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Lab suspends shipments

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Shutdown > LANL orders 200 subcontractors to stand down

By John Severance

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees reported to work Monday and Tuesday.

But the effects of the shutdown are starting to take effect.

The Los Alamos Monitor has learned that LANL has suspended its operations for processing and shipping transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

Four shipments already loaded will be completed. Nuclear material has been secured and facilities are being put into a “safe standby” condition.

The laboratory directed approximately 200 subcontractors on the TRU project to stand down and report back to their companies. These are mostly EnergySolutions subcontractors. Certain other environmental monitoring operations, including those supporting the Santa Fe water utility and a chromium pump test, continue.

“The Administration strongly believes that Congress can quickly come to a resolution to fund the work necessary to American people,” the lab said in a statement. “This lapse in appropriations has serious impacts on the Department’s ability to carry out its mission, including at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

“While the Department was able to fund some continued activity for a short period following September 30, 2013, the continued lapse in appropriations is having a significant impact on Departmental operations. LANL has now reached the point where we need to begin standing down certain operations where there is no longer funding available to maintain full operations. Protecting Special Nuclear Material, national security information, workers, the public and the environment remains an essential function.”

LANL Director Charlie McMillan issued a memo to employees Friday, telling them to report to work Monday unless otherwise directed.

McMillan identified the following points as to the current state of the lab.
• Congress has not yet identified a path forward for fiscal year 2014 funding.
• Coordination with DOE and NNSA partners is continuing on a regular basis.
• Laboratory employees should continue to report for work as normal.
• News reports citing specific lengths of time that the laboratory can continue operating are simply speculation.

“As I said in my message to you last week, we have sufficient funds to continue operating for the near term, and that is as specific as we can get,” McMillan said in the memo. “Your efforts to defer discretionary expenses such as travel and non-critical purchases will help conserve available funds.”

LANL is in the midst of its “3,706 Transuranic Waste Campaign.” Lab officials have set a goal to remove 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste by June 30, 2014 from Technical Area 54 and Material Disposal Area G.

The Consent Order between New Mexico Environment Department and was signed on March 1, 2005. The Order provides the timetable and requirements for environmental clean up of hazardous constituents for the laboratory.
The increase in shipments is part of a framework deal reached between DOE, NNSA and LANL with the New Mexico Environment Department.

Last week, NMED spokesman Jim Winchester said “NMED has concerns the TRU Waste 3,706 Campaign to remove all above-ground transuranic waste off the lab grounds and ship it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant by June of 2014 will not be sustained at the current pace if a shutdown lingers.

“NMED strongly believes the federal shutdown is unacceptable and the department joins Governor Martinez in urging New Mexico’s federal delegation to move toward a quick resolution for the sake of the continued clean-up and protection of New Mexico’s precious resources.”

The state repeatedly has said it will not negotiate terms of the Consent Order.