Feb 272015
 

The New Mexican
Feb. 26, 2015
Letter to the Editor

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/letters-to-the-editor-feb/article_74b054a2-432f-5f0e-8fb1-ec972291a10f.html

Udall’s stand

A recent New Mexican article (“Udall weighs in on LANL’s next mission: Pits,” Feb. 22) quotes Sen. Tom Udall, “As long as we have nuclear weapons, they have to have pits, and Los Alamos does that.” He then goes on to hope that future international agreements would lower the need for plutonium “pit” cores of nuclear weapons.

Udall explicitly supported a huge new plutonium facility at LANL for expanded pit production, and a “life extension program” for an existing nuclear weapon that is creating the world’s first nuclear smart bomb. Expanded plutonium pit production is for future life extension programs that seek to not only indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons, but also give them new military capabilities, despite U.S. government denials. Udall can’t have it both ways, wishing for future limits on plutonium pit production while supporting the very programs and facilities that will expand production. He needs to stand up, pick one or the other, and make clear whether he is working for a world free of nuclear weapons or not.

Jay Coghlan
Nuclear Watch New Mexico
Santa Fe.

 

 

Nuclear Watch New Mexico


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 2, 2015
Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch NM, 505.989.7342

DOE Nuclear Weapons Budget Up 10%, Equals Cold War Record
Huge Startup for Nuclear Cruise Missile Warhead
$4 Billion Slated for LANL Plutonium Pit Production Facilities
Cleanup and Dismantlement Funding Remain Flat


Santa Fe, NM – Today, the Obama Administration released its proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts October 1, 2015.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is the semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy, and has perennially been on the Government Accountability Office’s High Risk List for wasting taxpayers’ money. Despite that, the Obama Administration is giving NNSA nuclear weapons programs a 10.5% jump in funding to $8.85 billion. (1) This is statistically equal to the Cold War high point in 1985 under President Reagan’s military buildup. (2) Moreover, the NNSA’s nuclear weapons budget is slated to rise to $9.8 billion by 2020, nearly double that of the Cold War average. All of this is the beginning of the planned one trillion dollar modernization of U.S. nuclear weapons forces over the next 30 years.

The large increases in NNSA budgets are due to 1) aggressive “Life Extension Programs” that seek to indefinitely preserve existing nuclear weapons while giving them new military capabilities; and 2) new production plants for these rebuilt nuclear weapons, expected to be operational until ~2075. As an example of the former, the current $12 billion B61 Life Extension Program will create the world’s first nuclear “smart” bomb, and will soon begin production at existing facilities.

NNSA’s FY 2016 budget launches a whole new Life Extension Program for a nuclear warhead for a new air-launched cruise missile. (3) Requested FY 2016 funding is $195 million, a 20-fold increase from $9 million for conceptual studies in FY 2015. This program is slated to rise to $459 million in annual appropriations by FY 2020. This nuclear warhead has been scheduled before Pentagon development of the new air-launched cruise missile itself, in effect putting the cart before the horse. This costly program is arguably redundant as well, given that rebuilt B61 nuclear bombs will be delivered on future super-stealthy fighters advertised as capable of penetrating any adversary’s air defenses. Finally, a nuclear-armed cruise missile is destabilizing from an arms control perspective because they can fly below radar, delivering the proverbial bolt from the blue.

On the flip side of production, the Obama Administration’s funding request for dismantlements is $48 million, less than 4% of the funding for all Life Extension Programs to rebuild nuclear weapons. Obama’s request itself is an improvement from last year, when the Administration asked for only $30 million, a 45% cut compared to the year before. Congress refused to go along with that, earmarking $50 million for dismantlements in FY 2015. Besides providing a good example to the rest of the world, nuclear weapons dismantlements deliver real savings to the American taxpayer by eliminating otherwise permanent security costs.

Concerning new production facilities, NNSA is asking for a 28% increase to $430 million for the Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) near Oak Ridge, TN. The UPF is to produce up to 80 “secondaries” each year, the components that give weapons thermonuclear capabilities capable of killing millions. The previous “big box” design for the UPF was canceled after out-of-control costs rose as high as $19 billion by one Pentagon estimate. UPF also had a half-billion dollar design mistake for which no one has been held accountable, in which all planned equipment could not fit within the building’s footprint. Because of all this, the UPF’s mission has been downscoped to production only, eliminating dismantlements, in order to help contain costs, currently capped at $6.5 billion. Again, dismantlements seem dispensable to the Obama Administration.

NNSA also plans to begin spending $2 billion to upgrade existing facilities for the expanded production of the plutonium pit cores of nuclear weapons at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), beginning with $155.6 million in FY 2016. The controversial CMRR “Nuclear Facility” is formally canceled. In its place, up to $675 million is planned to be spent on additional equipment for the already built Radiological Laboratory to quadruple the amount of plutonium that can be handled there, and up to $1.4 billion to upgrade PF-4, LANL’s existing main plutonium facility.

In addition, “The third step of the plutonium strategy extends the lifetime of PF-4 and supports increases in pit production capacity beyond 30 pits per year by proposing to build new modular facilities and move selected processes into new space… The NNSA is planning to construct not less than two modular structures that will achieve full operating capability not later than 2027.” Although still far from final design, those modular facilities will likely cost a billion dollars each. Given the usual cost overruns, eventual costs may meet or exceed the CMRR’s estimated cost of $6.5 billion when it included the Nuclear Facility.

In New Mexico-related news, the DOE budget request for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) is decreased by $76 million to $248 million. Of that, $87 million is for “base activities” while WIPP is shut down because of a radiation release in February 2104. The rest of funding is for “Recovery Activities” to resume underground disposal by March 2016 of radioactive wastes that were already stored above ground at WIPP when the accident happened. Meanwhile, plutonium-contaminated wastes across the country already prepared for shipment to WIPP will have to wait. Total costs to reopen WIPP remain unknown.

Inflation-adjusted funding for cleanup across the nation-wide nuclear weapons complex remains flat at $5.5 billion, even though estimated cleanup costs of the massive widespread contamination continue to climb. The funding request for cleanup at Los Alamos Lab is flat at $185 million. It includes repackaging radioactive waste drums stored at LANL that are similar to the one that ruptured and contaminated WIPP. It will also fund investigation and corrective measures for the large chromium plume in our groundwater aquifer, with an emphasis on preventing it from crossing the boundary of neighboring San Ildefonso Pueblo. Current contamination maps show the plume stopping at exactly the boundary, which is nearly impossible.

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico Director, commented, “Thousands of nuclear weapons rebuilt at enormous costs won’t protect us from ISIS, a dirty bomb in Manhattan, Ebola or climate change. NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs should be cut to help pay for the expansion of nonproliferation programs that actually enhance national security, cleanup programs that protect the environment while creating jobs, and dismantlement programs that get rid of nuclear weapons forever and save taxpayers money.”

# # #


The NNSA’s FY 2016 Congressional Budget Request is available at
http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/02/f19/FY2016BudgetVolume1%20_1.pdf

Notes:

(1)  As topline numbers, NNSA’s budget category “Total Weapons Activities” increase from $8.23 billion in FY 2015 to $8.85 billion in FY 2016, or 7.5%. However, the true increase is masked by the fact that two counterproliferation programs formerly within NNSA’s “Total Weapons Activities” are moved to Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. Once that is factored in the real increase for NNSA’s nuclear weapons programs is 10.5%

(2) The FY 2016 DOE nuclear weapons request is calculated as statistically equal to the Cold War record using data from Atomic Audit, Brookings Institute, 1998, Stephen Schwartz editor, Table A-2. It gives 5.494 billion in 1996 dollars as the cost for DOE nuclear weapons research, production and testing programs in 1985, the height of the Cold War military build up under Ronald Reagan. Adjusted for inflation that is $8.99 billion in 2015 dollars.

(3) Called the Long-Range Stand-Off weapon in the budget because heavy bombers can launch the nuclear-armed cruise missiles at a great distance from their intended targets.

 

 

 
Lanl budget chat clip

The Administration releases its  Congressional Budget Request this Monday, February 2, 2015.

Questions for the U.S. Department of Energy FY 2016 Nuclear Weapons and Cleanup Budget Request

From

Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

A national network of organizations working to address issues of nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup

The US nuclear weapons budget continues to spiral out of control. Look for double-digit increases in Department of Energy (DOE) weapons activities. Core nonproliferation programs will be cut because of funding for mixed-oxide fuel. Cleanup of radioactive and toxic pollution from weapons research, testing, production and waste disposal will fall further behind. The DOE budget for FY 2016 will illuminate the Obama Administration’s misplaced nuclear priorities.

The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), a 28-year-old network of groups from communities downwind and downstream of U.S. nuclear sites, will be looking at the following issues. For details, contact the ANA leaders listed at the end of this Advisory.

– Does the budget request boost funding for “modernization” programs that indefinitely maintain nuclear warheads? Such funding is contrary to the Obama Administration’s previously declared goal of a future world free of nuclear weapons.

– Does the budget reflect the Administration’s commitment to reduce funding (currently $335 million) on the multi-billion dollar Uranium Processing Facility at Oak Ridge by downsizing it to the capacity needed to support stockpile surveillance, maintenance and limited life extension?

– Does the budget increase funds for nuclear weapons dismantlement capacity? Will cooperative programs with Russia be maintained?

– Is there increased funding for expanded production of plutonium bomb cores? Why is expanded production needed when expert studies find that existing plutonium pits are durable?

– Is more than $300 million provided for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore Lab that has repeatedly failed to achieve “ignition”? What is the funding level for uncontained plutonium shots although they will taint the NIF target chamber and optics with alpha radiation?

– Does the budget seek an increase for the B61 Life Extension Program (currently $643 million)?

– As DOE affirms that the $30-billion plutonium fuel (MOX) project at the Savannah River Site is financially unsustainable, is the MOX plant construction again proposed for “cold standby” (~$200 million) or a level to barely allow it to survive (~300+ million)? Does the budget include the current validated base-line cost of MOX plant, a validated construction and operation schedule and names of nuclear utilities willing to use experimental MOX fuel?

– Does the budget include $0 for Yucca Mountain? No funding is consistent with past requests that terminate this technically flawed site that is strongly opposed by Nevada state officials and the public.

– Does the budget provide additional Environmental Management (EM) funding (currently $5 billion) to meet all legally mandated cleanup milestones? States say cleanup agreements at a dozen major sites are underfunded by hundreds of million dollars.

– How will DOE and its contractors pay fines for missing milestones? In the past three months, the states of New Mexico, Idaho, and Washington have issued fines of tens of millions of dollars, and fines loom in South Carolina. In which other states does DOE face fines and lawsuits for missing milestones?

– What is the high range for total life-cycle cleanup costs (LCC) for EM sites? Because of funding shortfalls, High Range LCC costs have increased from $308.5 billion in the FY 2013 Budget Request, to $330.9 billion in the FY 2014 Request, and were $328.4 billion in the FY 2015 Request.

– How much does the budget include for the shut down of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)? How much is for recovery and how much for waste emplacement (previously $220 million a year) even though no waste is being emplaced? How much additional funding is requested for the Idaho National Lab, Los Alamos, Savannah River, and Oak Ridge because of the shutdown?

– Does the budget for Hanford (more than $2 billion) protect workers from toxic chemical exposures, provide an Operational Readiness Review of the nuclear safety of the Waste Treatment Plant, and fund construction of new double-shell tanks to replace the leaking ones?

– Does the budget increase funding (currently $28.5 million) for the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) to provide independent oversight of DOE projects because of the many cost overruns, schedule delays, safety culture issues and technical problems?

– Is the funding for design and licensing of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) enough to make them viable? As private financing is lacking, will DOE reaffirm that it will not finance SMR construction?

 

For further information, contact:

Jay Coghlan jay(at)nukewatch.org

 

Download the pdf and more contact info here.

 

 
WIPP truck leaving LANL

Performance Evaluation Reports For Nuclear Weapons Sites Continue to be Released After Nuclear Watch NM Freedom of Information Act requests

In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by Nuclear Watch New Mexico on March 28, 2012, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released the FY2011 Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear weapons sites. These reports are the government’s scorecard for awarding tens of millions of dollars to nuclear weapons contractors, and were available to the public until 2009. But after that time NNSA withheld them in a general move toward less contractor accountability. We sought to begin to reverse that with our litigation.

In Spring 2013, NNSA released “Summary Reports” of the Weapons Sites’ FY2012 Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs). Nuclear Watch NM requested and received the full reports, which are posted on our site.

By Fall 2014, the FY2013 had still not been made publically available. In November 2104, Nuclear Watch NM filed a Freedom of information Act request for the FY2013 PERs. These PERs were posted online in December 2014.

Getting tired of waiting for the PERs every year made us file a Freedom of Information Act request for the FY2014 PERs sooner, which we did in mid December. The FY14 Performance Evaluation Reports were released this week, which is the earliest in the year that the PERs which been released in many years.

NNSA should be posting these important reports online without making us take up our valuable time filing for them. The Freedom of Information Act requires that “Frequently Requested” documents be posted in a reading room.

We don’t like it that we have to keep asking for the same reports year after year, especially reports that relate to such important programs and such large sums of taxpayers’ money. NNSA But we will keep doing it.

Check out our NNSA Performance Evaluation Page.

 

 
NuclearWatchdog-150x150

Nonproliferation Expert Highlights Need for New Tools for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Verification

January 12,2015, nonproliferation expert Dr. James Doyle is releasing a report making the case for expansion of the nation’s nonproliferation programs, and will brief key congressional staff on his findings. While in Washington DC, Dr. Doyle is also meeting with the Department of Energy on his contractor employee protection (AKA whistleblower) program complaint regarding his termination from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Lab claims he was merely laid off, after he wrote his study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? arguing for abolition. LANL initially cleared his study for release, but then retroactively classified it, despite the fact that it was already available on the Internet.

Dr. Doyle’s new study, Essential Capabilities Needed for Nuclear Security: A National Program for Nonproliferation and Verification Technology Development, builds upon his earlier study. In this new study, written in collaboration with Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Doyle seeks to encourage development and/or deployment of new and existing verification and monitoring technologies that would help make a future world free of nuclear weapons more technically and politically feasible.

Doyle observed, “Nonproliferation and arms verification have for too long been considered “soft power” tools of the diplomatic and arms control communities. Real nuclear security requires that we now consider these capabilities as vital elements of our national security infrastructure. They are potent “smart power” tools offering unique advantages in a rapidly evolving nuclear security environment, which unfortunately includes the threat of nuclear terrorism. Aggressive verification and monitoring technologies will produce a far greater national security return on the taxpayer dollar than will exorbitant “modernization” programs for an unnecessarily oversized nuclear arsenal.”

He continued, “As America allegedly reduces its reliance on nuclear weapons and hopefully further reduces the size of its stockpile, it needs new tools and new capabilities to keep weapons and materials secure and verify that other nations are complying with similar obligations. To meet these needs a new, integrated multiagency program to develop nonproliferation, verification and monitoring technologies for nuclear security should be initiated without delay.”

Some key findings of Doyle’s new report are:

• The program to develop new nonproliferation, verification and monitoring technologies should be funded as a core aspect of the nation’s nuclear infrastructure modernization plan, and thus implemented jointly by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Defense, with guidance from the State Department, intelligence community and National Academy of Sciences.

• Responsibility for this interagency mission should be assigned to high-level officials who have budget and program authority across the nuclear weapons and nonproliferation programs within the Departments of Defense and NNSA. The State Department should assign a senior task force leader to coordinate with the DoD and NNSA program directors.

• The program should maximize international collaboration, including Russia. Program plans and activities should be a central element of the P-5 dialogue on verification. Other non-nuclear weapons states that support verification and monitoring R&D should also be involved.

· The need for this program was formally codified as an explicit objective in the Obama Administration’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, and has been repeatedly articulated by both the U.S. government and independent assessments. That need should be met now. Failure in the form of a nuclear detonation on American soil (or anywhere) is not an option

Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch Director, commented, “The nuclear weapons establishment is planning to spend more than a trillion dollars to “modernize” existing weapons, and build new missiles, subs and bombers. Meanwhile, the NNSA is cutting nonproliferation and dismantlement programs to help pay this colossal bill. This is exactly upside down. We should be making smart investments into new nonproliferation, verification and monitoring technologies that will help make a world free of nuclear weapons feasible, eliminating the threat for all time.”

Dr. James Doyle’s report is made possible by the support of the Ploughshares Fund.

His full report, Essential Capabilities Needed for Nuclear Security:

A National Program for Nonproliferation and Verification Technology Development, is available here.

It contains an extensive list of already developed verification and monitoring technologies that have yet to be broadly deployed to help protect the nation.

An executive summary is available here.

Doyle’s February 2013 study Why Eliminate Nuclear Weapons? is available here.

 

 

 

 

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.

# # #

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

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

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

 

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

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.

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