.

An irony is that the LANL barrel was where it should have been--deep underground in a salt repository. In fact, had the particular panel been closed on schedule as it should, there would have been no news here. You really can't make up all of the separate contributing causes to the WIPP incident. But you can always count on Bechtel being in business development mode and never owning their deficiencies.

Anonymous said...

So the decisions made a WIPP put employees well beingv as at risk. Risking employment and total compensation as well as work complexity. We know from recent contact rebids at both LANL (2007) and LLNL (2008) that the following happens.
1. The new contract brings many new unfunded mandates. This ultimately leads to layoffs to fund the mandated work.
2. Contract Labor contacts will be terminated. New ones will be brought to competitive market. Contract employees will lose all accrued benefits not taken.
3. Employee benefits will be pushed toward markets with much lower benefits. Employee total compensation will fall.
4. Termination efforts and loss of morale means work effort and output will drop dramatically as the termination approaches.
5.Employee and family stress will rise.
6. Satifaction with work content diminishes.
7. Employee and Supervisor working condition agreements are terminated.
8. Employee work history is forgotten. A new gradebook is started.
9. Hiring stops and becomes harder as it is resumed.
10. At least 2 major reorganizations will occur. The first by senior managers vying for work scope prior to the termination. The second, after the new contractors is aboard. The third when new management begins to understand the work.
8. New management will not have experience in this work. Hence they will blunder over and over as they learn again.

So what can you do? I can only say brace for a rocky ride. Expect nothing from your elected representatives. Trust nothing from NNSA or your management. Have a new job offer in hand. Perhaps form an employee senate ( union?) to represent employee interests ib this.

LLNL
1990s - 2010s

Anonymous said...

My estimate is that the loss of the 457k tax deferrsl, 2 salary freezes to control costs, elimination of training and the resumption of after tax employee pension contributions cost continuing employees 15% of total compensation. The higher cost benefit rates now cost 5% more. New employees cannot join the pension plan. This probably costs the average employees hundreds of thousands of lost income over their lifetime.

Anonymous said...

This compares unfavorably with LBNL employees over the same period.

Anonymous said...

If employees band together now they might be able to get representatives to identify them as a separate stakeholder with different intetests. Perhaps LANL elected employee representatives can be members of the NNSA team writing the new contract. Looking out for employees interests
Unusual? Yes. Helpful?

Anonymous said...

March 25, 2016 at 8:36 AM is too wordy.


Here is a summary of the high points:

LANL good.
Bechtel bad.

Anonymous said...

6:08 PM Same stupid comment. Try to follow. Unlike your comments there is actual interesting information in what 8:36 AM has written.

Anonymous said...

6:08 PM Same stupid comment. Try to follow. Unlike your comments there is actual interesting information in what 8:36 AM has written.

March 29, 2016 at 1:39 PM

Denial, denial, denial, that is LANL for you. My hate for LANL knows no bound. For the past 22 years I have waited for the demise of LANL. I have been teased every few years that it will be closed or the culture of arrogance will be brought to its knees.. Yet it remains, a testament to the extraordinary depths of those that will cling to the culture to the end. This has not been fair to me or many others. No matter how many times the truth is presented, you still come back with your arrogance. When will it ever end?

Anonymous said...

When will it ever end?

March 30, 2016 at 12:45 AM

When you finally shut up?

Anonymous said...

6:08 do you hear yourself: "My hate for LANL knows no bound?" Do you realize you are sick? It is one thing to try and discuss things here to try to improve the situation but you aren't interested in any discussion, just spreading your hate. Seriously see somebody and start reading some blog about space aliens or something that isn't for you about keeping your hate going. Move away, get some help. You aren't doing yourself or anyone else any good posting the same thing over and over again about your hate.

In fact your hate speech about PhDs is prejudice. You could just as well be posting to Black Lives Matter about how you hate black people.

Anonymous said...

6:08 PM Same stupid comment. Try to follow. Unlike your comments there is actual interesting information in what 8:36 AM has written.

March 29, 2016 at 1:39 PM


Only if one considers paid propaganda "interesting information."

Anonymous said...

March 30, 2016 at 2:14 PM

Check your arrogance, you are on you propaganda box again. I notice with all you types that you can write these long diatribes rationallizing how LANL is good Bechtel is bad but you can never except your responsibility, arrogance, and culture as being the root cause to the problem. To deny there s a cultural problem is rationalization and accepting there is a cultural problem is the first of many many steps in the long road to some kind of recovery.

Anonymous said...

March 31, 2016 at 12:59 AM

Blah, blah. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Is it arrogant to try to have a discussion or to keep blathering "culture, culture, culture..." You must certainly be right if you can say it enough times. Now go blather to yourself and thank you for not sharing.

Anonymous said...

I have been looking into the question of the culture of Los Alamos to see which view is right. One thing I just found out was that work done in Los Alamos over just the past couple of years has been published in Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. I was rather shocked as these are the top scienntific journals in the world. No second rate organization can be this well published in such journals. In some ways this pleasantly surprised me as I have been told that Los Alamos is not or is no longer a scientiftic organization but the publication record tells a different tale. I had been thinking that the arrogance would arrise from being a pure weapons lab unsullied by the outside world however this is too narrow of a definition and seems not to be the case. I am just sharing my observations but the I would hazard to guess that that there is more to the situation than just saying Los Alamos National Laboratory has some sort of single culture. The best thing to do is is to look into the situation on your own rather than listen to soundbites and such.

Anonymous said...

I am just sharing my observations but the I would hazard to guess that that there is more to the situation than just saying Los Alamos National Laboratory has some sort of single culture. The best thing to do is is to look into the situation on your own rather than listen to soundbites and such.

March 31, 2016 at 2:29 PM


Please, please at least attempt to read what you type before posting.

Anonymous said...


Please, please at least attempt to read what you type before posting.

April 1, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Grammar aside the poster has a point.

Anonymous said...

Not really a grammar problem either, just one mistyped word. Sheesh. Cut the guy a break, already.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really a grammar problem either, just one mistyped word. Sheesh. Cut the guy a break, already.

April 1, 2016 at 8:36 PM

Sure hope you aren't ever in charge of anything that depends on careful reading. Try one more time to read it, and this time pay attention.

Anonymous said...


Sure hope you aren't ever in charge of anything that depends on careful reading. Try one more time to read it, and this time pay attention.

April 2, 2016 at 8:26 AM

What is your point? The idea of LANL having a single culture is obviously nonsense which is what the original poster was saying. Is here some other message or is this something that you just disagree with?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the point was that there is more than one mistake in the passage.

Anonymous said...

It is a pretty picayune point. But that's all it takes for a troll to go into hysterical hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

It is a pretty picayune point.

April 2, 2016 at 1:42 PM


You are right, it is a pretty picayune point. About as important as the difference between "an organic" and "inorganic" was to LANL. When you are part of a culture that carefully reads documents, then you notice such mistakes. Otherwise, you incorrectly fill a waste drum, ship it to WIPP, and when it explodes the entire place is shut down for an indefinite duration.

Anonymous said...

Plus, the waste drum did not "explode."

Anonymous said...

Plus, the waste drum did not "explode."

April 3, 2016 at 7:17 PM

You think that the entire episode is a hoax?

Anonymous said...

You think that the entire episode is a hoax?

April 4, 2016 at 9:12 AM

No. Excess internal pressure popped the lid seal - not even enough to remove it completely. Clearly depicted in the photos released. Hardly an "explosion." Just more hyperventilating hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

You think that the entire episode is a hoax?

April 4, 2016 at 9:12 AM

It was not an explosion.

Anonymous said...

Explosion, fart, overpressure, vent, or whatever else you want to call the lid seperation, it was a screw up by LANL that resulted in the release of airborne activity and the closure of WIPP for the foreseeable future. The worst part is that the entire event was easily avoidable.

Anonymous said...

The worst part is that the entire event was easily avoidable.

April 4, 2016 at 11:32 AM

Indeed and that is why we need make science a priority rather than profit. I know this is not what you want to hear but it is the truth.

Anonymous said...

It's not that he doesn't want to hear it BUT it's the truth, it's that he doesn't want to hear it BECAUSE it's the truth.

Anonymous said...

Indeed and that is why we need make science a priority rather than profit. I know this is not what you want to hear but it is the truth.

April 4, 2016 at 11:58 AM


It must be hard for some people to understand, but priorities in all organizations flow from the leadership. LANL is led by a PhD physicist that was selected by the University of California, with its rich scientific history. Plain and simple, what has happened at LANL is not the fault of profit or non-profit, it is the fault of the unqualified leadership.

Anonymous said...

>Plain and simple, what has happened at LANL is not the fault of profit or non-profit, it is the >fault of the unqualified leadership.

Indeed but what does this have to do with a science culture? It may be a bad management culture but it is not a science culture that is the problem at LANL. Also before 2000 the leadership
seemed to work fine? What changed since 2000, it would be the push for a corporate like management structure, so I would have to see it is still driven by the for profit model that leads to unqualified leadership. Again this is not what you want to hear but you have your agenda and no amount of reasoning will ever work with you.

Anonymous said...

no amount of reasoning will ever work with you.

April 4, 2016 at 2:36 PM

"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into." - Jonathan Swift.

Anonymous said...

Many of the posts have a theme of "before 2000 life was perfect, and since then it is a turd sandwich." While those emotions may represent a segment of the lab population, there is another group that looks at the overall situation and arrives at a different conclusion. At LLNL the Directors since transition (Miller, Albright and Goldstein) have be competent to manage under the LLC structure. The initial LANL Director Anastasio (also a LLNL Director) was also able to manage under the new structure. The well noted failures in recent years have all happened with McMillian at the top. Sure life could be better, but the present cesspool at LANL has far more to do with who is the leader and far less to do with other factors.

Anonymous said...

April 4, 2016 at 7:23 PM

I have to disagree with this on several points. The vast majority of the staff and LLNL and LANL believe that the for profit model has significantly eroded the the capabilities and functionality of the labs. The lab Directors must operate under this model which severally restrains what they can do and the fact that they have such high salaries now ensures that they will tow the line. Miller oversaw the RIF, Albright lasted two years, Goldstein is one of the better ones for sure but there is only so much he can do. One thing I will agree with you on is that McMillian is very weak but he alone is not the sole reasons for the LANL misshapes. WIPP, and the electrical accident at LANL where much more to do with the corporate culture. The other things like the slow progress on construction again are due corporate practices of maximizing profit. McMillian could have pushed back at any point on this but he knows who his master is and is very well compensated for it.
In many ways McMillian has been perfect for LANS. One thing that people seem to forget is how much the corporate partners leverage the contract to make additional profit. This comes in through rotating people through the labs and having subsidiary companies getting preferences through external contracts.

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