LANL outlines stimulus plan

-A A +A
By Roger Snodgrass

SANTA FE – Hazardous cleanup projects on DP Road are the main focus of the laboratory’s economic stimulus plans.

Officials of the Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Laboratory outlined current proposals for using stimulus funds to catch up on and accelerate hazardous cleanup work on DP Mesa.

The stimulus work would mean 140-280 new, short-term jobs, according to a presentation Wednesday night to the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board. NNMCAB is formally chartered by the Department of Energy to provide stakeholder recommendations on environmental programs at LANL.

George Rael, who heads environmental management work at the laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration said the Los Alamos Site Office expected $6 billion in additional funds would be available nationally until September 2010, through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law on Feb. 17.

“If you take our $5.8 billion annual budget and then add $6 billion to it, that’s a lot of money coming in,” he said, adding that there would be very close oversight.

“If you ever see that we’re not being transparent to you, you’ll have to pull our coat-tails,” he said.

Additional Decontamination and Demolition (D&D) work at Technical Area 21 and the cleanup and remediation project at Material Disposal Area B (MDA-B) are currently the highest priorities, but the situation is fluid.

Officials in Washington will allocate the funds and then watch them closely, the local officials said. Poorly performing projects would lose money to programs that are doing well, so priorities may change.

Michael Graham, LANL’s associate director for environmental programs, said he is going through new conjectural drills daily, involving “what if” scenarios related to tradeoffs between future budgets and the stimulus funding.

“If you pull that out, it pulls in future work,” he said, referring to the way earlier completions impact future budgets.

In preparing for public meetings earlier this month on MDA-B, officials were unable to confirm that the immediate project at MDA-B would use stimulus funds.

The MDA-B project was originally conceived as a 4.5 year project, beginning in 2007, but has been delayed for lack of funding. It has a deadline under an agreement with the state of Dec. 31, 2010.

Added to the clean-up hopper would be the D&D at DP Site West, the “original Rocky Flats,” where plutonium and uranium research and production were conducted from 1945 through 1978 and DP Site East, where polonium, actinide and tritium research took place from 1945 through 1949.

Ten buildings and ancillary structures at DP West, amounting to about 105,000 square feet and five more structures at DP East with another 46,000 square feet would come down, with subsurface contamination and hazardous waste removal in both locations.

Another Manhattan-era relic in TA-21, the Tritium Systems Test Assembly with one main and four smaller structures totaling 16,000 square feet, would also come down. The D&D work at TA-21 would extend through Sept. 30, 2011.

Officials at the meeting said they had been in discussions with county officials about how these projects might impact other work going on in the county, particularly the work on Trinity Drive.

Allan Chaloupka, the project manager for the TA-21closure said about 12 truckloads a day from the MDA-B project would exit DP Road onto Trinity Drive, mostly going off the hill by way of the truck route. They would be carrying low-level waste for disposal out of state. Industrial wastes would go to in-state facilities, such as Rio Rancho. Some waste might go to the laboratory’s depository at Technical Area 54 for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Twelve trucks would also make the return trip to DP Road.

Altogether DOE will receive more than $38 billion for science, energy and environmental initiative over the next 18 months under the recovery act.

In a recent report the DOE Inspector Genera (IG) noted that the figure “dwarfs” the normal annual budget of $27 billion. In addition, DOE’s authority to make energy-related loans has gone up to about $127 billion.

The Department plans to disburse the vast majority of the funds it receives through grants, cooperative agreements, contracts and other financial instruments.

“As we also recently noted in our report on Management Challenges at the Department of Energy (DOE/IG-0808, December 2008), contract administration remains a significant vulnerability,” the inspector general noted in a special report on the stimulus program.

“The (national security) laboratories did not always ensure that audits were conducted, questioned costs were resolved and completed subcontracts were closed in a timely manner, because they lacked appropriate controls and adequate staffing and because the National Nuclear Security Administration had not developed specific performance measures related to subcontract administration,” the IG wrote, in a report on how the ARRA funds would be overseen.

Rael said LANL could expect an evaluation visit from the IG.