Saturday, February 23, 2008


It has been a year and a half since the closing post on LANL, The Real Story.

The LANL I knew and worked at for 20 years is dead. In honor of the deceased, please join me in a requiem* celebration by visiting my new music blog, The Santa Fe Music Scene Blog..



(rěk'wē-əm, rē'kwē-)
  1. Requiem Roman Catholic Church
    1. A mass for a deceased person.
    2. A musical composition for such a mass.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Last Post

This is the last post to LANL, The Real Story . 869,847 visitors, 3,274,719 page views as of today.

This blog will remain on-line for some as yet undetermined period, but I have turned off the ability to comment on existing posts, and there will be no more submissions accepted. The Los Alamos Historical Society has requested that I burn a copy of the blog to DVD so that they could archive it, and I will do this. In addition, I may install a stand-alone version of the blog on computer at the Los Alamos Museum where visitors will be allowed to browse a "live" copy of LTRS, but not make any modifications to it. Details for doing this have not yet been worked out.

There is one person whom I have to thank for having provided me with the incentive to start this blog: George P. Nanos. Were it not for his incredibly ill thought out string of management actions, to include his flawed and precipitous decision to shut the entire laboratory down in July, 2004 for what ultimately became a period of 7 months for some organizations, I might still be working at LANL.

I hope that the open discussion environment provided here produced some good. Many of the problems that have existed at LANL were thoroughly dissected; hopefully that discussion will result in improvements being implemented. DOE, Bechtel, BWXT, WG, UCOP, LM, NG, and a whole host of other government and corporate entities read this blog on a daily basis, so if improvements are not made at LANL, it will not be for lack of knowing about the need.

In my opinion, the best news story to have been written about LANL in the past 1 1/2 years was the piece entitled "A Good Enough Performance" that appeared in the June 15, 2006 edition of The Economist. That article provides a calm, rational basis for predicting what changes are likely in store for Los Alamos in coming years. The post containing that article immediately follows this one.

Many thanks to Brad for his assistance in maintaining the blog, and to the numerous contributors (no, Kevin: we are not a small, yet highly vocal group of malcontents, we were a large, yet highly vocal group of malcontents) who provided much of the thoughtful material that was presented here.

Finally, no one responded to my request for those who were interested to send in an essay that described why their site should be considered as a follow-on to this one. So, either there is no longer a need for this kind of discussion forum, or no one is willing to maintain one. On that note, then, we will now return you to your regular programming.


A good enough performance?

Los Alamos National Laboratory

A good enough performance?

Jun 15th 2006
From The Economist print edition

America's most famous weapons laboratory is under new management

ON JULY 16th 1945 the skies of New Mexico lit up and a thunderous roar whooshed across the desert. Los Alamos National Laboratory has been living ever since on the reputation it won from that history-changing event, the explosion of the first atomic bomb. But smugness can breed complacency, and complacency carelessness. In recent years the laboratory has been in the news not for its successes but its failures. A series of farcical events, ranging from secret data going missing (only to be discovered behind a copying machine) to false charges of espionage being laid against an American scientist of Chinese descent, led the then director, Pete Nanos, to describe his staff as “cowboys” and “butt-heads”, and to close the place down for seven months in 2004, to try to clean things up.

The result is a change of management. At the beginning of June the University of California, which had run Los Alamos since the days of the Manhattan Project, ceded control to a consortium known as Los Alamos National Security. Though the university remains one of the consortium's members, it will now share what bouquets and brickbats come Los Alamos's way with three firms that make a lot of their money as military contractors. These are Bechtel and Washington Group International, two large engineering and construction companies, and BWX technologies, a concern that specialises in managing nuclear facilities.

Unlike the university, the new consortium will be aiming to make a decent profit from its activities. It is also thought likely to change the emphasis of the laboratory from research (in a wide range of subjects, not all of them to do with defence, let alone nuclear weapons), to the more mundane business of making the detonators of nuclear warheads.

The consortium is making reassuring noises. According to Jeff Berger, its director of communications, “There is a popular misconception that we're out to change the lab's mission.” Nevertheless, many of Los Alamos's researchers sense a shift of direction. Indeed, quite a few have left. That, though, is hardly the point. The question is whether any change that does come will serve America's national interest.

Times they are a'changing

Los Alamos is one of three national nuclear-weapons laboratories that sit in the American West under the watchful eye of the Department of Energy. (The other two are Lawrence Livermore, in California, and Sandia, which has establishments in both California and New Mexico.) For years, weapons were their sole mission. Then the cold war ended and they had to find other things to do, as well.

Part of this change was a logical extension of what they had been up to in the past. Rather than producing new weapons and conducting tests (which America stopped in 1992, even though it has not ratified the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, which bans such tests), they shifted their emphasis towards making sure that the country's ageing warheads remained safe and usable. Since they could no longer pluck warheads out of the arsenal at random to test by letting them off, they ended up building huge computing centres to process the complex “virtual” tests that replaced the real thing. Having built these, it made sense to use them for other things. That, in turn, led to the sort of diversification that might be praised in a commercial organisation where the main product was going out of fashion, but risked looking suspiciously like job-justifying mission-creep in a taxpayer-funded bureaucracy.

All three laboratories did this. But only one of them found itself in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons. Since many experts in the field have wondered noisily whether three weapons labs is one too many, such poor publicity was not clever.

Unfortunately for Los Alamos, some of its biggest critics are on the Congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce. During a hearing in May 2005, Congressman Bart Stupak chastised the laboratory, the University of California and government officials for years of mismanagement. Exasperated, he asked a pair of obvious questions: “Why do we have to have this place any longer?” and “Is there any really unique science that can only be done at Los Alamos and nowhere else?” It is that last point in particular that the new managers must address.

Regardless of which way you look at it, a lot of good “off-mission” science has been done at Los Alamos. Its researchers have, for example, developed ways to handle what is known as supercritical carbon dioxide. The result is an environmentally friendly solvent—certainly more environmentally friendly than many of the noxious alternatives used for industrial cleaning. The technology has been picked up by businesses ranging from dry cleaners to semiconductor-makers to cut back on the contaminants they produce.

The laboratory's expertise in energy technology has also been put to good use in research in the fashionable area of fuel cells and into superconducting tape for electricity transmission. This tape, which can carry 100 times as much current as an equivalent chunk of copper wire, may eventually be used to replace bulky transmission lines. And the futuristic computer centre, which allows researchers to manipulate graphical representations of nuclear data with their hands, as if physically flipping through a book, may also be put through its commercial paces. It is said to be the object of covetous eyes at Disney.

The laboratory's officials like to point out that its work on safety has many possible uses. In its quest to study how radioactive material might disperse, Los Alamos has concocted models for the spread of everything from infectious diseases to air pollution. City governments have tapped into the pollution expertise, while researchers from other laboratories have borrowed the epidemiological tricks to model the spread of AIDS.

Perhaps, though, the best example of how Los Alamos's largesse can help civilians is the Isotope Production Facility. This research unit can churn out rare and expensive radioactive isotopes for medical use—particularly in cancer therapy. Such a facility, officials argue, could not be supported by the private sector, because it would be too expensive. But given that Los Alamos needs it anyway, it can be turned to medical work from time to time.

It is this sort of diversity that many of the laboratory's scientists would like to keep. Others, however, have decided which way the wind is blowing and left.

Angel Garcia, a renowned biophysicist, has, for example, gone to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state, where he will continue to work on the crucial question of how proteins fold into the right shapes to do their jobs properly. One of the laboratory's best-known computer scientists, Wu-chun Feng, has decamped to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Another, Erik Hendriks, has left for Google. And an entire team working in the burgeoning field of bioinformatics has formed a new laboratory at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute.

The way that these and other researchers have been gobbled up by the outside world suggests that Mr Stupak and the other congressional critics have a point. Bioinformatics and protein-folding theory are both crucial to the development of biological understanding, but there is no reason to doubt that the researchers will thrive in other institutions. Indeed, an establishment doing highly classified work, with the security to match, may not really be the right place for civilian biologists, however distinguished they are.

The computer scientists are a greater loss. In the absence of real weapons tests, computing is at the core of the laboratory's work. If the übergeeks start leaving in numbers, that work will get harder to do.

On the other hand, from the scientists' point of view, this exodus may prove far-sighted. For there may come a time when even making the detonators of nuclear weapons might look like part of a rosy future that never was.

The lab-rats leave the sinking ship

At the moment, having closed the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, America relies on Los Alamos for the production of plutonium pits, as these detonators are known. Most of today's American nuclear warheads were made in the 1980s and have been deteriorating slowly ever since. Hence the need for new detonators. But Congress now wants to do more than just maintain the existing arsenal. In 2005 it authorised what is known as the Reliable Replacement Warhead Programme, to explore new ways of making warheads like those in the existing stockpile, so that they are safer, more reliable and less toxic. Los Alamos's researchers are in competition with those at Lawrence Livermore to come up with a design for these warheads.

The Nuclear Weapons Council, composed of officials from the Department of Defence and the Department of Energy, will decide later this year which of the two laboratories' designs is the winner. If the winning design actually gets built, and the indications so far are that it will be, a further reorganisation of the national laboratories would be almost inevitable. If Los Alamos loses the reliable-warhead competition, it could find itself in the humiliating position of being a sub-contractor turning out the Livermore design.

Despite the noises, a total shutdown is unlikely. Too many sensitive jobs—not just those of the researchers, but of the thousands of support staff at the laboratory—are at stake for New Mexico's representatives in Congress to let the place close. But the next year or two will see the old way of doing things tested severely, as the new managers impose their will and that of Congress. It may not be a test to destruction, but there will be nothing virtual about it. It will be very real indeed.


Full Story

LANL Blog Comes to End on Friday


Site was popular place to post comments about laboratory
BY JOHN ARNOLD Journal Staff Writer

Los Alamos’ most famous blogger is logging off.

Former Los Alamos National Laboratory computer scientist Doug Roberts will tap out his final post Friday, and his popular Web log “LANL: The Real Story” will be history — literally.

The Los Alamos Historical Society plans to file away a full digital archive of the blog, which Roberts launched “in a moment of blind fury” in December 2004.

Since then, a series of historic events, including the firstever change in laboratory management, has unfolded at the nation’s first nuclear weapons research facility.

“LANL: The Real Story” documented the turbulent period with daily Internet posts from lab workers, many of whom opined anonymously and often angrily about lab management and operations.


Full Story

One of my favorite news storys about LANL and the blog

Mainly because of the picture placement...

NY Times Article


NNSA Establishes New Office to Lead Future of Nuclear

Hi Doug,
Most importantly, I send you my best wishes for your upcoming bike trip. Hopefully it will be an enjoyable time to forget all the BS of the past few years. Hopefully you will think about the fact that so many of us thank you for opening up the world to reality with this blog.
And something you hopefully won't think about at all during that time: Announced the day before yesterday: another bureaucratic office at NNSA to get things done (or not). Link:

NNSA Establishes New Office to Lead Future of Nuclear Weapons Complex

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today the establishment of a new Office of Transformation to focus efforts to modernize its Cold War-era nuclear weapons complex.

“Since nuclear weapons will remain a part of the U.S. national defense for the foreseeable future, NNSA will need the scientific and manufacturing infrastructure to support them. Our goal is to have a nuclear weapons complex that is smaller, more efficient, more secure and capable of providing the tools a future president may need to respond to changing national security needs,” said Linton F. Brooks, the administrator of NNSA.

Service-based match to 401(k)

Ok to post w/ my name. As you might guess, the Newsbulletin declined to publish it.
Thank you so much for your service to "the rest of us" and good luck in your new ventures.

Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2006 09:37:09 -0600
From: "David W. Thomson" <>
Subject: Service-based match to 401(k)

Ian Philp and Ralph Stevens (newsbulletin letters) may have discovered something that has been troubling many of us about the LANS management contract. One of the premises of the contract award was that LANS would bring "modern management" to LANL business processes. Could this be the first indication of how they intend to do that?

Back of the envelope calculations show that LANS will have to reduce LANL headcount by perhaps 400 people ($100M/$250K per head) to balance the budget. One would suppose that LANS was counting on a wave of retirements to eliminate the oldest and most highly-paid employees, freeing up funds for GRT, increased management fee, and the vastly expanded LANS management/overhead structure.

When the expected hundreds of retirees didn't do so, LANS is now caught in the proverbial "cash flow bind" and must take steps to defer expenses into next year. Two logical steps are not making bi-weekly contributions to the employee's 401(k) contributions until next fiscal year, and stretching out accounts payable. Indeed, if they can delay payables until after 1 October, they will hit next year's budget, protecting this year's fee. Next year they can go to Congress for an emergency appropriation to avoid layoffs at the lab and fund the promised 401(k) contributions.

It's a clever move.

LANL program gets help from Senate committee

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
June 30, 2006

A new chemistry building and environmental cleanup programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory got big boosts Thursday from the Senate Appropriations Committee.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., included in a bill $112.4 million for the lab's new Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility, "a state-of-the-art nuclear laboratory" that Domenici has called the largest building project ever undertaken by the Department of Energy.


Full Story

Thursday, June 29, 2006

First seen in the signage

Hey doug.

Eat your heart out, nobody's got this picture but me, since LANS pulled that "Operated by ..." just as soon as they could :-)

In any corporate takeover, the efforts are first directed at erasing all vestige of the previous owner, and it's seen first in the signage.

Good luck. You can ignore this, post it, or post it anonymously as you wish. It'd be amusing to post it anon and let people guess "who is that guy" for the last 12 hours.

Have a good one, until our trails cross again. Yep, "I'm still here". How long, well, those are the sorts of things that you never know for sure :-)

One last thought on the blog: sometimes good, sometimes bad, but the fact is, if it had any role in Nanos' departure, and I think it did, then it was worth it.


HPC person needed

Hi Doug:

We are looking for an HPC person also with good general Linux skills:
1) Hands on! i.e. not afraid of the hardware aspects
2) experience in supporting HPC implimentations
3) experience with Myrinet and Infiniband (or one of these)
4) May have played with ROCKS , Scalable Systems, Scyld, clustermatic etc...
5) Some applications support from a cluster hardware integration and setup environ standpoint
6) able to adjust to the rigors of private industry. Does not have to leap tall buildings in a single bound though :-)

active Q clearance (less than a year from leaving lab) is a bonus because we have FOCI, Q-clearded management, so can reactivate clearance and add to our cleared personell list under our company's name.



Robert 'Bob' Bolz
Div. Manager
Integrity Linux Systems Division
4601 Columbine NE
Albuquerque NM 87113
phn 505-294-7747
fax 505-275-1125

KRSN back on the air

Hey Doug,

Not anything to do with the Lab, but of local interest anyway.

KRSN returned to the air today (at 3:00 pm) after being silent for a
year, under the new ownership of David and Gillian Sutton.

David and Gillian are both life-long residents of Los Alamos (we all
know Gillian; she's the florist at Smith's), and will operate the
station in the local interest. They are asking for comments and ideas on
programming that can be submitted at

Mike Westfall, N6KUY, WDX6O
Los Alamos, New Mexico (DM65uv)
"Los Alamos" is Spanish for "More than one Alamo" -- Dave Barry
Online logbooks:
Read my blog:

Audit Blasts Labs on Explosives Management

Audit Blasts Labs on Explosives Management BY JOHN ARNOLD Journal Staff Writer

Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories failed to adequately maintain and control caches of rockets, missiles, artillery shells and other non-nuclear high explosives, leaving them vulnerable to theft, a federal audit has found.

The findings issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General also show that Sandia and Los Alamos have both accumulated large stockpiles of explosives that they will likely never need.

“Without improvements in the control and accountability for the management of high explosives, (DOE) faces an increased risk of theft, diversion, or unauthorized use of this material,” according to the report.


Full Story

News for Lab Employees from Society of Professionals, Scientists, and Engineers

Please add the attachment to the LANL Blog. For future historians, I think
having a copy of the SPSE included in the LANL Blog, particularly this
issue, would be appropriate. Thanks.

PS I do hope you'll post the cartoon image I sent you awhile back, of the
three individuals standing at a grave site labeled (The LANL Blog), crying
histerically at its demise. Your call though.

Thanks again, for everything. It's been theraputic.


Albuquerque Security Clearance Job Fair

Doug: You and I have spoken briefly in the past. I wanted to let your readers know that will be holding a Security Clearance Job Fair in Albuquerque on July 25th. The location is the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North Hotel which is located at 5151 San Francisco Rd. NE. The event will start at 11:00am and last four hours until 3:00pm.

As of today, we have 15 employers booked to exhibit for the event, and at least 5 others pending. It should be a great event for DoE and DoD cleared candidates. The jobs being offered come from a very wide range from security guards to technology, to engineering and program management, and everything in between. Again, all jobs will require a DoE or DoD security clearance of any level. More information is available at ( and Targeted Job Fairs at Thanks, and best regards.


Evan Lesser
Director a Dice Company


Employees challenge pension contribution plan

Associated Press

Some employees at the University of California are challenging their bosses' assertion that they need to start contributing to the system's pension plan.

Union officials planned to release a report Thursday saying that officials didn't do enough research before deciding to restart employee contributions to the plan. Nurses, researchers, custodians, librarians, faculty and other employees planned to protest at several campuses to demonstrate their disapproval.

"The report shows UC has not justified the need to start pension contributions at this time," said Faith Raider, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some of UC's lowest-paid workers.


Full Story

Two Los Alamos employees injured

June 28, 2006

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Los Alamos National Laboratory has suspended all hoisting and rigging operations after two subcontractor employees were injured Wednesday.

The two workers were taken to Los Alamos Medical Center, said Jeff Berger, a spokesman for the nuclear weapons lab's manager Los Alamos National Security.

Berger declined to provide the workers' names or their company. He said one of the workers was hospitalized and the other was expected to be released Wednesday after being treated.

The employees were "conducting hoisting and rigging activities" in Technical Area 50, which contains the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility that handles low-level radioactive liquid waste generated at the lab.


Full Story

Finito -- Good2Go

Doug, this will be my final post to the blog. I want to thank you so much for setting up "The Real Story". It's given everyone at LANL a chance to gain some deep insights into many different aspects of the lab; some good, but many not so good. And it's been very tough to read at times. In fact, I've known some friends and colleagues who had to go "cold turkey" off the blog because of the anguish that it caused them when they read it. Can't say that I blame them. But while the blog's signal-to-noise ratio has varied at times, this blog has served as a useful mechanism to radically changed my views on human nature, both of my own nature and of the staff that I observe at LANL. I hope it has done the same for many others who may have read it. We all have our little demons. For anyone who feels that I might have insulted them at times, I ask for your forgiveness and understanding. I'm no saint. Humans are morally fallible, which makes us a very special species.

Thanks for turning off the "Post Comments" buttons on the blog's final days. I was hoping to see the blog go out with some class. It seemed all too predictable that some blog nay-sayers might attempt to blast it with vitriolic comments during its final hours. It can now rest in peace with some measure of dignity. As far as continuing the blogging process, personally, I think it's time for the LANL staff to take a break. It's been a very long two years since this blog's inception. I think most readers now have a pretty clear idea about what has gone on and what is presently going on at LANL. It seems to me that it's probably time for some of the staff to begin thinking about exiting LANL or to at least let go of all the frustrations we've suffered over the last few years. Enjoy the warmth of summer. Kick back and have a cool one. Rest up. Harder days may be upon us, so at least take some time to savor the quiet before the next storm.

I'll leave with this final observation. I've been at LANL for many years. Most of the people who were here when I started have long since left or retired. As for me, I have stayed because I love Los Alamos. It is where I raised my kids. It is where I struggled through some very trying times, such as the destruction of homes during the Great Fire. It is where I wish to grow old and die. There could be no sweeter place to call home. My first introduction to Los Alamos came while I was still in college. In those days, I use to make hiking treks to Northern New Mexico every summer. I'll never forget one summer afternoon many, many years ago when I made a hike out to the Tsankawi ruins and was resting on a rock. I looked back at the beautiful Jemez Mountains and thought, "This must be paradise. I would love to live in such a place". Well, I eventually got lucky and found a job at LANL. In many respects, it's been wonderful. I've had a chance to work and meet and live with some of the most intelligent and stimulating people on the face of the Earth. God, I love this place!

However, there is also a flip-side (isn't there always?). During my working career both here and at other sites within government, I've been fortunate enough to observe other large organizations and watch how they deal with hard times and stress. In none of these other organizations have I ever witnessed anything like what I've seen at LANL. I'll be blunt about it. LANL is, without a doubt, the most dysfunctional organization I have ever seen. In fact, some industrial psychologist should come and visit with us for a while. I'm sure he/she could write a thesis about this place that would gain them a Noble Prize in human psychology. If you suspect that LANL is not quite "right", then I would be one of the first people to agree with you. It is a highly dysfunctional organization. Perhaps LANS can help make it a bit more functional over time. We'll see.

In closing, I would like to confess a few secrets about my handle, "good2go". It was carefully crafted to reflect the ambivalence I currently feel about working at LANL. When the RFP was announced, I began thinking that maybe the management of LANL would finally change for the better. Perhaps we were being handed a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to clean up some of our many management problems, and we would, indeed, be "good-to-go" for another few decades. However, if things don't improve, then the flip-side of this name begins to come to the fore. Perhaps, after many years, it might be time to leave LANL. In that respect, it would also be "good-to-go".

Take care, Doug. Strap up that leather motorcycle jacket real tight, point your head into the wind, and have a good time cycling off on your summer vacation. Perhaps some day I'll call you and we can sit down, reflect on the meaning of this blog, and down a cold one.

Till then, I'll remain, as always,


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Revised Shutdown Schedule


I am bumping the shutdown schedule for the blog up 12 hours. The new shutdown date is Friday afternoon, 6/30. The reason is that bright and early Saturday morning I'm hopping on the bike for a couple of weeks and heading back to where this picture was taken two years ago...


Panel boosts warhead; adds millions to LANL budget

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

A Senate appropriations subcommittee added $35 million to the pot for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and $50 million over the administration's budget request for environmental cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A $31 billion energy and water funding bill for the next fiscal year, led by subcommittee Chairman Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, came out $1.25 billion ahead of the President's proposal in a mark-up session Tuesday. The full committee meets Thursday.

In an announcement summarizing the allocations, Domenici said the increases took into account a flat budget for the Department of Energy, despite the addition of new initiatives, including a number of energy projects that he has promoted.


Full Story

I wasn't going to post this

Bernie Foy is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect. He has never been afraid to speak out at LANL when he saw a situation that needed correcting. Bernie was one of the staff members who attended the meeting with NNSA head Brooks at LANL last December 17. He did not hesitate to ask Brooks hard questions during that meeting. Nor was he reticent about putting Nanos on the spot during all of the subsequent "all hands" meetings that were held prior to Nanos' abrupt departure in May, 2005. Nor in his (now hidden from the public eye) letters to the LANL NewsBulletin. Keep up the good work, Bernie.

In any event, Bernie was adamant that he wanted "to be on record publicly with my comment" that he sent us a couple of days ago. So here it is. On behalf of Brad and myself: thanks for the compliment.


Please accept my thanks for maintaining the LANL blog and for all you have
done to improve communication about problems at LANL. The technical staff
at LANL owe much to you and Brad Holian for standing up bravely for the
truth about events at this institution.

This blog has taught us all a great deal. Not everything has been healthy,
particularly some of the anonymous commentary, but the blog still played an
essential part in recovery from the horrible decision to shut down
operations in July 2004. We will live with the damage from that
catastrophic failure of judgment for many years to come. Whether we will
regain the full confidence of funding sponsors remains to be seen.

For me, the most profound lesson of the last two years is that the
technical staff need to be vocal about the problems at LANL. Use every
opportunity and every mechanism to make your voice heard about problems
that obstruct technical productivity. Things go wrong when the staff remain

Thank you, Doug and Brad, for your bravery, your willingness to stand up
for mistreated employees, your efforts at openness and honesty. LANL is a
poorer place for having lost both of you.

-- Bernard Foy

Favorite Posts

Feeling a bit retrospective here: this is one of my favorite posts from the past 1 1/2 years. The photo was taken by my office-mate as he and his friend hiked on the lower Tesuque River one weekend shortly after Nanos' departure.

Employees to receive COBRA packet from UC

June 29, 2006

No action needed by employees

Laboratory employees who were employees of the University of California on May 31 should have received a packet at their home addresses from UC regarding COBRA continuation coverage.

As part of the transition to a new management and operations contractor, the university is required to notify all employees who terminated employment on May 31 that COBRA continuation coverage is available. However, Lab employees with active employee coverage may find that sufficient, in which case they do not have to take any action, according to Ellen Fox of the Benefits (HR-B) Office.

The cost of continuation coverage is 102 percent of the full premium; there is no employer contribution.

COBRA is an acronym for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 and gives eligible employees, annuitants and their enrolled family members the right to temporarily continue health (medical, dental, and/or vision) coverage in situations that would ordinarily cause an individual to lose group health coverage.

For more information, contact the Benefits Office at 7-1806.

Submission restrictions

Some of you have noticed that the submission of comments to recent posts has been restricted. The reason for this is that a "contributor" has taken it upon himself to attempt to spam the blog with inappropriate material. To address this problem, I have now imposed myself (and Brad) as filters to the comment process.

Anybody wishing to add a comment to recent posts should email it to If the comment is on-topic, we will submit it to the appropriate post, on your behalf.


LANL Blog Closing Comment

Dear beneficiaries, supporters, and especially Doug Roberts host LANL Blog,

Although tempted to write a contribution to this Blog about my favorite DOE
funded Boondoggle the NIF, my version of a real-story has not been
necessary. The credible Lab insiders who contribute to this Blog have
exposed the fraud and mismanagement of this program even better than I
could do writing from the outside. The contributors have fired enough
torpedoes into the NIF that the Titanic metaphor demands a rewrite. Not
only will the NIF run into it's own flawed fundamentals in both engineering
and fusion physics, but the program director will deem the collision
successful since the unwritten criteria for success has now been massaged
from "Ignition" to the "Demonstration" of colored light - all for just $5b
taxpayer bucks. To the competent engineers who practice good engineering
judgement despite your incompetent management I say, Thank You for
illustrating the truth on NIF. Grab a nipple and milk it, the ride is
almost over.

Les G. Miklosy
former Computer Scientist LLNL

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

LANL wants to beef up stock of nuke triggers

The Associated Press
June 27, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Energy Department officials want to quadruple the number of plutonium pits, or triggers, for nuclear bombs that can be made at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

National Nuclear Security Administration officials want to manufacture as many as 80 new triggers a year as part of its plan to build a new plutonium-research facility in coming decades. The pits provide the initial spark that detonates the weapon's thermonuclear blast.


Full Story

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lab's per diem practices don't comply

Submitted by Anonymous:


Looks like our new corporate overseers are taking no
time at all to begin living the good life at LANL's

Lab's per diem practices don't comply (Los Alamos Monitor, June 25, 2006)

...The preference to stay off the hill appears to trickle down from the top.
Between the four hotels in town, they could only account for one member of
the LANS transition team, a Bechtel person, who stayed in Los Alamos during
the six-month transition period of December through May, before taking over
management of LANL.

Chancellor's death linked to job stress

[A half dozen people have sent me this story. I had decided not to post it here, being of the opinion that by now those problems that exist within the UC management system are now ancient history as far as LANL is concerned. However, people keep sending the story in, so here it is. --Doug]

Doug and Brad,

Here is an interesting article about a suicide of a UC Chancellor (UC Santa Cruz).

Chancellor's death linked to job stress

Apparent suicide came amid controversies at UC Santa Cruz

While it has nothing directly to do with LANL (or LLNL), it does show "something's amiss" in UC overall.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

New director aims to take LANL forward

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
June 24, 2006

LOS ALAMOS -- The director of Los Alamos National Laboratory says he's ready for a new era there, with enough money to pay the best scientists, a motivated workforce and a clear mission.

"The mission, in my vision of the lab, is really to be the national-security-science laboratory for the 21st century," director Mike Anastasio said in a recent interview.

Anastasio is also the president of Los Alamos National Security LLC, the private company that took over management of the lab on June 1 after bidding on a federal contract.


Full Story

Friday, June 23, 2006

We have decided not to go forward with this arrangement...

Please post, if you see fit, anonymously. Thank you.
And thank you for your blog. I will miss it.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Media Relations
June 23, 2006 202-268-2155
Statement by Azeezaly Jaffer, Vice President, Public Affairs and
Communications, U.S. Postal Service

Some recent news reports have overstated the involvement of the U.S. Postal
Service with the Department of Energy¹s Los Alamos National Lab. In February
2004, the Postal Service did enter into a non-binding memorandum of
understanding with the Department of Energy to explore the possibility of
the Postal Service assisting the Department of Energy in the development of
a Science Complex in exchange for a parcel of land to build a new postal
annex intended to relieve overcrowding at the existing downtown Los Alamos,
NM mail processing facility.

We have decided not to go forward with this arrangement and we have notified
the Department of Energy to that effect. Media reports about a final
contractual agreement having been reached were incorrect.

Off-Budget Nuclear Weapons Lab Financing Scheme Disclosed

Please post this press release anonymously. At the bottom is an article stating a rebuttal from LANL. Contact Nuke Watch to get more details of this fascinating story for the blog. thanks.

Contact: Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 505.989.7342,
Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 505.989.7352,
Bob Civiak, Independent Consultant, 603.448.5327,

Off-Budget Nuclear Weapons Lab Financing Scheme Disclosed:
U.S. Postal Service to Fund Construction of New Los Alamos Science Complex;
Legally Mandated Federal Environmental Review Not Conducted

Santa Fe, New Mexico –Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is implementing a previously hidden plan to spend U.S. Postal Service (USPS) funds to build a new 400,000 square foot “Science Complex.” According to Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, the group that discovered the proposal, construction is slated to begin in early 2007, even though the Lab has not prepared a federally required environmental impact analysis for the project.

Documents made public by Nuclear Watch show that approximately ten percent of the Lab’s total work force is to be relocated to the new facility. The purpose of the Science Complex is to “Support [nuclear weapons] Stockpile Stewardship’s related and applied scientific research.” The cost of the project is unknown because it is not included in Los Alamos’ U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) budget.

The hidden USPS funded project was disclosed after Nuclear Watch filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking release of Los Alamos’ “Ten Year Comprehensive Site Plans” for Fiscal Years 2005 and 2006. Previously, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Energy Department’s semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency and owner of LANL, had made public a Ten Year Plan with more than 40% of its contents blacked out. In response to Nuclear Watch’s litigation, NNSA released the Plans without redaction.

The full Plans revealed that the NNSA has developed “alternative financing (e.g., third party) methods” for new facilities that were not included in the DOE’s $6.4 billion annual budget for its nuclear weapons activities. To fund the Los Alamos Science Complex, the NNSA executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Postal Service in February 2004 that “authorized the USPS, as a third party, to assist in the development of the two buildings and parking [for the Science Complex] to meet the needs of the DOE/NNSA.” As justification, NNSA cited a vaguely worded federal law that authorizes the USPS to furnish property and services to executive branch agencies and vice versa.

Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch, commented, “Los Alamos’s greed for new facilities seems insatiable. The Lab’s budget for nuclear weapons programs has almost doubled since the end of the Cold War, yet it wants the Postal Service to subsidize a new Science Complex to support expanding nuclear weapons research and production. Two major questions must be addressed before this project can be built. What is Congress, which has the sole constitutional power to authorize and fund major federal projects, going to do about this “back door” financing gimmick? And, two, how can the project proceed without the public environmental review required by the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?” An exhaustive search by Nuclear Watch has found no existing NEPA process underway for the Los Alamos Science Complex.

Bob Civiak is a former budget examiner of DOE programs at the federal Office of Management and Budget and consultant to Nuclear Watch. He noted, “During my ten years at OMB, DOE sites regularly proposed similar third party financing schemes. They were universally rejected, because such schemes reduce financial accountability, create an obligation for future spending without congressionally appropriated budget authority, and increase the cost of the project.”

Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch Program Director, added, “Ironically, USPS customer service has been bitterly criticized by New Mexicans during the last half-year. The Postal Service’s general excuse has been that it can’t afford to hire more employees. How can USPS then justify subsidizing major new facilities at a nuclear weapons lab that will cost unknown hundreds of millions of dollars?”


Relevant excerpts from the LANL Ten Year Comprehensive Site Plans are available at (700 KB)


Thursday, June 22, 2006
LANL Wants New Science Complex
By Martin Salazar
Journal Staff Writer
Los Alamos National Laboratory wants a new 400,000-square-foot science complex, and it's reaching out to another federal agency to help make the three new buildings a reality, the lab confirmed Wednesday.
LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said the lab is close to signing a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Postal Service. Under the agreement, the Postal Service would help LANL find a third party to build the complex that could house about 1,300 scientists­ roughly 10 percent of the lab's workforce, he added. The new complex, which would be built on lab property, would then be leased by LANL, Roark said.
But any allegations that the Postal Service would fund the project itself or that LANL is going through the back door to get the facility are absolutely false, said Roark, referring to a news release about the project issued Wednesday afternoon by Nuclear Watch of New Mexico.
"Los Alamos's greed for new facilities seems insatiable," Nuclear Watch director Jay Coghlan stated in the release. "The lab's budget for nuclear weapons programs has almost doubled since the end of the Cold War, yet it wants the Postal Service to subsidize a new science complex to support expanding nuclear weapons research and production."
Citing documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the watchdog organization alleges that the lab was implementing a plan to spend Postal Service funds to build the new complex. Nuclear Watch also alleged that Congress was improperly bypassed and that a federally required public environmental review wasn't conducted.
"We have been pursuing this idea of a science complex since about 2002," Roark said. "Everything about it has been public. Everything about it has been above board and in full compliance with federal regulations.
"But absolutely no Postal Service money is involved in any way. We are simply seeking a memorandum of understanding with the Postal Service to work with us to find a third party to help us with this facility issue."
Coghlan said Roark's explanation seemed disingenuous to him, noting that the documents obtained by his organization were explicit about the Postal Service's role in the project.
"We're not buying the argument of the lab's public relations hack," he said.
Roark said the project is an effort to upgrade lab infrastructure, not increase it. In fact, he said, the lab has made a commitment to take almost 2 million square feet of lab space off-line because the facilities are old or no longer needed.
The lab wants to partner with the Postal Service on finding a third party to build the facility because the Postal Service has lots of experience doing that, Roark said. He said the memorandum of understanding could be signed soon, and construction could conceivably begin in 2007 if everything were to fall into place.
Roark said Congress doesn't need to sign off on a project like this since a third party would be paying to build it. He added that the money to lease the complex would come out of the lab's operating budget.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has already signed off on the project, Roark said. He also said that contrary to what Nuclear Watch contends, the project was included in the 2004 sitewide environmental impact statement.
Leasing space is routine, Roark said.

Congress fumes at NNSA chief for leaks

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

Key Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pursued their complaint against the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration on Wednesday.

Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the committee chair, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chair of the investigations subcommittee, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman asking him to seek the resignation of Administrator Linton Brooks or to have him fired by President Bush.

On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, expressed his concerns about the revelations that NNSA failed to notify over 1,500 agency and contract employees that their personal identity information had been compromised, and that Brooks had failed to notify Bodman about it for more than nine months.

Grassley's letter to Bodman added three new instances of potentially compromised personal information, including sensitive data on 4,000 contractor employees at Hanford Site, discovered on June 2 in an illegal drug laboratory in Washington state; ten stolen laptop computers from a Department of Energy office in Germantown, Md. on June 12; and a stolen computer from the Oak Ridge Site in Tennessee on May 28.


Full Story

Thursday, June 22, 2006

LANS Will Develop a “Work Free, Safety Zone” at Los Alamos.

Submitted by Anonymous:


LANS Will Develop a “Work Free, Safety Zone” at Los Alamos.

Just like Bechtel Nevada, LANS proposes to create a “Work Free, Safety Zone”. Bechtel Nevada will disband on June 30th and, a wave of displaced bureaucrats will descend on Los Alamos. Their expertise will change our Safety culture and make money for all. First, LANS leadership is negotiating salary increases to cover the cost of retirement living in Santa Fe.

A recent productivity study at NTS fount it took 26 men, four months, and $102,000 to “safely” change a mercury vapor light bulb. The 6-Sigma study said the costs appeared high, only because the indirect multiplier was 3.3 times. Direct labor and material cost was only $31,000.

When the crafts were queried a construction trades representative stated, “Generally, crafts spend all day attending Plan of the Day meetings, taking safety training courses, drafting work packages, and waiting . . . so work can be performed on an overtime basis.

Bechtel Nevada earned a nearly perfect fee rating. Fee incentives were negotiated with NNSA that focused on high pay-off ES&H initiatives. They hit the jackpot despite dismal productivity and construction disasters. It has been noted that the cost of doing work at NTS has only doubled during the last 5-year contract period. Direct and indirect charges for ISM, PAAA, and quality programs increased asymptotically to comply with internally generated mandates to achieve “Zero Accidents”.

Not a single person in the room...

Submitted by Anonymous:

Can you imagine the meeting where this was introduced
and not a single person in the room guffawed or said "you must be joking" ....
scary ....

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

GAP Releases DOE Plan to Merge Office of Environment, Safety and Health


GAP Releases DOE Plan to Merge Office of Environment, Safety and Health

The Department of Energy has proposed dissolving the Office of Environment, Safety and Health (ESH) and eliminating the Assistant Secretary. DOE plans to merge part of ESH with another DOE Office that oversees security, while dispersing the rest of the ESH functions over five other offices. Although DOE has not released a detailed plan to Congress or the public, a May 19 copy has been obtained which is posted here. We understand that this May 19 plan has been revised, but has not been made available.

Click here to read the May 19 plan!

Three former DOE Assistant Secretaries for ESH, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the United Steelworkers, and the Building and Construction Trade Department have all urged DOE to stop its reorganization. Former DOE Secretary and now Governor Bill Richardson (NM) and Governor Christine Gregoire (WA) have also urged the DOE not to dissolve ESH.

Click here to read the letter from American Society of Safety Engineers!
Click here to read the letter from United Steelworkers Union!
Click here to read the letter from three former heads of ES&H!
Click here to read the letter from the Building and Construction Trade Department!
Click here to read the letter from Governors Richardson and Gregoire!


Prestigious contract is up for grabs

By Eric Stern -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 12:01 am PDT Saturday, June 17, 2006
Story appeared on Page A3 of The Bee

Last year, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory demolished an Olympic-sized swimming pool that the staff had been using for fun since the 1950s.

The pool was designed as a training facility for pilots when the lab was a naval air station.

Officials at the nuclear weapons lab determined that the cost of continued upkeep and replacing the aging pool wasn't a good use of taxpayer dollars. It was a culture shift at the University of California-run lab, which has been under pressure by Congress for overruns and delays on a multibillion-dollar superlaser.

UC has operated the historic labs in Livermore and Los Alamos, N.M., since their inception. But after concerns in recent years about security lapses and financial irregularities, the U.S. Department of Energy has forced the university to compete for the lab management contracts.


Full Story

Energy Dept. won't abandon pensions

It had sought to stop paying defined-benefit plans for contractors' new hires. Officials will review the issue.

Associated Press

Under pressure from labor unions and some members of Congress, the Department of Energy has reversed an earlier decision to cease paying defined-benefit pensions for newly hired employees of government contractors.

The changes would have applied to contractors who run a number of projects and research sites on the Energy Department's behalf, including the Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories in New Mexico and California, Georgia's Savannah River nuclear weapons and materials site, and the Hanford nuclear-waste cleanup site in Washington state.


Full Story

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Information from Senator Bingaman's office.


Please place on "BLOG"

I was provided this information from Senator Bingaman's office.

We are glad DOE has placed a hold on this Notice. This hopefully recognizes
the value of our National Labs and will be an incentive supporting the
retaining and recruiting of our very brightest and talented people.

UPTE has been supportive of this action and we want to thank Senator
Bingaman for his support.


Manny Trujillo


DOE to Sen Bingaman.pdf
AARP Domenici-Reid - EW FY 2007.pdf
Mercer letter on DOE policy.pdf
ERIC letter to appropriators.pdf

Friday, June 16, 2006

---- HAZARD NOTES ----

Submitted by Anonymous:


I can't believe what I just saw. In one of the buildings near where I work there is a water fountain. There is now a bright orange sticker on the fountain that says:

---- HAZARD NOTES ----

-Tap Water-

-No Physical Hazard Known
-May not be suitable for intended use. Check with Supervisor

Seriously? I can see for other things, but a water fountain? Perhaps I
should check with my mentor before taking a drink.

Just something to bring a little cynical humor to the blog on a Friday.
Maybe someone could get a picture of one of these...

One of the "Silent Partners" takes a glance at the blog

They've been here before:

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Nuclear Lab Readies Employee Cutbacks

Hi Doug,
I don't have the AP URL but this comes from

Nuclear Lab Readies Employee Cutbacks

The number of nuclear weapons personnel working at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico is expected to drop by 150 staffers annually in coming years, the Associated Press reported today (see GSN, June 2).

Reductions would be made through attrition rather than layoffs, Sandia Vice President Joan Woodard said in an employee newsletter. The facility also plans to limit future hiring, she said.

While the nuclear weapons budget appears stagnant in upcoming years, the workload is expected to rise, Woodard said.

“We are being challenged to be much more cost-effective as a laboratory,” she said.

Sandia is one of three U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories and is in charge of weapons’ electronics and non-nuclear components (Associated Press, June 15).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

LANL-ALL2001: Message from NNSA Director Brooks regarding cyber security breach

From: [] On Behalf Of Communications Office - LANL Notices

Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 2:07 PM
Subject: LANL-ALL2001: Message from NNSA Director Brooks regarding cyber security breach

Please note the following message from National Nuclear Security Administration Director Linton Brooks to all NNSA employees and contractors:

As most of you knowŠan attack on an unclassified NNSA system resulted in personal information on approximately 1,502 NNSA federal and contractor employees being unlawfully obtained. About 75 of the affected individuals are federal employees. Most others work at the production plants, the Nevada Test Site, or the national laboratories. Some are retired. The data was in a list that included names, social security numbers, level of security clearance, when that clearance was last updated, and a code identifying the company (but not the geographic location) where the affected individuals worked. Neither dates of birth, nor addresses, nor other personal information were included in the compromised information. Still, this is a very serious event.

Starting last Friday evening, and continuing nearly around the clock all weekend, senior NNSA managers began contacting by phone each employee whose personal information was compromised in order to provide them with information about protecting themselves from such dangers as identity theft. About 80 percent of the affected employees were contacted by last night. We are continuing to try to reach the remaining employees until we have personally contacted everyone. In addition to these phone calls, I sent letters first thing Monday morning directly to the federal employees and to the managers of the contractor employees who were affected. The contractor managers were asked to provide the information to their employees (we don't have mailing addresses for most contractor employees). I have also instructed the NNSA Site Managers to follow up and ensure that the contractors promptly provide the information to the employees.

I suspect that most of you who were involved (and many who weren't) are upset and angry, both over the incident and over the fact that I was aware of it for several months before I told you about it. You have a right to be. With regard to the attack itself, because the criminal investigation is still ongoing, I cannot provide you any details. I am convinced that no NNSA employee could have prevented this attack. Due to the nature and sensitivity of our work, NNSA is a frequent target for sophisticated hackers. Every day there are thousands upon thousands of attempts to gain unauthorized access to our computer systems. And every day, such efforts are thwarted by the safeguards built into these systems and by the expertise of the hundreds of cyber security experts across the NNSA and DOE complex. These experts go to extraordinary lengths to protect our data. They do an incredible job.

Even with this strong cyber security effort, the fact that we lost data testifies to the sophistication of the attack.

The delay in informing you, however, could have been prevented. Quite simply, we screwed up. Given the involvement of other federal agencies that investigate such breaches, when attacks occur, we are not always at liberty to immediately notify people. Sometimes we need to delay while investigators try to identify the hacker(s) and determine the level of compromise, etc. Thus, some short delay would be understandable. Most of the delay, however, was preventable and unnecessary. I am still trying to sort out exactly what happened, but it is clear that a number of people, including me, failed in their responsibilities to keep you informed.

All of you deserved better. I am working to fix our procedures so that such an inadvertent delay cannot happen again. I will keep all of you posted on this matter as progress is made, with particular attention given to those of you directly affected. In the meantime, I apologize for our failure.



Communications Office
Los Alamos National Laboratory
P.O. Box 1663, Mail Stop C177


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