LANL floats new estimate

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Security upgrade: Cost to fix botched job drops by $14M

By The Staff

The Los Alamos National Laboratory says there is nothing new to report, regarding to the stalled security upgrade project.

But the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor reported in last week’s edition that the cost to complete the project is expected to decrease by more than $14 million.

Two weeks ago, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, announced it was making a $10 million payment in a joint statement released in conjunction with the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The trade publication reported that a new estimate submitted by the laboratory to the NNSA would drop the price tag for finishing the second phase of the Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrades Project to about $240 million, down from the $254 million cost estimate put forth by the lab last month.

Lab spokesman Fred DeSousa said that LANL had no comment on the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor report.

In addition to the $10 million repayment by LANS, the trade publication reports that another $4 million would be saved by starting the project earlier than expected.

The lab previously said the cost of the project had climbed to $254 million because of major construction problems, up from previous estimates of $213 million.

The trade publication reported, though, that estimate was based on work restarting on the project March 31, but an agreement between the lab and NNSA reached last week would allow work to begin much sooner, cutting several months from the project’s construction schedule and would lower the cost of maintaining extra security at the lab.

So what about the remaining $27 million to finish the project?

One possibility is that the lab and NNSA may seek an emergency reprogramming through Congress for the extra money.

The Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor reported that the NNSA is contemplating moving weapons activities funds to higher priority activities like NMMSUP, which the agency believes the current Continuing Resolution funding the government allows and could “backfill” funding with a reprogramming package in the future. As part of the settlement agreement between the lab and NNSA, the agency said it would begin funding the project again Dec. 14, while the lab committed to make the $10 million payment from “non-reimbursable, non-taxpayer funds to settle project costs deemed potentially unallowable” on Monday.

The security project was designed to upgrade systems, protection strategies and security requirements at the lab’s TA-55, which houses the Plutonium Facility.

It was supposed to be finished in June and be up and running by January, but significant construction problems arose and LANL ordered subcontractors to quit work on the project as they figured out a  way to fix the problems.

There were problems with fiber optic cables as well as the perimeter lighting system and perimeter denial system.

Lab director Charlie McMillan said that Tyrone “Ty” Troutman will be the Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrades Project manager. Troutman was the construction functional manager for Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure and will report directly to McMillan. Others on a committee formed to get the project completed  are Jimmie L. Willman, who will manage procurement activities and Toby Wilson, who currently manages Project Controls for LANL’s Environmental Programs directorate.

“Performance on this project has been unacceptable to me, the LANS Board of Governors, and our customer. This has damaged the laboratory’s credibility. We must do better. As we learn more about the breakdowns that occurred, we will share lessons learned,” McMillan said in a memo last month.