More WIPP Fallout: NNSA Cuts Los Alamos Lab’s Award Fees by 90%

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 29, 2014
Contact:  Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342, c. 505.470.3154, jay@nukewatch.org

More WIPP Fallout:
NNSA Cuts Los Alamos Lab’s Award Fees by 90%
Watchdogs Say Management Contract Should Be Put Out for Bid

Santa Fe, NM – Today, Los Alamos Lab Director Charles McMillan notified LANL employees that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) had slashed FY 2014 management award fees to $6.25 million. Seventeen million dollars were available in fixed fees, and around $40 million in incentive fees, resulting in a 90% cut to potential awards. In addition, NNSA declined to grant a previously pro forma one-year contract extension, and most remarkably rescinded a contract extension from an earlier year (see more below). As justification, the agency invoked a ““First Degree” performance failure… [that] created damage to DOE property or costs for cleaning, decontaminating, renovating, replacing or rehabilitating property that in aggregate exceed $2.5 million.”

This is more fallout from WIPP. The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) used unapproved radioactive waste treatment procedures that resulted in a ruptured drum at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, contaminating 21 workers and indefinitely closing that multi-billion dollar facility. It will cost an estimated half-billion dollars to reopen WIPP, which will likely double. Additionally, the New Mexico Environment Department has proposed $54 million in fines against LANL and WIPP, and Congress has cut $40 million from cleanup programs at the Lab, while adding $100 million to help reopen WIPP.

LANL is managed by Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), whose two main partners are the University of California (UC) and the privately held Bechtel Corporation. UC ran the Lab as a nonprofit until June 2006, and received approximately $8 million in annual compensation. In contrast, the for-profit LANS was awarded $51.9 million in FY 2013, or more than six times the old nonprofit fee, for no apparent improvement in contract management. LANL Director Charles McMillan is compensated $1.5 million annually, while also acting as president of the for-profit limited liability corporation, a possible conflict of interest.

Because of grossly substandard performance, the Project On Government Oversight and Nuclear Watch New Mexico had jointly asked the Department of Energy Secretary to cut LANS’ FY 2014 incentive fee at least in half. NNSA’s final decision far exceeds our request. Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, commented, “We strongly praise NNSA for gutting LANS’ award fees. This sends an unmistakable message to contractors that they will be held accountable, which has been sorely missing to date. However, in light of LANS’ miserable performance, NNSA should take the next big step and put the management contract out to bid. NNSA and Congress should also consider whether for-profit management of the nuclear weapons complex is really in the country’s best interests, when the track record demonstrates that it’s not.”

In addition to the WIPP fiasco, another monumental failure occurred in July 2012 when three elderly protestors broke into a highly secure area, previously thought impregnable, at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, TN. The for-profit contractor had self-appraised its security program management as “excellent” and physical security as “good” in the preceding official “Performance Evaluation Report,” which the NNSA approved and paid for with taxpayer dollars.

Concerning LANS’ own substandard performance, LANL has been incapable of conducting major operations at its main plutonium facility since the end of June 2013 because of serious nuclear criticality safety concerns. This belies the fact that the Lab is the country’s only designated, so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence.” Bechtel has had a particularly troubled performance history with the Department of Energy. Under Bechtel management estimated costs for the Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation soared from $3.5 billion to $13 billion, with numerous complaints of retaliation against whistleblowers.

Similarly, under Bechtel’s partnership management of the Los Alamos Lab, estimated costs for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project (CMRR) mushroomed from around $600 million to $6.5 billion, leading to cancellation of the proposed “Nuclear Facility.” Lab Director McMillan now pushes for a multi-billion dollar “modular” substitute for the CMRR Nuclear Facility, whose mission would be expanded production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores of nuclear weapons. However, existing nuclear weapons don’t need expanded pit production, implying that it would be for unspecified future nuclear weapons. In any event, LANL has questionable competency to perform any plutonium pit production at all.

On a final related matter, to its credit NNSA posted the LANS FY 2014 Fee Determination Letter and Notice of Reduction. However, the agency did not post the full Performance Evaluation Report upon which they are based. Jay Coghlan commented, “NNSA’s decision to slash LANS’ fees is very welcomed, but far greater transparency is still needed. Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued in the past to make full Performance Evaluation Reports publicly available. We will sue again if our current Freedom of Information Act request for the full FY 2014 Performance Evaluation Report is not soon satisfied.”

LANS received a 68% contractor performance rating for FY 2012, but was given a waiver by the NNSA fee determination officer (who soon thereafter became the NNSA Administrator). That waiver gave LANS additional taxpayer-paid fees and granted it another contract extension, when the required minimum threshold was 80%. Nuclear Watch New Mexico discovered this after litigation that obtained the full FY 2012 Performance Evaluation Report. Congress subsequently required NNSA to report any future waivers to the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, effectively ending that practice. This does, however, demonstrate the importance of public access to NNSA’s full Performance Evaluation Reports, so that taxpayers can know that nuclear weapons contractors are being held accountable.

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References:

1.   NNSA, FY 2014 Performance Evaluation Report, Fee Determination Letter, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/inlinefiles/FY14%20LANS%20FDO%20Letter.pdf

2.   NNSA, Contracting Officer’s Notice of Reduction of LANS FY 2014 Fixed Fee and Forfeiture of Previously Earned Award Term, http://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/inlinefiles/Contracting%20Officer%20Notice%20of%20Reduction%20of%20LANS%20FY14%20Fixed%20Fee%20and%20Incentive%20Fee.pdf

3.   December 3, 2014 joint POGO and Nuclear Watch NM letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz urging reduced award fees for the Los Alamos Lab contractor. http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/POGO-NukeWatch-Moniz-Sandia-performance-12-19-14.pdf

4.   LANL Director Charles McMillan December 29, 2014 announcement to Lab employees:

To/MS:LANL-ALL
From/MS: Charles F. McMillan, DIR, A100
Phone/Fax:7-5101/7-2997
Symbol:DIR-14-246
Date: December 29, 2014

SUBJECT:  FY2014 NNSA PERFORMANCE REVIEW

NNSA has presented the Laboratory with our annual performance
evaluation report (PER) for FY2014. As expected the overall
results are not, with several notable exceptions, positive.

The fee for Fiscal Year 2014 was reduced to $6.25 million.  Given
the events surrounding our breached drum at WIPP and the severity
of the issue, the Laboratory received a rating of
“unsatisfactory” in operations and infrastructure and a score of
zero in that area which accounted for the significant reduction
in fee.

Although the WIPP incident weighed very heavily on our overall
evaluation from NNSA we performed well in the areas of our core
nuclear weapons work, global security, and science. This good
performance prompted written praise from NNSA Field Office
Manager Kim Davis Lebak as well as in the PER. Lebak said, “The
majority of the work performed by the Laboratory met or exceeded
NNSA expectations.”

I want to emphasize that our true value as a Laboratory should be
measured by the contributions we make to national security. This
is something we can all be very proud of. According to the PER
our nuclear weapons mission and global security mission each
“exceeded expectations.”  The PER cited many weapons program
highlights including: assisting Pantex to surpass the recovery
schedule for W76-1 production, execution of the Leda experiment
at Nevada, advances in the plutonium strategy, and excellent
progress in support of B61-12.  In global security, according to
the PER, “The Laboratory’s efforts were high impact and largely
successful, especially in the areas of Nuclear Safeguards and
Security, the Nuclear Counterterrorism Program, the Nuclear Non-
Compliance Verification Program and Non-Proliferation Research
and Development.”

Despite the challenges of fiscal uncertainty during the past
year, the Laboratory has made significant strides in many areas.
Our mission deliverables included multiple activities and studies
that increased our understanding of the U.S. nuclear deterrent.

An update to the W78 life expectancy study was delivered, along
with analyses related to the B61, W76, W78, and W88 systems.  In
the broader national security mission the Laboratory was
instrumental in supporting the removal of low-enriched uranium
from Russia, hosting the IAEA non-destructive inspector training
course, and developing USAF satellite-based treaty verification
instruments.

In addition, the PER calls out our science, technology and
engineering missions for advancing the state of research and
utilization of the exceptional scientific resources of the
Laboratory including Laboratory Directed Research and Development
(LDRD).   According to the PER, “The Laboratory has reinforced
its stature as one of the preeminent scientific institutions of
the nation.” Indeed, we pushed the boundaries of science,
technology and engineering with major feats, such as: being
chosen to develop SuperCam for the Mars 2020 mission, supplying
unique RAPTOR telescope data on the birth of a black hole,
leading the development of a “desktop” human surrogate device,
and collaboration on the characterization of the damage to the
Fukushima nuclear plant.

Operationally, despite setbacks and shortcomings, we saw progress
and momentum in key areas:
*             Safety and environmental performance are at historically
positive levels.  Injuries and days away from work due to
safety issues are lower than ever before.  The Laboratory
was named a “Star Site” of the Voluntary Protection Plan
program, the largest site in the DOE complex to earn the
star level;
*             Site-wide energy usage was reduced and water consumption
was reduced by 18 percent over last fiscal year;
*             An upgrade project for plutonium facility security was
completed and seismic and fire protection upgrades at TA-55
were completed; and
*             Significant progress was made on construction projects,
including TA-55 revitalization, the Transuranic Waste
Facility, and the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center.

To position the Laboratory to deliver on our future national
security missions we made significant progress with NNSA on
plutonium strategy including the “modular” approach to
infrastructure that will reduce risk associated with the
construction of targeted facilities while meeting mission needs,
safety and security, and regulatory requirements.  We also
awarded a contract to Cray Inc. to build the next-generation
supercomputer, Trinity.  Trinity will play a key role in
assessing future issues, both known and unknown, in the U.S.
nuclear deterrent.

Although this was a very tough year for the Laboratory I am
optimistic that next year will be better. I am determined to do
all that I can to make it so. My personal priorities will be to
continue to make progress on getting PF-4 fully restarted,
continuing collaboration with DOE on an effective and efficient
transition of the Environmental Management program scope, and
enhancing our management and leadership capabilities by filling
key vacancies and correcting operational deficiencies.

I would like to personally thank each of you for the hard work
and wish you and your family members a safe and happy holiday
season. Enjoy your well-deserved break and come back in the New
Year rededicated to serving the national security needs of this
country.

Watchdogs Urge Big Cut to Contractor Fees at the Sandia Labs

Watchdogs Urge Big Cut to Contractor Fees at the Sandia Labs

December 19, 2014 – The Project On Government Oversight and Nuclear Watch New Mexico sent the Department of Energy Secretary a letter urging that the FY 2014 contractor incentive award fee for the Sandia National Laboratories be completely denied. The two watchdog organizations wrote to the Secretary earlier this month to urge him to cut performance incentive award fees at least in half for the Los Alamos Lab contractor because of substandard performance that led to the contamination of 21 workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the indefinite closure of that multi-billion facility. As deplorable as the Los Alamos situation is, the Sandia case is arguably worse because it involves direct violations of federal law that prohibit contractor use of taxpayers’ dollars to lobby the government for further work.

The Sandia Labs are run by the for-profit Sandia Corporation, wholly owned by the country’s largest contractor, the Lockheed Martin Corporation. According to its current contract with the federal government, the Sandia Corporation could earn up to $9.8 million in FY 2014 performance incentive award fees (it also stands to receive $18.3 million in fixed fees). In addition, Lockheed Martin could receive $2.8 million for “Home Office And Other Corporate Support,” which includes the subcategory “Provision of Corporate Ethics.” The Department of Energy should refuse to pay both because of improper lobbying of Congress and federal officials and Lockheed Martin’s ethical failure while doing so.

The Sandia Corporation’s unlawful lobbying has been well documented in two recent Department of Energy Inspector General reports. The first report concluded that Sandia had improperly paid ex-Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R.-NM) around $226,000 in consulting fees to lobby for additional work for the Sandia Labs. This began in January 2009, the day after she stepped down from office representing the congressional district in which Sandia is located. The DOE IG investigation forced the Sandia Corporation to reimburse the government the monies it had received to pay Wilson.

The second DOE IG report concluded: We believe that the use of federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition was inexplicable and unjustified… The evidence indicated that SNL and LMC [Lockheed Martin Corp.] officials had conversations with members of Congress and federal officials to convince the department, NNSA and Congress of the merits of contract extension without competition.

Peter Stockton, POGO’s senior investigator, commented, “This blatant attempt to pass along lobbying costs to taxpayers is revolting. Another example of catch me if you can. Reimbursement isn’t enough; DOE must punish Sandia for violating the law.”

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The for-profit Sandia Corporation has made no public acknowledgment of responsibility or remorse. The Department of Energy must seriously cut Sandia’s award fees to make sure contractors get the message that business as usual corrupted by unlawful lobbying will no longer be tolerated. There should be no more contract extensions. Instead the management contract should be put out to bid as previously planned, until it was short-circuited by the Sandia Corporation’s illegal actions.”

# # #

The POGO/Nuclear Watch NM letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz urging reduced award fees for the Sandia Labs contractor is here.

For the DOE IG reports, see:

Concerns with Consulting Contract Administration at Various Department Sites, Inspection Report: DOE/IG-0889, June 7, 2013, and

Alleged Attempts by Sandia National Laboratories to Influence Congress and Federal Officials on a Contract Extension, Special Inquiry: DOE/IG-0927, November 2014

 

GAO Seeks Broader Analysis For Proposed Liquid Waste Facility at LANL

GAO Seeks Broader Analysis For Proposed Liquid Waste Facility at LANL

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) was mandated to review the  “analysis of alternatives” (AOA) process applied by NNSA. The process entails identifying, analyzing, and selecting a preferred alternative to best meet the mission need by comparing the operational effectiveness, costs, and risks of potential alternatives. GAO developed a set of practices by reviewing AOA policies and guidance used by seven public and private-sector entities with experience in the AOA process. GAO’s review of DOE’s requirements for AOAs found that they conform to only 1 of the 24 best practices: the practice of defining functional requirements based on mission need.

DOE and NNSA officials acknowledge that unreliable AOAs are a risk factor for major cost increases and schedule delays for NNSA projects. As GAO has previously reported, NNSA has spent billions of dollars designing and partially constructing projects with an estimated cost of $750 million or more, only to later reassess alternatives. NNSA may continue on this path and continue to have limited assurance that it is selecting alternatives that best meet its mission needs and will not result in major cost increases and schedule delays in the future.

Overall, the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) conducted for the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) project only partially met best AOA practices. The mission need for this project—to replace the current, aging facility—was approved in October 2004. NNSA approved an initial AOA for this project in 2006, and after substantial cost increases, conducted a second AOA (analyzed here) in 2013. NNSA currently estimates the project will cost between $168 million and $220 million.

The GAO compared the AOA conducted at the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at LANL with AOA best practices in 24 areas.

For instance in best practices, the team or the decision maker defines selection criteria based on the mission need. What LANL actually did only partially met best practices because the Lab included in the project documentation brief summaries of the selection criteria used but did not describe how these were based on the mission need. LANL included only one of these selection criteria—the scope—in the mission need statement.

In another case, the team or the decision maker is supposed to weigh the selection criteria to reflect the relative importance of each criterion. Here best practices were not met because LANL did not include weighting selection criteria in project documentation.

The ailing facility is still operating.

During 2013, all treated water from the RLWTF was fed to the effluent evaporator. The evaporator was operated 3654 hours on 201 days during 2013, in both one-burner and two-burner mode. A total of 2.64 million liters of treated water were fed to the evaporator, and 2.55 million liters were discharged to the environment as steam from the evaporator stack.

Curies of radioactive materials fed to the effluent evaporator during 2013 were calculated by multiplying the evaporator feed volume (2,638,330 liters) times the flow-weighted average concentration of each radionuclide. Feed to the effluent evaporator in 2013 contained approximately 4.9E-04 curie alpha radioactivity, 3.35E-04 curie beta radioactivity, and 1.7E-02 curie of tritium.

This RLWTF is vital to nuclear weapons production operations at the Lab. But equipment failures could pose a risk to facility workers.

 

DOE AND NNSA PROJECT MANAGEMENT: Analysis of Alternatives Could Be Improved by Incorporating Best Practices

GAO-15-37: Published: Dec 11, 2014. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 2014.

 

Authors: Del Signore, John C. [Los Alamos National Laboratory]

2014-11-25, LA-UR-14-29097

Comments to DOE Re: Transition of Legacy Clean-up Work at Los Alamos National Laboratory

December 10, 2014

Jack R. Craig, Jr.

DOE EM

Re: Transition of Legacy Clean-up Work at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Mr. Craig,

Please consider these preliminary comments and requests concerning the transition of legacy clean-up work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Through comprehensive research, public education and effective citizen action, Nuclear Watch New Mexico seeks to promote safety and environmental protection at regional nuclear facilities; mission diversification away from nuclear weapons programs; greater accountability and cleanup in the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex; and consistent U.S. leadership toward a world free of nuclear weapons.

First, we request that alternatives to the current Department of Energy contract process be considered. The privatization of the nuclear weapons complex may be failing the U.S. taxpayer. Cost overruns plague the current system. Different variations of the same contractors still continue to line up for different variations of the same contracts. Yet, with a few exceptions, cleanup only crawls along. Many of the sites are still contaminated decades after the work was completed.  And now, WIPP is shut down.

We ask that alternatives such as looking to governmental agencies instead of private contractors be tasked with cleanup at Los Alamos. For instance, could the Army Corp. of Engineers do the job?

We also strongly request that alternatives to “No-Bid” and “Cost-Plus” contracts be considered first. Recently, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain spoke to prohibit the Pentagon from awarding cost-plus contracts, arguing such deals encourage nefariousness. (DefenseNews.com, December 5, 2014)

Second, if a conventional contract is used, we request that the following specific items be included in the proposed new EM contract at LANL. We also ask that these items be included in the ‘bridge’ contract:

  • Must be tied to LANL Consent Order and LANL RCRA permit.
  • Any “campaigns” must be legally binding, and not used as justification to miss Consent Order milestones.
  • Should be more incentive based – less fixed.
  • Should be more transparent like ARRA, including public availability of Performance Evaluations.
  • Should have dramatically lower overhead costs, for example lower security and no LDRD costs. These overhead costs should be made public just as the old Functional Support Costs were available to the public.
  • Must include public update meetings semi-annually.
  • Should favor local/regional economic development.
  • Must have public update meetings at least semi-annually.

Third, for the new bridge contract and any final contract we ask:

  • Cleanup must continue at current pace during transition.
  • There must be a new lifecycle baseline – with the range with assumptions spelled out. Comprehensive cleanup must be considered, not just cap and cover.
  • Corrective Measures Evaluations must be completed on all areas as one of the priorities.

Finally, concerning the new bridge contract, the synopsis doesn’t address the issue of how much LANS will be paid under the to-be-finalized bridge contract in relation to how much it would have been paid under the existing contract. It also doesn’t state which of the tasks mentioned are different than under the existing contract. We request that costs and tasks be fully described in the to-be-finalized bridge contract.

Thank you for your consideration in these matters and please call if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Jay Coghlan                                                            Scott Kovac

Executive Director                                                Research Director

Safety Analysis Flaws Plague Los Alamos TRU Waste Handing Facility

Safety Analysis Flaws Plague Los Alamos TRU Waste Handing Facility

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) believes that the Radioassay and Nondestructive Testing (RANT) Shipping Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory must resolve safety issues prior to resuming operations. The DNFSB staff review team identified “significant flaws” in hazard and accident analyses.

The RANT Shipping Facility is used to load transuranic (TRU) waste, typically either waste drums or standard waste boxes, into TRUPACT shipping containers. This facility supports the LANL TRU program and will be used long-term. The RANT Shipping Facility is currently in standby with no TRU waste present, pending the resumption of TRU waste shipments.

In November 2013, the contractor, LANS, submitted a new safety analysis, called a Documented Safety Analysis (DSA), to DOE oversight officials at the Los Alamos Field Office (LAFO) for approval. In February 2014, WIPP was shut down due to a radiation leak in the underground. It is believed that wheat-based kitty litter was mixed with nitrate salts in a transuranic waste drum as it was processed at Los Alamos that potentially caused the reaction that breached the container. In July 2014, LAFO completed its review of the RANT DSA and noted only four actions needed.

The DNFSB staff reviewed the DSA and identified significant weaknesses in the hazard analysis (HA), accident analysis, and safety controls. The review revealed inadequate identification and implementation of safety controls to protect the public and workers.

The DNFSB report found that LANS and LAFO underestimated consequences from potential crane failure accidents, seismic events, and fires. Underestimating possible consequences like these can lead to increased radiologic releases to the environment.

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Staff Issue Report September 29, 2014

Below is a Google Earth image of the RANT facility. Notice the 8 TRUPACT trailers with three round TRUPACT containers each on them.

NNSA Governance Advisory Panel Condones Diminishing Federal Oversight Of Failing Contractors

Santa Fe, NM – Yesterday, the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise released its long awaited report, entitled “A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise.” According to enabling language in the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Act, “The purpose of the advisory panel is to examine options and make recommendations for revising the governance structure, mission, and management of the nuclear security enterprise.” This means the nuclear weapons complex owned by the Department of Energy’s semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and run by its contractors. In an attempt to give increased prominence to nuclear weapons programs, the Panel goes so far as to recommend that the Department of Energy be renamed the Department of Energy and Nuclear Security.

The Panel itself is full of conflicts-of-interest. It is co-chaired by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, which is the sole manager of the Sandia Labs and runs the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons production plants in partnership with the Bechtel Corp. The other co-chair, Admiral Robert Mies, sits on the Board of Governors of both for-profit contractors that run the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Labs, as do former congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and Michael Anastasio, former director of both labs. Yet another panel member, Franklin C. Miller, sits on the Sandia Corporation Board of Directors.

But the most questionable panel member is former Congresswoman Heather Wilson (ex.-R-NM). While still in office she signed a contract for “consulting” services with the Sandia National Laboratories that had no written work requirements. The day after she stepped down from office she started being paid $10,000 a month, and went on to secure a similar contract from the Los Alamos Lab for the same amount of money. The DOE Inspector General has recently found that the Sandia contractor (wholly owned by Lockheed Martin) had engaged in highly improper, if not illegal, lobbying of Congress for contract extensions, in which Heather Wilson was “deeply, deeply involved.” Both Sandia and LANL were forced to return to the government the $450,000 they had paid to Wilson, but she has not returned any money.

The Panel’s report laments the dysfunctional relationship between NNSA and its contractors, and deplores the loss of mutual trust. But while profits are rising, contractors are being held to fewer and fewer performance benchmarks, which the Panel does little if anything to fix. Performance benchmarks were previously codified in annual Performance Evaluation Plans (PEPs), but have been subsequently stripped. As a case in point, the FY 2012 Performance Evaluation Plan for the Los Alamos Lab contractor was 89 pages long, full of concrete performance benchmarks. The restructured FY 2013 Plan was nine pages long, with vague performance benchmarks.

This diminishing federal oversight flies in the face of a long history of project delays and immense cost increases for which contractors are responsible, but not held accountable. For example, the former contractor for the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant committed a half-billion dollar design mistake for the Uranium Processing Facility, but has not been publicly disciplined. Y-12’s new contractor just awarded Bechtel a no-bid UPF construction contract, which in effect awards itself since the contractor is principally composed of Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. This is despite the fact that under Bechtel management the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos exploded in costs from ~$600 million to ~$.6.5 billion, and the Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford from ~$3.5 billion to ~$13.5 billion.

Contractors have also committed very serious operational mistakes. The LANL contractor used unapproved waste handling methods to prepare plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). A waste drum subsequently ruptured, contaminating 21 workers and closing WIPP, causing estimated reopening costs of a half-billion dollars (which will no doubt increase) and $54 million in New Mexico state fines.

As another example, the former Y-12 contractor self-appraised its security management program as “excellent” and its physical security as “good,” which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) approved while awarding management fees. Both were shaken to their cores when an 82-year old nun and two elderly colleagues cut through three security fences to protest nuclear weapons in a very sensitive area previously thought impregnable.

Despite all this, the Panel makes no specific recommendations to put performance benchmarks back into management contracts. Instead, it proposes that the number of budget line items be reduced, which could further erode transparency, accountability, and congressional oversight, and increase the ability of NNSA and its contractors to move money around.

Perhaps most alarmingly, the Panel recommends that congressional oversight be strengthened by having the DOE Secretary report to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees, and to the House Energy and Commerce and Armed Services Committees. This would likely have the opposite effect, as it seems to preclude the traditional jurisdiction of the House and Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittees, which have provided key oversight in the past, and have often cut certain nuclear weapons programs. Indeed, later in the report, the Panel suggests (short of a formal recommendation) that funding authority for NNSA nuclear weapons programs be invested in the Defense Subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Again, this appears to exclude Energy and Water Appropriations, which could have profound implications by weakening congressional fiscal constraints on the nuclear weapons complex.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The Panel’s self-interested premise that the Nuclear Security Enterprise needs a new foundation is wrong. First, call it what it is, not some kind of innocuous sounding “enterprise,” but rather a massive research and production complex that is pushing an unaffordable trillion dollar modernization program for nuclear warheads, missiles, subs and bombers. This will divert taxpayers’ dollars from meeting the real national security threats of nuclear weapons proliferation and climate change. The Panel failed by not arguing for prudent maintenance of the stockpile, instead supporting a perpetual work program of risky life extension programs for existing nuclear weapons that will enrich contractors.”

# # #


“A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise” by the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise is available at
http://cdn.knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2014/12/Governance.pdf?_ga=1.136311025.1198700939.1418359009

The DOE Inspector General “Special Inquiry: Alleged Attempts by Sandia National Laboratories to Influence Congress and Federal Officials on a Contract Extension” is available at
http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/11/f19/IG-0927.pdf

The DOE’s Inspector General’s quote of Heather Wilson’s deep involvement in improper lobbying on behalf of the Sandia Labs is from
http://rapidcityjournal.com/news/local/mines-president-named-in-doe-inspector-general-s-probe/article_b984ab84-d593-5578-8007-e70e7c9e986f.html

NukeWatch Urges Increasing DOE Accountability in Wake of Fines

On December 6, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) declared multiple violations at both the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). NMED plans to fine WIPP $17.7 million and LANL $36.6 million due to major procedural problems related to the handling of radioactive transuranic (TRU) wastes that contributed to two significant incidents at WIPP earlier this year.

In addition to “failure to adequately characterize waste” and other violations, LANL was cited for the processing of nitrate-bearing wastes and adding neutralizing agents to that waste stream. LANL treated this procedure as if it was outside the state hazardous waste permit, but NMED determined that these operations were not exempt. LANL treated 100s of waste drums without a permit, and one of these was apparently the cause of the February 14, 2014 radioactive release at WIPP that contaminated 21 workers.

WIPP was cited for, among other violations, not notifying NMED in a timely fashion of the February 14 radioactive release.

The $36.6 million fine at LANL is based on up to $10,000 per day per non-compliance, but still represents less than 2% of the Lab’s $2.1 billion annual budget. The contractor that runs the Lab, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, is eligible to earn $57 million in bonus award fees for the fiscal year that ended last September 30th. The fines should be taken out of the bonuses.

NMED stipulated that the penalties couldn’t be paid for out of designated funding for environmental cleanup or operational needs at LANL and WIPP.

Nuclear Watch New Mexico applauds these efforts to hold the Department of Energy accountable in New Mexico and we urge NMED to not negotiate these relatively modest fines down, as is typically the case. These fines should be paid out of the contractor’s profits. The Lab had this waste for over 20 years and still could not get it right. We hope these NMED fines are a wake up call for safe, comprehensive cleanup of all the wastes left from the Cold War at the Los Alamos Lab.”

NMED information is available here.

FY 2015 Defense Authorization Act cuts Safety Board employees

The House Armed Services Committee has tried repeatedly to cripple the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, realizing that the Board slows down what the nuclear weaponeers want to do (and causes the estimated costs of new nuclear facilities to explode because of safety concerns).

The Board’s enabling legislation authorized a staff of up to 150 personnel. HASC tried to cut it down to 120. The final House-Senate agreement on the FY 2015 Defense Authorization Act cuts it to 130. Remember, the Board covers the entire active nuclear weapons complex and then some, and is often the only adult in the room when it comes to nuclear safety issues. For example, the Los Alamos Lab’s plutonium pit production facility has not conducted major operations since the end of June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety issues that the Board raised.

The relevant FY 2015 Defense Authorization Act Agreement language is as follows, page 350, http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/download/fy2015-ndaa-conference-jes

Number of employees of Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board(sec. 3203)

The House bill contained a provision (sec. 3203) that would amend section 313(b)(1)(A) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2286b(b)(1)(A)) to limit the number of full-time employees of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to 120. The Senate committee-reported bill contained no similar provision. The agreement includes the House provision with an amendment that would limit the number of employees to 130. – end of quote –

The Board deserves our ongoing support. In Nuclear Watch NM’s view, the Board should be expanded, not cut, especially in light of the govermnent’s plans to spend more than a trillion dollars over the next 30 years on nuclear weapons modernization.

 

 

Watchdogs Urge Reduced Contractor Fees at the Los Alamos Lab

 

 

Watchdogs Urge Reduced Contractor Fees at the Los Alamos Lab

Washington, DC and Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Project On Government Oversight and Nuclear Watch New Mexico sent the Secretary of the Department of Energy a letter urging that the contractor award fee for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) be slashed. The total possible fee that can be earned for FY 2014, which ended September 30, is $17.1 million in fixed fee and up to $40 million in incentive fee.  The watchdog organizations argue that the incentive fee award should be cut at least in half because of grossly substandard contractor performance.

The Los Alamos Lab is run by Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), whose two main partners are the University of California (UC) and the privately held Bechtel Corporation. UC ran the Lab as a nonprofit until June 2006, and received approximately $8 million in annual compensation. In contrast, the for-profit LANS was awarded $51.9 million in FY 2013, or more than six times the old nonprofit fee, for no apparent improvement in contract management. As recently reported by The Albuquerque Journal, LANL Director Charlie McMillan makes $1.5 million annually while also acting as president of LANS, which is a possible conflict of interest.

LANS’ contract performance in FY 2014 was demonstrably worse than other years. The best, well-publicized evidence is that the Lab used unapproved waste handling methods to prepare plutonium-contaminated radioactive wastes for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). A waste drum subsequently ruptured, contaminating 21 workers and closing WIPP, with estimated reopening costs of a half-billion dollars (which will no doubt increase). Moreover, the New Mexico Environment Department now threatens to levy substantial fines against LANL because of its missed deadline to send transuranic wastes to WIPP.

Less well known, the Lab is the nation’s only so-called “Plutonium Center of Excellence,” but has been unable to conduct major operations at its plutonium facility since the end of June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety issues. The two watchdog organizations do not support plutonium operations at LANL, much of which is geared towards the unnecessary production of plutonium pits, the fissile cores of nuclear weapons. However, at the same time, contractors should not be paid for work they don’t do.

Peter Stockton, POGO’s senior investigator, commented, “It’s time for some tough love! LANS screws up the WIPP facility, costing the government at least $500 million, and had to stop operations at its plutonium facility for over a year because of nuclear safety concerns. In the face of these debacles, DOE should be seeking restitution, not providing a performance bonus.”

Bechtel has had a particularly troubling contracting history with DOE. Under its management estimated costs for the Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation soared from $3.5 billion to $13 billion, with numerous whistleblower complaints. Similarly, under LANS’ management of the Los Alamos Lab, estimated costs for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project mushroomed from around $600 million to $6.5 billion, leading to cancellation of the proposed “Nuclear Facility.” Now, in effect, Bechtel has awarded itself the construction contract to build the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 production plant in Oak Ridge, TN. Under a previous contractor estimated costs for the UPF exploded from around $600 million to as high as $19 billion. To help fix that, the UPF’s mission has been recently narrowed to nuclear weapons components production only (eliminating dismantlements) in order to hold to a budget cap of $6.5 billion. That means the American taxpayer is paying more for less, and arguably for the wrong priorities. Lockheed Martin and Bechtel run the new Y-12 management contract.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The Department of Energy’s cozy relationships with its contractors must end, given their repeated failures and massive cost overruns. Substandard performance by the Los Alamos Lab contractor is costing the taxpayer dearly, and therefore DOE should slash its incentive performance fee award at least in half. From there, DOE should consider booting Los Alamos National Security, LLC for another contractor entirely.”

# # #

 

The POGO/Nuclear Watch NM letter to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz urging reduced award fees for the Los Alamos Lab contractor is available at

http://nukewatch.org/importantdocs/resources/POGO-NukeWatch-Moniz-LANS-performance-12-3-14.pdf


 

 

 

 

Highlights of National Nuclear Security Administration Issues in the House FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act

Highlights of National Nuclear Security Administration Issues

In the House FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act

 

Sources: House FY 2015 NDAA, pages 1516 – 1555 and budget tables beginning page 1643.

http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20141201/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-S1847.pdf

Compiled by Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico. Any comments by me are italicized.

 

The House FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act authorizes $8.2 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) nuclear weapons programs, in contrast to the Obama Administration’s request of $8.3 billion.

It meets the Administration’s $643 million request for the B61 Life Extension Program, and raises the $9.4 million request for the Long-Range Stand-Off (AKA air-launched cruise missile) nuclear warhead to $17 million.

It raises the $30 million request for dismantlements to $40 million.

It meets the $335 million request for the Uranium Capabilities Replacement Project (AKA the Uranium Processing Facility).

It raises the $196 million request for construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility to $341 million.

It cuts the $410.8 million request for the NNSA Office of the Administrator to $386.9 million.

SEC. 3111. DESIGN AND USE OF PROTOTYPES OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS FOR INTELLIGENCE PURPOSES requires the lab directors to “develop a multiyear plan to design and build prototypes of nuclear weapons to further intelligence estimates with respect to foreign nuclear weapons activities and capabilities.” This effort “emphasizes the competencies of the national security laboratories with respect to designing and building prototypes of nuclear weapons.”

This could possibly be abused by U.S. designers to design new nuclear weapons under the rubric of gathering foreign intelligence.

SEC. 3112. PLUTONIUM PIT PRODUCTION CAPACITY declares that the “production of plutonium pits and other nuclear weapons components must be driven by the requirement to hedge against technical and geopolitical risk and not solely by the needs of life extension programs.” It goes on to require the actual production of not less than 10 plutonium war reserve pits during 2024, 20 during 2025, 30 during 2026, and demonstration of the capability to produce 80 pits per year by 2027.

How convenient to delink plutonium pit production from the actual needs of Life Extension Programs, since the only LEP that required new pit production has been indefinitely delayed. This was for the so-called Interoperable Warhead, which faced exorbitant costs and lack of support by the Navy. Nevertheless, the House Armed Services Committee now mandates expensive and provocative expanded plutonium pit production for which there is no clear need. Ironically, the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been unable to conduct plutonium operations at its pit production facility since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety issues.

SEC. 3118. COST CONTAINMENT FOR URANIUM CAPABILITIES REPLACEMENT PROJECT limits Phase 1 of construction of the Uranium Processing Facility to $4.2 billion. That cap could be adjusted if the DOE Secretary submits a detailed justification, including “a detailed description of the actions taken to hold appropriate contractors, employees of contractors, and employees of the Federal Government accountable for the repeated failures within the project.” It also requires that uranium operations in Building 9212 cease by 2025.

Notably, the House NDAA does NOT contain a definitional change that NNSA shopped to key congressional committees that would have narrowed the Uranium Processing Facility’s mission, thereby helping to contain its costs (which was previously capped at $6.5 billion). Thus the Uranium Processing Facility could soon be headed for another budget crisis.

SEC. 3119. PRODUCTION OF NUCLEAR WARHEAD FOR LONG-RANGE STANDOFF WEAPON requires that “The Secretary of Energy shall deliver a first production unit for a nuclear warhead for the long-range standoff weapon by not later than September 30, 2025.”

This is meant to block the Administration’s proposed two year delay. Rushing into the LRSO nuclear warhead makes no sense because it puts the cart before the horse when work on the new air-launched cruise missile has yet to start.

SEC. 3120. DISPOSITION OF WEAPONS-USABLE PLUTONIUM requires another report on possible alternatives to the MOX Program for plutonium disposition, including their life cycle costs.

Nevertheless, as previously stated, the Act increases funding for construction of the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility to $341 million.

SEC. 3132. ANALYSIS OF EXISTING FACILITIES AND SENSE OF CONGRESS WITH RESPECT TO PLUTONIUM STRATEGY requires “analysis of using or modifying existing facilities of the nuclear security enterprise… to support [NNSA’s plutonium] strategy, as part of critical decision 1 in the acquisition process for the design and construction of modular structures associated with operations of the PF–4 facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico.” This is to include “plans to construct two modular structures that will achieve full operating capability not later than 2027,” all for the purpose of “meet[ing] the requirements for implementation of a responsive infrastructure, including meeting plutonium pit production requirements.”

But there are no actual pit production requirements. Recall that the Act delinks plutonium pit production from the actual needs of the nuclear weapons stockpile to become a hedge against undefined and indefinite “technical and geopolitical risk.” The Act also requires major expansion of production at LANL, when significant budget, environmental and safety issues for existing plutonium pit production remain unresolved (witness the use of unauthorized waste treatment processes by the Lab that led to the contamination of 21 workers and the closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, with initial estimates of $.5 billion dollars to reopen). The House Armed Services Committee’s mandate of expanded plutonium pit production is an ideological statement of nuclear weapons forever, rather than being driven by the technical needs of the stockpile. This is an unnecessary and provocative waste of taxpayer’s money that if enacted is doomed for failure.

 

NNSA Considers Stuffing More Plutonium Into New Facility

Despite the fact that no one has come up with a good reason to increase plutonium pit production for the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, officials want to study the possibility of radically increasing the amount of plutonium allowed in a recently completed laboratory at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Deputy Administrator for National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Defense Programs, Don Cook, has requested an analysis to increase the radioactive materials inventory in the recently completed Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building (RLUOB) to up to 400 grams of plutonium-239, the isotope used in nuclear weapons. The RLUOB, which originally was limited to 8.4 grams of Pu 239, was built as Phase 1 of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at LANL that would have expanded plutonium pit production to 50 – 80 pits per year (pits are the radioactive cores of nuclear weapons). LANL’s current capacity is 20 pits per year. Phase 2 of the CMRR project, the “Nuclear Facility,” was canceled because of lack of clear need and a bulging ten-fold increase in costs.

This RLUOB, along with some floor space in the existing Plutonium Facility (PF-4), will replace the old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building, which is slated for closure in 2019. The Laboratory was working on a plutonium strategy to move out of CMR and maintain the current plutonium capability.

But NNSA recently increased the maximum amount of radiological materials allowed in the RLOUB, and all “radiological” facilities, from 8.4 grams to 38.6 grams. Internal Lab documents floated plans that could have increased the limit again by two or three times by treating each little laboratory in the RLUOB as its own radiological facility. This could have increased the limit to 115.8 grams of Pu239.

But NNSA apparently wants to go big. The new analysis is to consider the RLUOB as a Hazard Category 3 nuclear facility, which is a huge step up from its current designation as a radiological facility.

Scott Kovac, Research and Operations Director for Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, “This turkey of a plan is stuffed with bad ideas – The RLUOB is not seismically qualified for that amount of plutonium. A new supplemental environmental impact statement will be needed. There is no need for more plutonium pits, except for new nuclear weapons, because they last for around 100 years and nuclear weapons stockpiles are decreasing. And apparently LANL can’t safely handle plutonium anyway, as major operations with plutonium have been paused since June 2013 because of nuclear criticality safety issues. Finally, it was LANL’s improper handling of plutonium waste that contaminated 21 workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, causing it to close with at least a half billion dollars in costs to reopen. We say no to more plutonium at Los Alamos!”

# # #

Read the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report here.

 

Comment on NYT article “Which President Cut the Most Nukes?”

Today’s New York Times article “Which President Cut the Most Nukes?” does a public service by pointing out that contrary to his rhetoric, Obama has the lowest nuclear weapons dismantlement rate of any president. In fact, he proposes to cut funding for dismantlements by 45% in FY 2015, along with cutting nonproliferation programs designed to keep nuclear materials safe from terrorists by 20%. This is to help pay for increasing nuclear weapons production.

The U.S. government under Obama is completely rebuilding the nuclear weapons production complex. This includes multi-billion dollar facilities for plutonium components at Los Alamos, NM, and highly enriched uranium at Oak Ridge, TN, both of which have massive cost overruns. It also includes a new Kansas City Plant, built by private investors in a sweetheart deal, for the thousand of nonnuclear components (fuzes, radars, etc.) needed to make nuclear weapons deliverable.

In all, “modernization” of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems is expected to cost more than a trillion dollars over the next 30 years. This will inevitably rob American taxpayers of what they truly need (upgraded public infrastructure, environmental and health protection, public education, etc.), while enriching the usual, unaccountable defense contractors. All of these new production plants are expected to manufacture nuclear weapons until 2075, a far cry from the aspirational future world free of nuclear weapons that President Obama claims to profess.

See “Which President Cut the Most Nukes?” at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/sunday-review/which-president-cut-the-most-nukes.html?emc=edit_tnt_20141101&nlid=59407362&tntemail0=y&_r=0

 

 

Scottish Independence and U.K. “Modernizing for the Second Nuclear Age”

Scots will vote on independence from the United Kingdom on Sept. 18, with polls showing the lead of anti-independence forces narrowing. If independence wins one declared goal of the Scottish National Party is to kick out the only British base for nuclear-armed strategic submarines at Faslane, effectively putting the future of U.K. nuclear forces in grave doubt. Polls show that the majority of Scots favor getting rid of Faslane.

In addition, a Review Conference of the NonProliferation Treaty (NPT) will be held at the United Nations in May 2015. Non-weapons state are growing increasingly impatient with the weapons states’ failure to abide by the NPT Article VI mandate “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament…” In fact, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has sued the UK and others in the World Court over that failure.

NPT Article I also requires that “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other explosive devices directly, or indirectly…” Given the interdependence of their nuclear weapons programs, the U.S. and U.K. violate this as well, as explained below.

The late Martin White, former head of Strategic Technologies for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) of the United Kingdom, made clear that the UK will not be honoring NPT Articles I and VI for the foreseeable future. The Los Alamos National Laboratory’s (LANL’s) July issue of National Security Science features an article by White entitled “Modernizing for the Second Nuclear Age.” http://www.lanl.gov/discover/publications/national-security-science/2014-july/UK-is-modernizing-for-the-second-nuclear-age.php

Some excerpts:

•           You may know that we are in a period of major investment at AWE [Atomic Weapons Establishment] in terms of workforce, facilities, and programs. In the past decade, the workforce has grown from a low of 3,000to the current 4,500.

•           By the end of this decade, we will have new uranium, high explosives, and assembly facilities. Just as crucial, we will have a state-of-the-art high-power laser, supercomputing, and new hydrodynamic experimental capabilities.

•           In all this, our interactions with the United States have been and remain pivotal in shaping the U.K. deterrent program. And our continuing collaborations with Los Alamos National Laboratory touch the very core of our technical capability.

But the title itself contains my main point, “Modernizing for the Second Nuclear Age.” Indeed, the cover page page of the article has a dramatic picture of a U.K. strategic submarine, whose home port can only be Faslane.

This “Second Nuclear Age” is already a common theme with American nuclear weaponeers, See, for example, “The challenges facing stockpile stewardship in the Second Nuclear Age”, LANL Director Charlie McMillan, http://www.lanl.gov/discover/publications/national-security-science/2014-february/challenges-facing-stockpile-stewardship

Or “The Second Nuclear Age”, http://www.lanl.gov/discover/publications/national-security-science/2014-february/the-second-nuclear-age.php

The U.S. and UK nuclear weapons programs are very close and always have been. For example, the now head of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear weapons programs, NNSA Dep. Administrator for Defense Programs Don Cook, is an American from the Sandia Labs. Until a few years ago he was the manager of the UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment as well. Also, the biggest U.S. defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, is one part of a three-part consortium running AWE.

Contrary to NPT Article I the U.S. is manufacturing neutron generators for the U.K. Neutron generators are crucial nuclear weapons components that introduce neutrons at the instant of detonation to begin the cascading chain reaction of a nuclear weapons explosion. For example, “…we noted that SNL had not established a costing methodology that consistently included a fair share of infrastructure costs to ensure full cost recovery for NG units to be built for the United Kingdom (UK). Reference: “The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Neutron Generator Activities, DOE Inspector General Audit report, page 2, http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/audit-report-oas-l-14-11

I conclude by asking questions: If they knew about it, how would the Scots feel about a “Second Nuclear Age”? Would that have any effect in their vote for independence? And how will  the increasingly impatient non-weapons states feel about a “Second Nuclear Age” at the May 2015 NPT Review Conference?

Why Do DOE And LANL Refuse To Do A Pit Production Study?

Why Do DOE And LANL Refuse To Do A Pit Production Study?

A recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report Manufacturing Nuclear Weapon “Pits”: A Decisionmaking Approach for Congress, August 15, 2014 attempts to present the amount of space needed at Los Alamos National Laboratory for the Lab to produce 80 plutonium pits per year. CRS has to do this estimating task because the Lab has never done this calculation.

It is unclear to us why the Lab has yet to do this calculation. The Lab claims to be the “Plutonium Center of Excellence for the Nation”  yet the CRS report explains that no one knows whether existing buildings, without modifications, could manufacture 80 plutonium pits per year (ppy); or if modest upgrades would suffice; or if major construction would be needed to augment the current capacity of about 10 ppy.

A plutonium pit is a nuclear weapon component that is a hollow plutonium shell that is imploded with conventional explosives to create a nuclear explosion that triggers the rest of the weapon. Some argue that the capacity to manufacture new pits may be needed to extend the service life of unneeded weapons, to replace broken pits (which never happens), and to hedge against possible unnamed geopolitical surprises where only more nukes will solve the problem. How many pits that the country actually needs to produce annually is beyond the scope of the CRS report. We believe it is zero.

Along with the unknown space requirements, the Lab also does not know how much Material At Risk (MAR a.k.a. plutonium) would be needed in the building to produce 80 ppy. “…these data have never been calculated rigorously.”

CRS created some charts for this report to show what they believe to be current usage of the Lab’s Plutonium Facility (PF-4). But what this looks like for 80 ppy is still a guess.

We at NukeWatch have been demanding that LANL produce this information — most recently in our 2011 comments on the Draft CMRR-NF Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

We think two things a probably happening. There is still not a need for 80 pits per year (or any). And if the Lab were to finally do a pit production study, Congress would find out that LANL has enough space now.

The money should be used to clean up the Lab’s legacy Cold War waste.

Doyle Entangled in Anti-Nuclear Classification

On July 23, 2014, Los Alamos National Laboratory approved for public release an article titled Rethinking the Unthinkable, written by retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Houston T. Hawkins, with the intention of being used for public presentations.

This article argues for an increase in nuclear weapons production and expanding stockpiles. Hawkins stresses the importance nuclear weapons has for the stability of U.S. foreign policy, arguing “the march toward disarmament would take us backwards into an even more unstable and dangerous world.” This stability, therefore, is generated by nuclear stockpiles.

In addition, nuclear deterrence according to the article is an important cornerstone of national security in that it serves as “strategic parity” between states. It also yields confidence not only in the functioning of domestic stockpiles, but in the intelligence capability of U.S. decision makers in assessing foreign nuclear advancements and curtailing surprises.

Continue reading

DOE Sec. Moniz Calls To Speed Up WIPP Reopening While LANL Digs Up More Problems

US Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz visited the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) recently and announced future recovery plans for WIPP and they include a target date to start some operations 18 months from now reported KRQE.

That date is extremely optimistic. Here’s a few reasons why –

  1. The exact cause of the February 14 release that shut WIPP down is still unknown. The cause must be determined before much else can happen.
  2. There are 360+ drums in Panel 6 that are suspected to have similar waste characteristics to the drum that leaked radiation. These have also now been re-characterized as “ignitable” by Los Alamos officials. Do these need to be removed and retreated? A decision is needed.
  3.  Panel 6 must be sealed off to protect mine workers from releases.
  4. There are 50+ suspect drums in Panel 7 where the original release happen.
  5. Parts of Panel 7 must be sealed off to protect workers.
  6. A new exhaust shaft is in the planning stages.
  7. The mine should be decontaminated.
  8. Funding for the recovery work will be needed.
  9. Fines will probably have to be paid.
  10. If the WIPP Hazardous Waste Permit with the State is changed substantially, public comments and possible hearings will be required.
  11. Hopefully, a truly independent review will be approved.

In addition to these, Los Alamos officials have retroactively re-characterized many waste drums as “ignitable”. See previous post. Today it was revealed that Los Alamos has re-characterized some waste drums as “corrosive”.  Ignitable (EPA waste code D001) and corrosive (EPA waste code D002) wastes are prohibited from WIPP.

The NM Environment Department, and its Secretary Ryan Flynn, has the final say about the final disposition of the now illegal waste drums and many of the other issues. We trust he will take the health of present workers and future generations into account in his decision-making. DOE’s imagined schedule should not be a consideration.

We appreciate that Los Alamos Laboratory officials have stepped up and re-characterized the drums. But we don’t think DOE officials should be making statements about the timing of WIPP’s reopening (or even that WIPP will reopen at all) until all the facts are in.

To make matters even worse, the Current Argus reported that “Moniz told the town hall meeting [that the Department of] Energy is considering the facility [WIPP] to store spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, but provided no time line.”

To even consider expanding WIPP when it is not even open shows the lack of focus on the current problems and shows the lessons have not been learned.

 

LANL Heading Down Slippery Slope With Proposed Biosafety Lab

The DOE Inspector General released Audit Report on “Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Biosafety Laboratories” that calls for a re-evaluation of the proposed needs for Biolabs at nuclear weapons facilities such as Los Alamos.

The report stated that Los Alamos National Laboratory was considering a $9.5 million expansion of bio-laboratory capabilities even though the Lab could not assess current usage or future needs. Apparently the Lab based facility-planning decisions on perceptions about future demand.

From the report –

[DOE] identified the development of a BSL-3 facility at LANL as its preferred alternative for meeting biosafety laboratory needs even though it had not fully considered the need for and cost effectiveness of additional capacity. Nor, had it developed a sound basis for measuring the utilization of existing facilities – a critical factor in determining the need for additional capacity.

Biological containment levels range from BSL-1, which handles only agents not known to cause illness in humans, to BSL-4, which houses agents for which there are no known cures, such as Ebola. A BSL-3 designation permits work with virulent pathogens used in both defensive and offensive biological warfare research.

Although the BSL-3 building has been constructed, the need is very questionable. From the report –

Specifically, we contacted two of the three Federal agencies that LANL told us were prospective [Work For Other] WFO customers and officials representing those potential customers stated that they did not have any specific plans to contract for BSL-3 research at LANL. Further, officials at both agencies indicated that other existing BSL-3 facilities could satisfactorily meet their needs. In fact, one official told us that generally other existing BSL-3 laboratories were less expensive than expected at the new LANL facility and that several had comparable security.

While the BSL-3 building has been constructed, there is no compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) currently being prepared for BSL-3 facility operations pursuant to NEPA has not even been released, much less a final EIS or Record of Decision (ROD).  The current schedule calls for the EIS to be released in August 2014, but if past schedule changes are indications, it is not going to happen.

The draft EIS has been in process for nine years and counting. We at NukeWatch demand that DOE start over and re-scope both the alternatives and need for the BSL-3 at LANL. LANL is working on a Biological Research Capability Assessment to assess bioscience needs, which must be completed before the BSL-3 is re-scoped.

We hope the current Assessment is more empirical than the 2011 Review, which proposed that the BSL-3 facility was essential to LANL’s mission without considering data such as available capacity at other locations and estimates of projected use from outside customers.

The LANL BSL-3 EIS was the result of a lawsuit. During 2001 and 2002 NukeWatch contested the arbitrary and capricious public process DOE was using to justify its decision to build the proposed BSL-3 facilities at LANL and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). DOE failed to adequately address the many concerns raised by the public and proceeded to release final Environmental Assessments (EAs) for both laboratories, along with so-called Findings of No Significant Impact, which gives the Department the green light to begin the first steps leading to operations. Because DOE left so many legitimate questions and concerns unanswered, NukeWatch felt that a legal challenge was necessary.

In August 2003 NukeWatch and Tri-Valley CAREs, a citizens group based in Livermore, CA, jointly filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of northern California claiming that DOE had failed to fully analyze the environmental and health risks associated with the proposed operation of its BSL-3 facilities at LANL and LLNL. In effect, DOE wrote itself a blank check for a wide range of infectious disease research at the two labs. NukeWatch and Tri-Valley CAREs argued that DOE failed to consider the grave risks of introducing pathogens whose behavior may not be known or understood, and for which a cure may not exist.

In January 2004, DOE announced that it had revoked approval for its newly constructed, advanced bio-warfare agent research facility at Los Alamos. DOE went back to square one, and reviewed whether the agency needed to undertake a full Environmental Impact Statement – a key demand in the lawsuit. The BSL-3 at LLNL was built and is operating.

DOE released a notice for the LANL EIS on November 29, 2005. The Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the BSL-3 stated that one reason requiring preparation of an EIS was that “it was necessary to conduct additional seismic analysis of the location of the building on fill material on the sloping side of a canyon.” This calls into question not just whether BSL-3 activities can be safely conducted before these issues are resolved through the EIS, but whether any operations can be safely conducted at all.

The drawing below shows the LANL BSL-3 built in a seismic zone, on fill, and on a steep slope.

Review of the Stability Analysis for the LANL BSL-3 Building Foundation, UCRL-TR-226737, November 2, 2006


The DOE-IG report stated that LANL would need to spend about $437,000 in upgrades to attempt to mitigate this seismic concern.  DOE also is spending about $478,000 to complete the now required Environmental Impact Statement

Another $595,000 is needed to open the facility, which includes $368,000 of operating costs for maintenance, utilities, etc.

Can the Laboratory be the best place for bioscience? If the Lab is looking for more funding streams, shouldn’t it be directing its attention to non-proliferation programs and cleanup?

 

DOE Retroactively Classifies Suspect WIPP Drums As Ignitable

DOE Retroactively Classifies Suspect WIPP Drums As Ignitable

In two letters posted to the NMED website, Los Alamos contractor and DOE Field Office officials informed NMED that 86 drums currently stored at LANL and 368 drums underground in Panel 6 at WIPP are now considered to contain ignitable wastes. These drums are part of the same waste stream as the drum in Panel 7 that is suspected to have caused the Feb. 14 radiation release and the subsequent closure of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).

The letters state that DOE applied EPA Hazardous Waste Number D001 for the characteristic of ignitability.

The WIPP Permit specifically prohibits D001 Wastes at WIPP –

2.3.3.7. Ignitable, Corrosive, and Reactive Wastes

Wastes exhibiting the characteristic of ignitability, corrosivity, or reactivity (EPA Hazardous Waste Numbers of D001, D002, or D003) are not acceptable at WIPP.

DOE stated that it had “reason to believe that the nitrate salt bearing waste in the containers described above is an oxidizer and therefore the D001 code should be applied to the respective containers”, but did not explain exactly what that reason was. What did LANL or the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) discover that lead them to apply the D001 classification? The AIB report investigating the Feb. 14 release is not due until September.

Now there are 368 illegal drums buried at WIPP. DOE can’t seal up Panel 6 until the exact cause of the Feb 14 release is known, even though there is a plan to expedite closure of Panel 6.  NMED Secretary Ryan Flynn has stated on several occasions that that we must know the exact cause before sealing up Panel 6. We agree. Otherwise we might be burying drums that should be retrieved and repackaged, as onerous of a task that that would be.

DOE stated, “Because the investigations are ongoing, the application of the D001 is considered provisional and may change to include and/or remove containers/waste streams in the future.”  But the WIPP permit has no provision for allowance for “provisional” classification wastes.

Either they are or they are not.

Relevant to NNSA biolabs – – C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents

Today’s New York Times has a very relevant article for those concerned about biolabs at National Nuclear Security Administration  sites (i.e., Los Alamos and Livermore Labs).

The money quote: “Dr. Frieden [Director of the CDC] himself suggested that the accidents had implications for labs beyond his agency, arguing that the world needs to reduce to absolute minimums the number of labs handling dangerous agents, the number of staff members involved and the number of [bio]agents circulating.”

As Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley CAREs can attest to, Livermore is conducting aerosolized experiments with anthrax and other “select agents.” In its inadequate environmental assessment (a lesser cousin of an “environmental impact statement”) LLNL disingenuously declared a certain amount of pathogens to be at risk during a major event. We discovered only through litigation discovery that ~10 times the amount of pathogens would be permanently kept at the biolab in freezers, which NNSA did not disclose in the EA. This, of course, is near the  densely populated, highly seismic Bay Area, which  could have its electrical grid destroyed during a major earthquake.

See:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/12/science/cdc-closes-anthrax-and-flu-labs-after-accidents.html?emc=edit_th_20140712&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=60715476&_r=0

C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents

By JULY 11, 2014

Los Alamos Rated Easiest County to Live in

Los Alamos Rated Easiest County to Live in

The team at The Upshot, a NYTimes news and data-analysis venture, compiled six basic metrics to give a picture of the quality and longevity of life in each county of the nation. They were attempting to answer the question, Where are the hardest places to live in the U.S.? To create an overall ranking, they averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories: educational attainment, household income, jobless rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity rate.

The #1 ranking, and hence easiest place to live, went to Los Alamos County, home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, which spends 65% of its annual budget on nuclear weapons production and design. “The Lab directly employs one out of every five county residents and has a budget of $2.1 billion, which an enormous economic engine for a county of just 18,000 people,” the article states. A look at surrounding counties shows that this engine does not power the surrounding counties equally.

Rio Arriba is ranked #1966 out of 3,135 counties

Taos County = #1234

Sandoval County = #420

Santa Fe County =  #148

 

Some specific comparisons:

63.2 percent residents have at least a bachelor’s degree in Los Alamos.

Rio Arriba County = 15.9%

Taos County = 28.8%

Sandoval County = 28.1%

Santa Fe County = 39.3%

 

The median household income in Los Alamos County is $106,426.

Rio Arriba County = $40,791

Taos County = $33,835

Sandoval County = $58,116

Santa Fe County =  $53,642

 

In Rio Arriba County, 8 percent of residents are unemployed, and 1.9 percent are on disability.

The corresponding figures in Los Alamos County are 3.5 percent and 0.3 percent.

Taos County = 9.1%, and 1.2%

Sandoval County = 8%, and 1%

Santa Fe County = 5.5% are unemployed, 1% are on disability

 

Los Alamos County residents live on average 82.4 years

Rio Arriba County = 75 years

Taos County = 79.3 years

Sandoval County = 79.4 years

Santa Fe County = 80.1 years

 

And Los Alamos County’s obesity rate is 22.8 percent,

Rio Arriba County = 34%

Taos County = 29%

Sandoval County = 32%

Santa Fe County = 22%

 

Making nukes and the livin’s easy.

Missed WIPP Deadline May Put Real Cleanup at LANL Back On Track

Missed WIPP Deadline May Put Real Cleanup at LANL Back On Track

Santa Fe, NM – Today the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) denied extension requests by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to delay cleanup milestones under a legally enforceable 2005 Consent Order. These denials by NMED counter a trend since January 2012 when NMED and LANL entered into a nonbinding “Framework Agreement” to ship 3706 cubic meters of above-ground transuranic waste from the Lab to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) for permanent disposal. LANL radioactive wastes are now the main suspect in the February 14 contamination and subsequent shutdown of the multi-billion dollar WIPP.

NMED denied 14 extensions, now available in LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room. These denials include construction of monitoring wells, and investigation reports for cleanup of contaminated areas. All of them included language that LANL requested an extension based on the Lab’s need to divert resources to remove transuranic waste in accordance with the Framework Agreement. The denials repeatedly state, “Based on the Permittees’ [LANL’s] statement that they will not be able to meet the deadlines that they committed to in the Framework Agreement [to ship TRU wastes to WIPP], the request is hereby denied.”

NMED had previously agreed to over 100 of these extension requests in favor of the so-called 3706 Campaign. The campaign was part of a non-binding agreement with the NM Environment Department so there are no penalties associated with lack of performance. The problem is that much other cleanup at the Lab was delayed while the 3706 Campaign was prioritized.

The Lab will miss the June 30 deadline of shipping 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste while the cleanup of over 1,000,000 cubic meters of all types of radioactive waste, hazardous waste, and contaminated backfill buried across the Lab were put on the back burner. These vast amounts of buried wastes, dating back to the Lab’s early days, are covered under the 2005 Consent Order for the “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy wastes. The Consent Order is enforceable with financial penalties for missed deliverables.

The Lab has claimed that there is not enough money to address all the Consent Order deliverables, but the original intent behind the Consent Order was that fines or the threat of fines would shake federal cleanup funding from DOE headquarters in Washington, DC. Cleanup without the big stick of possible fines just takes us back to the time when the small budget received annually just gets sprinkled around to where the cleanup “priorities” are perceived to be.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director, commented, “After granting more than one hundred extension requests to delay cleanup, we salute the New Mexico Environment Department for denying further requests. We encourage NMED to enforce what it already has, and make LANL comply with its legally mandated cleanup order. This in turn will drive increased federal funding for genuine cleanup at the Lab, creating hundreds of jobs while permanently protecting our precious water and environment.”

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Program Director, commented, “We look forward to continuing enforcement of the 2005 Consent Order and the necessary removal of Cold War legacy waste buried in unlined trenches above our aquifer.”

January 2012 Framework Agreement

LANL’s Electronic Public Reading Room

Sample of denial

 

 

DOE Headquarters Launches an Investigation Into the WIPP Release

DOE Headquarters Launches an Investigation Into the WIPP Release

On June 16, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) DC Office of Independent Enterprise Assessments notified Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC, the operating contractor for DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, of its intent to conduct an investigation.  The investigation will look into potential nuclear safety, worker safety, and health programmatic deficiencies associated with the two events in February.

WIPP has been shut down since February 5, 2014, when a salt-hauling truck caught fire, forcing evacuation of 86 workers from underground, 13 of whom were treated for smoke inhalation. Nine days later, an air monitor detected radiation underground where waste had recently been emplaced. The emergency filtration started, but radioactive particles were released to the environment. That resulted in contamination of all 13 people working above ground.

The DOE headquarters’ investigation may be a good start (hopefully), but Nuclear Watch NM, and many other groups, wants a truly independent, public investigation. This investigation should determine the cause of the WIPP radiation release, the extent of underground and surface contamination, the medical and compensation requirements for contaminated workers, and options for cleaning up underground and surface contamination.

In the meantime, TRU must be stored safely and securely at other DOE sites, regardless of how long WIPP is closed.  Unnecessary waste shipments should not occur while WIPP is closed. Additional newly-generated TRU waste from nuclear weapons production, which exacerbates existing problems, should not be produced.

Los Alamos Budget is 65% Nuclear Weapons

Los Alamos Budget is 65% Nuclear Weapons

LANL Lab Table Chart FY 2015
Percentages of the Los Alamos annual budget for 2015

There are people who don’t realize that there still are nuclear weapons in the world. There are those who don’t realize that Los Alamos is still in the nuclear weapons business. I’ve created a chart that illustrates that nuclear weapons activities are 65% of the Lab’s annual $2.1 billion dollar budget. The actual Laboratory table from the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) budget is included.

First, please remember to add three zeroes to all the numbers in the table because all “Dollars in Thousands”.  And remember that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Request numbers are just the President’s request, which Congress then slices and dices to arrive at the final appropriation during the congressional budget process.

Notice the largest FY 2015 Request budget by far is “Total Weapons Activities” at $1,417,502,(000). That’s $1.4 billion. “Total Defense Environmental Cleanup”, which is the remediation of radioactive and hazardous waste, is $222,262,(000). That’s $222 million.

The full budget categories are described in Volume 1 of the DOE budget here.

This page also has the Laboratory Tables on it. In addition, there is a “FY 2015 State Table” that shows all of New Mexico receives a total of $4.6 billion from DOE annually including $3.4 billion for nuclear weapons. Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque has a $1.5 billion request for nuclear weapons for FY 2015.

What is not on the Laboratory Tables is “Work For Others”, which is work that Los Alamos performs for government agencies other than DOE. This number is estimated at $250 million for FY 2015.

Let me know if you have any questions.

GAO report on NNSA’s dismantlement program

There are lots of interesting nuggets in the Government Accountability Office’s  recent dismantlement report. “Nuclear Weapons: Actions Needed by NNSA to Clarify Dismantlement Performance Goal,” April 2014, GAO-14-449, www.gao.gov/assets/670/662840.pdf

Selected highlights below. Verbatim excerpts follow page numbers (add 5 for PDF page number). General points in italics are mine.

Republican presidents, not Dems, make significant stockpile cuts, and do so unilaterally.

1: …in September 1991, the President announced several unilateral initiatives to reduce the U.S. nonstrategic nuclear weapons arsenal. The following month, the Soviet President responded that the Soviet Union would reduce its nonstrategic nuclear weapons. In addition, as part of the annual presidential stockpile review process, in 2004, the President directed that the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile be reduced by more than 40 percent by 2012 and, in 2007, he directed an additional reduction of the stockpile, making it roughly one-quarter the size of cold war-era levels.

Dismantlements resulting from New START are being held hostage to construction of the Uranium Processing Facility and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at LANL.

29: DOD officials told us that the retirement of additional weapons from the stockpile stemming from New START will be predicated on the successful restoration of the NNSA weapons production infrastructure, including the construction and operation of new NNSA facilities supporting nuclear weapons production—the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility at LANL, and the Uranium Production Facility at Y-12—which they did not believe could be achieved until the late 2020s or early 2030s.

Pantex dismantlement workforce could be lost.

29: …this gap in dismantlement workload in the mid-2020s could result in the loss of certified dismantlement personnel because dismantlement technicians at Pantex lose their certifications if they have not worked on a weapon type within the past year. As a result, Pantex may need to retrain and recertify sufficient numbers of new dismantlement personnel in the late 2020s to resume dismantlement efforts to address retired weapons stemming from New START.

NNSA dismantlement rates have plummeted.

21: According to our analysis of dismantlement data, since the early 1990s, NNSA’s dismantlement rates have generally decreased, with NNSA dismantling about 1,000 fewer weapons annually in recent years than it was dismantling in the mid-1990s. In addition, in some years, only one or two types of retired war reserve weapons were dismantled.

NNSA dismantlement reporting is misleading.

23: How NNSA measures progress toward its performance goal of dismantling all weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009 by the end of fiscal year 2022 is unclear and may make its reported progress misleading, including its practice of not tracking the actual date of retirement of individual dismantled weapons and its plans to reinstate to the stockpile—rather than dismantle—certain weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009.

 Nine percent of “retired” nuclear weapons may go back to the active stockpile.

25: …how NNSA measures progress toward its dismantlement performance goal is also unclear and may be misleading because some weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009 are reinstated to the stockpile rather than dismantled. Specifically, in our analysis of NNSA’s dismantlement schedule as of March 2013 for weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009, we found that approximately 9 percent of the weapons retired prior to fiscal year 2009 are scheduled to be reinstated during fiscal year 2013 through fiscal year 2022 or later.

Long retired weapons may come back to active stockpile.

27: The W84-0s and W80-1s currently in managed retirement may not be available to NNSA for dismantlement prior to fiscal year 2022 because both of these systems are being held in managed retirement as candidates for potential reuse as the warhead on a future long-range standoff missile to replace the Air Force’s current ALCM.

Contrary to NNSA claims Life Extension Programs will not decrease total stockpile size, especially when coupled with slower dismantlement rates.

28: As a hedge against technical problems in the life extension program process and in the refurbished warheads, however, the W76-0s are to remain in managed retirement and be unavailable for dismantlement until the life extension program processes and W76-1 unit reliability are “satisfactorily established,” …creating uncertainty as to whether the W76-0s in managed retirement will be released to NNSA in time for dismantlement by the end of fiscal year 2022.

Inconsistent W76-1 production.

28: These officials stated that it would be difficult to predict the completion of the W76-1 life extension program given inconsistent production, and that it was impossible to say whether the W76-0s in managed retirement could be released for dismantlement prior to fiscal year 2019 without additional confidence in NNSA’s production capability.

New START does not change total stockpile numbers, and as previously stated retired weapons can be pulled back to the active stockpile.

29: DOD officials said that the United States will meet the New START ceiling—1,550 operationally deployed nuclear weapons—to be in force by 2018 by transitioning currently deployed nuclear weapons to nondeployed “hedge” status without any significant change in the total stockpile size.

Interesting allusion to the Navy’s lack of support for the interoperable warhead, which could doom it for good.

32: …potential loss of military interest in a future planned common, or interoperable, warhead to replace the W78 and W88

GAO quotes NNSA estimated amounts for accelerated dismantlements, which might be handy for advocacy purposes. However, perhaps as a matter of its timing, the report fails to note the Obama Administration’s proposed 45% cut for dismantlement funding in FY 2015. Separately, the FY 2015 NNSA Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan states that dismantlements are only 1% of funding for Direct Stockpile Work.

33: NNSA estimated at the time that approximately $212 million in additional funding on top of the projected baseline budgets… would be needed to achieve the fiscal year 2018 dismantlement scenario. Alternatively, NNSA estimated that $265 million in additional funding on top of the projected baseline budgets… would be needed to achieve the fiscal year 2020 scenario.

 Dismantlements save money!

35: According to Navy officials we interviewed, accelerating dismantlement of retired W76-0 warheads allowed the Navy to avoid constructing new weapon storage facilities, saving the Navy approximately $190 million in estimated construction costs.

41: NNSA is retaining two types of CSAs [Canned Subassemblies, AKA secondaries] as options for reuse in a potential future W78 warhead refurbishment… In addition, NNSA is also retaining four types of CSAs as options for reuse in a warhead on the Air Force’s planned long-range standoff missile… NNSA officials told us that CSAs associated with a certain warhead indicated as excess in the 2012 Production and Planning Directive are being retained in an indeterminate state pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids… the national labs’ retention letter has also characterized the CSA associated with this warhead as an “irreplaceable national asset.”

42: Y-12 is projected to disassemble far fewer CSAs than in NNSA’s 2009 Production and Planning Directive.

45: As of May 2013, Pantex was storing 3 million mark quality nonnuclear components as a contingency inventory for potential reuse in maintaining active stockpile or refurbished weapons.

49: Pantex site contractors told us that some of these boxes may contain parts that are up to 60 years old and that may be radiologically contaminated, which makes them difficult to handle and identify.

After a Failed Campaign, the State Must Return to Enforceable Cleanup At LANL

After a Failed Campaign, the State Must Return to Enforceable Cleanup At LANL

The June 30 deadline of the “3706 Campaign” to remove 3706 cubic meters of transuranic waste stored on the surface on Los Alamos Lab will be missed due to the radiation release and shutdown of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The campaign was part of a non-binding agreement with the NM Environment Department so there are no penalties associated with lack of performance. The problem is that much other cleanup at the Lab was delayed while the 3706 Campaign was prioritized.

The Lab missed the low bar of shipping 3,706 cubic meters of transuranic waste while the cleanup of over 1,000,000 cubic meters of all types of radioactive waste, hazardous waste, and contaminated backfill buried across the Lab were put on the back burner. These vast amounts of buried wastes, dating back to the Lab’s early days, are covered under a 2005 Consent Order for the “fence-to-fence” cleanup of legacy waste. The Consent Order is enforceable with stipulated penalties of up to $3000/day for missed deliverables. But NMED has been hesitant to impose fines, because of DOE claims that the fines come out of the cleanup budget. The deadline for the last cleanup under the Consent Order is currently December 2015, which everyone agrees is impossible. But that end date could be extended, and should be extended, especially if the Lab was actually working on the legacy cleanup

NMED, to date, has granted over 95 extensions for Consent Order deliverables in favor of the 3706 Campaign. These extensions allow the Lab to not drill monitoring wells and to not perform cleanup investigations and work plans for sites across the Lab. The Lab claims that there is not enough money to address all the Consent Order deliverables, but the idea behind the Consent Order was that fines and the threat of fines would shake cleanup funding from DOE headquarters in DC. Cleanup without the big stick of possible fines just takes us back to the time when the small budget received annually just gets sprinkled around to where the cleanup “priorities” are perceived to be. Urgency and comprehensiveness go out the window.

The Cold War has been over for twenty years now and we in Northern New Mexico have been patient in removing LANL’s legacy waste.

But now Northern New Mexico has neither a 3706 Campaign that is complete, nor a Consent Order that will be complete by its deadline. NMED officials have stated, upon the successful completion of the 3706 Campaign, that they would consider renegotiating the Consent Order. We are waiting to see how NMED deals with the 3706 failure and we urge NMED to make the Consent Order the priority again. The Campaign approach has now been proven not to work.

In the meantime, we also have contaminated WIPP workers.

We have 707 possibly explosive drums probably created by Los Alamos spread across New Mexico and West Texas.

We have a damaged WIPP, which is shut down for up to three years and missing its deadlines for disposing waste.

We have other impacted DOE sites across the country, which will be missing deadlines for radioactive waste disposal.

We the taxpayers are no doubt going to spend hundreds of millions on this fiasco while the contractors continue to put money in their pockets.

The New Mexico Environment Department is the regulator here. Relying on LANL’s promises and plans to make things better must end. Time to return to the 2005 Consent Order and actually use the enforceable provisions in it.

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