Livermore Lab, like other U.S. nuclear weapons complex sites, is managed by private contractors. These contractors, in Livermore’s case Lawrence Livermore National Security (LLNS), LLC, are evaluated by the National Nuclear Security Administration every year and these PERs are drafted that detail where the contractors have meet contract expectations and “milestones,” and, more importantly to us “watchdogs,” where contractors are failing to meet safety, performance and milestone goals.
In the most recent PER, LLNS, LLC earned “Excellent” and Very Good” ratings across the 6 goals it was evaluated on. However, there were some bonus funds withheld due to evaluator’s concerns.
One repeated concern in the reports across several goals was scheduling delays. In particular, delays in the W80-4 Life Extension Program are preventing LLNS from meeting its “test requirements.” The report notes “LLNS is the design agency for the component, which currently has a yield of 0 percent. Although this product is still in development, progress on solutions with Honeywell Federal manufacturing & technologies FM&T Production has been very slow and needs to be accelerated.” Despite receiving and spending significant budget increases to support this program it is delayed, leaving one to wonder where all the funds go.
Additionally, delays in LLNS execution of “Readiness Activities” were also called out in the report. Specifically, Centralized Waste Processing Line readiness Assessment activities, the Superblock’s Seismic upgrades and Waste Storage Facilities seismic switch design and installation all experienced scheduling delays. These delays leave the facility in a vulnerable state if potential accidents, attacks or seismic events occur involving hazardous and/or mixed radioactive waste or plutonium. Tri-Valley CAREs will seek additional information via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and report back.
Further, the report notes that “A few incidents involving DOE certified packaging containers resulted in damaged containers or experiment delays by not following packing procedures.” The report did not detail whether any worker exposures resulted from the improper packaging, but Tri-Valley CAREs will seek additional information and report back.
Problems were also noted in the “Nuclear Material Control and Accountability Program.” According to the report, these problems involved “standing order implementation, measurements, and physical inventory” of nuclear material. It is concerning that the site is not properly keeping track of nuclear material, yet the agency still gives the contractor an 88% (B+) in the category of “Mission Enablement” that judges that program. Again, Tri-Valley CAREs will seek more information to ensure that these problems have been rectified.
Also of note, the report continues to address the “over-pressurization event and facility shutdown” at Site 300’s Contained Firing Facility that was originally mentioned in the FY 2020 PER for LLNS. The report confirms that the facility is still shut down and not anticipated to be opened until June 2023! Tri-Valley CAREs currently has a FOIA request out asking for more information about this incident and will report back as soon as documents are produced.
As you can see, the PERs report is an important source of information about the management issues at this $2B per year federal nuclear weapons facility. We will do our best to follow up and make public any more information on the issues identified in the report.
To download the The Performance Evaluation Report, CLICK HERE!
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