Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • LANL ramps back up

    Throughout the 16-day government shutdown, Los Alamos National Laboratory employees continued to report to work.

    On Thursday, lab Director Charlie McMillan wrote a memo to his employees, providing an update on the lab’s status.

    “I’m pleased to confirm what you may have already seen in news reports. The federal budget impasse has been temporarily resolved,” he wrote. “I am lifting the suspension of operations planned for the end of the day today. All LANS employees should report for work as normal.”

    The memo told workers that it will take some time for the lab to return to normal operations.

    “Please work with your managers and Facility Operations Directors to accomplish this safely and securely. When in doubt, ask,” McMillan wrote. “ We are beginning the process of formally recalling our subcontractors. This may take a number of days depending on the program, funding on-hand and release of FY 2014 funds.

    “We will complete time collection for this week but will temporarily suspend collection of time for the weeks of Oct. 21 and 28. Corrections for those weeks will be made available next week.”
    McMillan made a number of other points.

  • Lab employee files lawsuit

    A lawsuit filed by a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee alleges he was put in a position with less authority in retaliation for complaining that security protocols weren’t followed during VIP visits.

    The suit was filed by Michael Irving in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, according to documents obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor.

    The suit, filed by Irving’s attorney Donald Gilpin of Albuquerque, alleges he was placed in a position with lesser authority after he complained several times to his superiors after learning in 2011 about security breaches during VIP visits.

    It also alleges that Irving has been subjected to a hostile work environment and was discriminated against on the basis of his age.

    The suit claims in the spring and summer of 2011, Irving became aware that security protocols, with regard to VIP visits to the labs, were not being followed. He made several complaints to his supervisors and the suit alleges those complaints were ignored.

    In the suit, Irving said he was then removed from his security oversight role with regard to VIP visits and was told by his supervisor that he would not be considered for promotions because he was considered a “malcontent” and “troublemaker” by the LANL administration.

  • Shutdown hits LANL contractors

    In an interview two weeks ago, Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Member Services Coordinator Katy Korkos told the Los Alamos Monitor that the impact of a government shutdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory could hit subcontractors twice as hard as other entities.

    “Lab subcontractors will never be able to recover the income that they’re losing currently,” Korkos said.

    Subcontractors can only bill for work performed and their contracts are subject to firm end dates, so they are not able to receive an extension to complete the required work and recoup their losses.

    Conversations with a couple of those contractors revealed just how extensive the losses from the government shutdown could be.

    Energy Solutions is already feeling the impact. The company is one of approximately 20 subcontracted to process and ship transuranic (TRU) waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad. LANL shut down those operations Oct. 8, affecting an estimated 200 workers.

    For Energy Solutions, that is only one of the dominos to fall.

    “It’s affecting projects not only here but in Oakridge, Idaho and Hanford,” Vice President Miles Smith said.

    “Everywhere we’re working is shut down. We only have two projects that are not affected by this.”

  • LANL readies for Oct. 18 shutdown

    The government shutdown has lasted for more than a week — 10 days to be exact.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory employees have reported to work but they also have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    On Wednesday, it did.

    LANL director Charlie McMillan sent a memo to all employees, stating that “without a resolution to the budget impasse, Los Alamos will complete the transition to closure as of the end of business on Friday, Oct. 18.”
    McMillan followed up the memo with an all-hands meeting Thursday.

    McMillan said that the NNSA has directed all labs and sites to start preparing for the orderly closure of all operations except for those required to maintain minimum safety.

    “We will continue to conserve available funding through reductions in travel and discretionary spending. Effective immediately, all travel, overtime and hiring must be approved by a PAD (Principal Associate Director).

    “We are currently preparing a list of the safety and security operations that will continue and personnel who would work through the closure to staff them. All other employees will be placed on unpaid furlough starting Monday, Oct. 21 until the laboratory can restart.

  • Sandia to shut down Oct. 21

    Sandia National Laboratory officials announced Tuesday that they will be forced to begin to shut down and furlough much of the lab’s workforce by Oct. 21 if the budget impasse is not resolved.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory officials, meanwhile, have told employees that the lab has a limited ability to stay open in the government shutdown.

    LANL released the following statement Tuesday.

    “The Administration strongly believes that Congress can quickly come to a resolution to fund the work necessary to American people. 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,” the statement said.

  • Lab suspends shipments

    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).

  • Lab management of waste facility faulted

    A project to replace an aging and degrading radioactive waste treatment facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory is 11 years behind schedule and its price tag has nearly tripled because of ineffective management, according to a government audit released Wednesday.

    The report from the Department of Energy’s Inspector General says the National Nuclear Security Administration and Los Alamos have spent $56 million since 2004 on plans to replace its 50-year-old and sometimes failing Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility. But design work is still not complete and the two-phase project now won’t be finished until 2017 and 2020 at the earliest.

    According to the audit, the facility that treats and disposes of low-level and transuranic waste has degraded and sometimes fails, leaving the lab with no way to process radioactive liquid waste while repairs are being made.

    The audit is the latest in a series of government reports to detail cost overruns and delays by projects overseen by the NNSA, prompting Congress to appoint a task force that is studying a potential overhaul of the DOE-run agency.

  • Shutdown enters its second day

    Employees reported to Los Alamos National Laboratory Wednesday as the federal government shutdown entered its second day.

    Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said the lab has about a week’s worth of carryover money.

    The LANL website reported Tuesday afternoon that employees should report to work unless told otherwise by their manager.

    The Weapons Complex Monitor reported Tuesday that the exact amount of carryover funding available during the government shutdown is different at each DOE site, but the department declined to provide details on how long sites and programs could continue to operate normally under the shutdown.

    “The Administration strongly believes that Congress can quickly come to a resolution to fund the work necessary to American people. This lapse in appropriations has serious impacts on the Department’s ability to carry out its mission.

  • Former lab director dies

    Family members say former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Harold Agnew, who also worked on the Manhattan Project, has died. He was 92.

    His family says Agnew died Sunday at his home in Solano Beach, Calif., while watching football. He had been suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

    Under his leadership, Los Alamos developed an underground nuclear test containment program, acquired the first Cray supercomputer, and trained the first class of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

    During the Manhattan Project, a World War II program that provided enriched uranium for the atomic bomb, Agnew went to Los Alamos as a graduate student. He was a scientific observer on the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, Japan.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan Monday remembered Agnew as a national treasure who transformed the Laboratory into what it is in the 21st century.

    “His contributions to the laboratory made us the institution we are today,” McMillan said. “It was his vision – decades ago – that recognized that national security science brings value to a broad spectrum of breakthroughs. Los Alamos and the nation will be forever in Harold’s debt.”

  • Committee OKs $43M for NNSA request

    The House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee took up the issue of the NNSA request to reprogram $120 million from the deferred Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement-Nuclear Facility.
    According to a letter obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor, the reprogramming request was for more work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which would establish an alternate plutonium capability.
     The Sept. 18 letter from Reps. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) to the Department of Energy finance office, stated that $43.3 million of that request was approved.
    In the letter, Frelinghuysen and Kaptur stated that the money can be used for planning and pre-conceptual design work on an alternate plutonium strategy, as well as to relocate equipment from the existing Chemistry and Metallurgy Research facility and to achieve operational readiness of LANL’s Radiological Laboratory Utility Office Building.
    The committee members said the money can’t be used to “perform construction activities, including reconfiguring PF-4 to meet enduring plutonium infrastructure requirements.” Frelinghuysen and Kaptur said NNSA should request work needed to upgrade the lab’s Plutonium Facility as a new line-item construction project.