LANS Fee Impacted By Plutonium Air Shipments

Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos National Security, LLC earned 89 percent of the total available fee for FY2017, or $44.6 million out of a possible $50.3 million, a National Nuclear Safety Administration spokesman said Wednesday.

The LANL contractor is graded annually for its performance. According to the Performance Evaluation Report for 2017, LANS had the potential to earn about $50.3 million, which comprises $8.9 million in at-risk fee, $35.4 million in fixed fee and $6 million for Strategic Partnerships with other agencies, which is also a fixed fee. The report also noted reductions in fee particularly with regard to a June 2017 shipping incident that cost the Lab $3.1 million. NNSA reduced LANS’s at-risk fee by another $2.6 million for leadership performance.  

In a Jan. 4 letter from NNSA contracting officials to the LANS prime contract office, NNSA cites “inadequate management controls” of the June 2017 shipment of three Type B container plutonium shipments by air cargo on two separate aircraft from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Savannah River Site.

“Although the event did not result in a direct impact to workers, the public or the environment, the event was a failure to meet the Environmental Safety and Health performance requirements and reflects a lack of focus within certain functions of the Laboratory on improving the operational discipline necessary for an effective ES&H program,” the letter states.

It adds that the June event was preceded by other significant ES&H lapses at LANL, which indicate “a programmatic breakdown” in the LANS safety management system.

The letter states that NNSA is concerned that LANS originally viewed the plutonium shipments as isolated events and only identified one root cause which focused on the failure to conduct the required quality review.

“It was only after discussion with NNSA that LANS expanded its causal analysis to consider other recent safety failures and produced the more critical systemic-focused corrective action plan,” the letter states.

NNSA also expressed concern that “the need to improve operational discipline has yet to be fully embraced by all functions of the Laboratory as evidenced by a September 2017 near miss incident where a worker failed to follow appropriate alarm response procedures in responding to a low oxygen alarm”.

The NNSA LANS Performance Evaluation Report dated Nov. 9, states that overall LANS delivered superior technical performances in almost all scientific and engineering mission areas and was highly successful in completing key milestones and delivering national security mission requirements during the performance period. It said the use and development of science, technology and engineering resources and capabilities exceeded expectations and “were managed in a highly effective manner that aligned with national priorities and DOE/NSA strategic guidance”.

The report noted operational achievements such as substantial progress in the campaign for treatment of remediated nitrate salt waste drums; completion and achieved operations start-up of the Transuranic Waste Storage Facility ahead of schedule and under budget; the successful start of additional programmatic operations at the Plutonium Facility (PF4); and the shipment of 400 55-gallon drums from TA-55 to Area G, reducing risk and preserving mission capability.

“The Transuranic Waste Facility exceeded expectation with completion four months ahead of schedule and $1.7 million below estimated cost – the first time an NNSA Hazard Category 2 nuclear facility has been completed ahead of schedule and below budget,” the report said.