Feds deny performance pay to nuke dump operator

31 Dec 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »

Dec. 30 First News: LANL’s Poor Report Card From Feds To Cost Millions (Listen).

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The contractor that runs the federal government’s underground nuclear waste repository is being denied millions of dollars in performance bonuses and fees in financial fallout from a radiation leak. Fallout from the radiation leak that shut down the nation’s nuclear waste depository near Carlsbad expanded Tuesday, with operators of both the Waste Isolation Pilot Project and Los Alamos National Laboratory feeling the effects. The Energy Department said in documents released Tuesday it is paying Nuclear Waste Partnership LLC just $21,576 of the $8 million of potential performance incentives for the past fiscal year. That compares with $59 million-plus paid to the LANS consortium, which includes Bechtel Corp. and the University of California, in the previous two years.

The repository, which had already been shuttered by an underground truck fire days earlier, was contaminated with americium and plutonium and has been struggling to recover. The contractor would have been allowed to earn as much as $63.4 million under the current contract if it had met all its incentive goals. “Given the events surrounding our breached drum at WIPP and the severity of the issue, the Laboratory received a rating of ‘unsatisfactory’ in operations and infrastructure and a score of zero in that area which accounted for the significant reduction in fee,” McMillan’s memo said.

Although investigators still are evaluating exactly what caused the drum to overheat and rupture, they know the Los Alamos drum was improperly packaged with a volatile mix of nitrate salts and organic kitty litter used to absorb liquids. New Mexico officials have already fined Los Alamos nearly 37-million dollars for mixing incompatible waste, treating hazardous waste without a permit and failing to notify regulators about changes in the way waste was being handled. The fiscal 2014 performance pay was supposed to be linked to the amount of waste disposed annually, as well as improvements in infrastructure and efficiency, preventative maintenance and safety. Uber—the ride-sharing firm that launched operations in Santa Fe just last month—is promoting its relationship with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD as the New Year’s Holiday approaches. All of those were found to have suffered in a year in which a truck caught fire underground and a drum of nuclear waste ruptured, contaminating nearly two-dozen workers at low levels.

Uber spokesman, Michael Amodeo: *****123014-Amodeo-3 :10***** Amodeo says the form it’ll take New Year’s Eve will feature a one-dollar per Uber ride donation to MADD during a 12-hour span ending New Year’s Day, part of its efforts to fight drunken driving. McMillan also used the memo to highlight some of the successes at the lab over the past year, including being chosen to develop a remote sensor for the Mars 2020 mission and collaborating on a project aimed at characterizing the damage at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. In reports on both the truck fire and radiation release, investigators reproached WIPP management for cultivating an inadequate safety culture and allowing maintenance failures.

He approved only funding for work for other federal government agencies, such as the Department of Defense. “The NNSA looks forward to working with LANS to improve the accountability for safe, secure, effective, efficient, and economical performance at the laboratory in 2015,” Poole added in his letter to McMillan. I asked Uber Southwest Regional Manager Steve Thompson how many drivers Uber now has serving Santa Fe since its November 19th start: *****123014-Thompson-1 :59***** The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has yet to decide Uber’s fate. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to slash the fees awarded to Los Alamos, saying its contractual performance was “seriously substandard.” The watchdogs also pointed out that the lab had missed state-imposed deadlines for cleaning up Cold War-era waste on its northern New Mexico campus. Taxi firms and other critics point to the smartphone-based company’s lack of vehicle inspections and other regulations saying its operating an illegal and unregulated taxi service. According to the state, experts had notified the lab to stop using organic materials as early as 2012 because of the possible dangers of mixing them with nitrate salts.

LANL’s state fines totaled $36.6 million, and WIPP was hit with $17.7 million. “LANL lives in a little bit of a fantasy world and their own echo chamber of how great they are,” he said. “This ought to be a real wake-up call.” McMillan, whose total compensation including benefits comes to $1.5 million annually, said the latest performance review reinforced the lab’s “stature as one of the pre-eminent scientific institutions of the nation.” “Although this was a very tough year for the Laboratory, I am optimistic that next year will be better,” he wrote. “I am determined to do all that I can do to make it so.” PNM says the grid provides electricity to solar customers when the sun isn’t shining and they should have to pay their fair share for the fixed costs of maintaining the system.

The fees could range from $21 to $36 a month depending on the size of a customers’ system, and industry representatives say charging a monthly fee could end up undermining the economic benefits of going solar. Kevin Goodreau of Direct Power and Water Corporation tells the Albuquerque Journal the fees represent the “fight of the century” for the industry. The coordinator of downtown development for Las Cruces says plans to drop the 19-foot chrome chile at midnight Thursday is about raising the level of visibility downtown.

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