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July 27, 1999 Public Meeting Summary with Public Comments / Questions & Answers

Historical Document

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

Historical Document

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

(Slides are reproduced from presentation; speaker comments follow.)
(Statements are not direct quotes, they are paraphrased.)
(Public comments and questions made during the meeting are preceded by the word “Public.” Response to the questions/comments are preceded by the responder’s name when available.)

Project Update and Sample Documents

Time 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Location Santa Fe Community College
Santa Fe, NM
Speakers Paul Renard, CDC Project Officer
Tom Widner, Project Manager

Paul Renard introduced the goal of the second public meeting as an update of the progress made during the last six months of the Los Alamos Historical Document Retrieval and Assessment Project led by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Discussion topics for the meeting included several issues related to the public release of documents, and a summary of the number and type of documents that have been reviewed by the project team to date. Examples of documents that have been declassified and made available to the public were also provided during the meeting.

The meeting concluded with public comments and questions.

Note: Some slides previously presented at the introductory meeting were again presented during this meeting as background information. Please see the February 23, 1999 meeting summary and slides to view these slides.

Slides & Notes Paul Renard
Tom Widner
Public Comments / Questions and Anwers

Presentation (Paul Renard)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 5

Slide 2

Slide 2 of 5

The document retrieval process is not an easy task. The problem is related to size. At LANL there are more boxes in one building than at the entire Hanford site.

Recent progress is the result of significant collaboration between the Department of Energy (DOE) Headquarters, the DOE offices at Albuquerque and LANL, the University of California, and LANL. Some snags were simple to solve. One problem was that a social security number was transposed. The problems are not caused by stonewalling but by explainable hurdles.

As of Monday, July 26, the security problems were solved. The required Q clearances and Sigmas were received. This was a monumental task, but it has been solved.

Slide 3

Slide 3 of 5

Declassification is a much bigger problem, but all the problems are problems encountered at other facilities as well. However, the length of time to solve the problem varies at each site.

The declassification problem has occurred because there are not enough declassifiers available. At the Savannah River Site, people were brought out of retirement to get enough declassifiers on board. That is being considered at LANL. Currently there are two people available for a half day each week. In addition, a letter written by DOE raises the priority level of the document retrieval and assessment project.

Slide 4

Slide 4 of 5

The space issue is a real problem. Because of the limited space in the Records Center, the number of people must be limited as well. There is only room for four people in one area at a time. The contract planned for the whole team to be in one area at a time. Space was not perceived as an issue when the contract was written. To solve the space problem, CDC modified the existing contract to allow searches of more than one building at the same time.

Slide 5

Slide 5 of 5

A lot has happened during this last day and a half. The message now is that there is a path forward.

Another issue recently surfaced. DOE-Albuquerque is the official reading room for the area, and it has been determined that the records released by this project will be sent there for now. The project team is trying to get a reading room set up locally.

Another concern was whether Richardson's security proclamation would slow down the study. The project team received a letter stating that the study will not be part of reduced declassification of information.

Presentation (Tom Widner)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 12

Slide 2

Slide 2 of 12

The LANL Central Records Center is a repository where many documents are in long term storage depending on records retention schedules.

The study began with the plan to search records in the order noted on the slide. For several reasons, the project team is now spreading out to more locations. The team is trying to improve their efficiency. One problem encountered is that a limited number of people can work in one location at one time because of space limitations.

STRESS: No boxes will be left unopened. In the past they have learned that directed sampling does not reveal all the information, so the LANL study is a more comprehensive look at the records.

Slide 3

Slide 3 of 12

Searching the Records Center is a major task that was started about five months ago.

The drawers are like file cabinets, but 10 drawers high. Bringing pictures of the center is not allowed, but the Records Center is impressive. It has rows on rows of boxes and drawers, and there are also boxes stacked on top of the drawers.

Slide 4

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Slide 5

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The records in the drawers are organized into bays. To visualize how the bays look, recall the last scene in the movie Raiders of the Lost Arc as an example. It is warehouse like. The project team had to complete ladder training to access documents above their height.

Slide 6

Slide 6 of 12

The rows at LANL consist of seven shelves with eight boxes high. Some of the boxes are organized, and others are just a "desk dump." As an example of how many boxes the team will review, F Bay includes 16 rows of boxes with 3,820 locations where boxes can be stored. Some locations are empty because the boxes have been retrieved by their owners (various LANL divisions).

Slide 7

Slide 7 of 12

When a project researcher reviews a box, he or she highlights relevant information and marks the box with a stamp. Boxes with relevant information are stamped "DO NOT DESTROY" to protect useful information. In some rows, stamps are on essentially every box in a row.

Slide 8

Slide 8 of 12

In some cases, information has to be cut from documents before release. Once released, copies of the documents are provided to ChemRisk and then to the CDC. Another copy will be provided to a local reading room.

Slide 9

Slide 9 of 12

Slide 10

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Most documents marked for review have not made it through the classification and review process. However, documents from some categories were brought as examples of the types of information being recovered.

Note: Copies of the sample documents were made available for the public to take. A slide of each document was also shown.

Sample document categories include:

Stack monitoring data
These are examples of basic monitoring records. Included were log sheets with hand-written stack-monitoring data from the late 40s and 1995. One Office Memorandum was a summary form from 1955. It gives the estimated releases from DP West Building for stack monitoring.

STRESS: Again, these are samples. They do not represent highest numbers. Susan Flack is cataloging what has been found so far.

Documentation of release, usage, or disposal rates for materials not routinely monitored
These types of records are helpful when monitoring records are unavailable or lacking complete information. One example, an Office Memorandum, discusses materials used during a particular process. Another example, a short report entitled "Disposal of Hazardous Chemicals," lists estimated quantities of disposed explosives.

Accident reports
These reports are often very interesting. The examples discuss fires in radioactive waste burial grounds, a fire in a plutonium-use area, and criticality accidents, some resulting in deaths.

Documentation of releases perceived to be unusually high
Examples include documentation on the Omega site stacks and memos discussing the DP West Stacks. Concerns stated were regarding significant increases of materials going up stacks, including a suggestion for setting up a test farm down wind. Documentation also discussed the Omega reactor stacks, which were flexible tubing that went up the mesa and were attached to tree near a trailer park.

Reports of early radiological and chemical monitoring in streams and canyon soils and sediments
In the early years, this type of information is not as abundant.

Progress reports of groups involved with health physics, industrial hygiene, and safety programs
These reports are in the form of annual, monthly, and weekly reports. Many have been flagged, but have not gone through the declassification review process. These examples may not be particularly important to the study, but serve as good examples of the types of documentation being examined.

Slide 11

Slide 11 of 12

The number of boxes flagged for review means that in 188 boxes the project team found one or more records that needed public release. It may be one page or the entire box.

The team is currently adding 10-15 boxes each week. The backlog is one issue that Paul Renard will discuss. In general, the classification and privacy act reviews are not keeping up with the project team's review.

The Document Summaries are entered into a Microsoft Access database file. It will be searchable by such items as time period, area, and release.

The team is getting more people cleared for access and is expanding the search to include other facilities to increase the efficiency of the search.

Slide 12

Slide 12 of 12

G Bay is in a separate building that requires more support from the Records Center staff.

F Bay may be closer to 50% as of today. The team is picking up speed. It is also moving into the Report Library and Archives next. The Archives are in the same building as the Records Center, so the limitation on the number of people allowed in the Center at any one time will be a factor.

Public Comments / Questions and Answers

("Response" refers to either one or more members of the project team who responded to a questions or comment. )

Public: How will the documents be organized?

Response (Paul Renard): We have recommended that all the records be kept in one place. Along with the records, we will provide some background-- maybe a copy of the proposal and the contract. We want people to be able to look at all of the information from the study.

Public: Can I make a recommendation that a site such as the University's Government Documents Center be considered as a possible location? They are prepared for organizing and preserving the documents. On the other hand, the DOE reading room is only open from 9a-5p, which is an access issue. Will there be a duplicate source-- maybe via the Internet or other source?

Response (Paul Renard): The deliverable for this project is a database, which may be provided on a CD-ROM. We will consider your recommendations.

Public: What years are included in the study?

Response (Paul Renard): The CDC study will look at the time from when LANL opened to the present. NIOSH looks at worker stuff. ATSDR considers future events. All these groups are working on the same topic but in different areas.

(Tom Widner): The project team will also collect information for areas off the hill that were part of LANL operations. The Trinity Site is an example.

Public: If you do a full-blown dose reconstruction, what is the process? Will information be generic, or will it describe specific releases at specific times?

Response (Paul Renard): A dose reconstruction will look at scenarios for different types of people at different times.

Public: How specific will a dose reconstruction be?

Response (Paul Renard): The person that can answer that question is not here. I can say we may certainly do a dose reconstruction. If we do, it will not be completed in a vacuum. The process will be discussed, and we will work with the public. Right now we are in the first phase, which is huge in itself.

Public: Is there specific criteria to determine if a dose reconstruction is necessary?

Response (Paul Renard): No. At Fernald, a complete dose reconstruction will be completed based on the fact that some silos were never capped allowing radon to escape. It would be very premature to say that in New Mexico we are going all the way to a dose reconstruction. The decision will be made with the public.

Public: Why didn't you get a letter regarding the level of commitment from day one?

Response (Paul Renard): We got commitments at the beginning of the study. We had five to six declassifiers. We met them, and their manager said there would not be a problem. I do not think he knew the magnitude of the study. We still face some problems, but we have cleared major hurdles. It took seven months to get over them, but we are making progress.

Public: Are there people at other sites that are already qualified?

Response (Paul Renard): The ChemRisk team all had Q clearances, but there were problems transferring the clearances to LANL.

Public: Why aren't more declassifiers working on the CDC study?

Response (Paul Renard): All the declassifiers were not available for our project. They have been on other projects. Now the letter from DOE should increase priority for this project.

Public: Regarding declassification, what is it?

Response (Paul Renard): Some of the documents are classified and must be declassified. Others are not marked as to their classification status but must be reviewed. I don't know if there are different declassifiers for different types of documents, but all of the information has to be reviewed.

Public: There is a real public trust issue regarding the DOE-Albuquerque reading room. It has a reputation for having the biggest and "baddest" lawyers. It's the hens and foxes analogy.

Response (Paul Renard): The DOE reading rooms are a vehicle to make information available to the public. There is a huge expense in running them. We are concerned about the public perception. I don't have something worked out. May be we can do something at other locations. The database is a potential for checks and balances. CDC has worked successfully with reading rooms before.