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July 10, 2002 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Historical Document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Historical Document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

Time 5:00-7:00 p.m.
Location Northern New Mexico Community College
Española, New Mexico
Speakers Bob Whitcomb, CDC (Introduction and Project Flow)
Tom Widner, Project Director (Primary Speaker)

Bob Whitcomb began the meeting by introducing the new CDC Project Officer and other members of the team. Tom Widner detailed project progress and discussed major challenges to the project and summarized information being retrieved from LANL.

The meeting concluded with public comments and questions.

Note: Slides introducing the project were presented at the first public meeting. To review this background information, please see the February 23, 1999 meeting summary and slides.

Slides & Notes Bob Whitcomb (Introduction)
Bob Whitcomb (Project Flow)
Tom Widner
Public Comments / Questions and Answers

Bob Whitcomb (Introduction & Project Flow)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 2

Bob Whitcomb thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and taking the time to find the room. He apologized for the inconvenience of not having the meeting in the usual room.

He introduced Phil Green, the new Project Officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and C.M. Wood, the new Technical Lead on the project for CDC. Wood's expertise is health physics. In addition to the document review project, he has been involved with Cerro Grande Fire response.

Other team members in attendance were:

  • CDC
    • Phil Green, new CDC Project Officer
    • Bob Whitcomb
    • C.M. Wood, CDC Technical Lead
  • ENSR
    • Tom Widner
    • Jack Buddenbaum
    • Susan Flack
    • Claudine Kasunic
    • Peter Rasco
  • Shonka Research Associates
    • Regan Burmeister
  • TechReps
    • Cheryl Allen

Slide 18

Slide 2 of 2

One of the first environmental dose reconstructions was conducted at Hanford. It was initially run by DOE. There was a public outcry, saying that "the fox was guarding the hen house." Obviously, that dose reconstruction process lacked credibility. As a result, all dose reconstruction work for DOE facilities was transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services, then to CDC, who already had radiation studies in place. CDC still has work ongoing at Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) and the Savannah River Site (SRS). Each is in a further stage than the document retrieval step being completed at Los Alamos.

LANL is currently our number one priority for studies of DOE sites. It is unique in that it has many more records than the other sites. At LANL, we have already gone through over 55,000 cubic feet of records and still have much more to go. At SRS, the total document collection reviewed was 55,000 cubic feet. We also have other unique challenges regarding access and denial of access to certain records. We do not want weapons information getting out (especially after September 11th), but we are still worried openness and public credibility. Today was our first success in the appeals process with review of some of the UK documents. The documents we saw turned out to not be relevant. But the effort proved that if we take the time and follow the process, we can work out the kinks and gain access to those records needed for the study.

This flow chart was developed when we realized that LANL needed to be our number one priority. The chart was generated in March 2002. The completion date for the final report is an ideal date and could change. Currently, we are still on course; however, the box below shows the catch: we have been denied access to some documents, and we do not know to what extent we will continue to face that challenge. We are trying to get arms around the number of documents that we will not have access to. We will be using the appeals process more.

We want to make sure, during this document retrieval phase, that we collect all possible pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. We may be missing some, but if we find enough pieces, we will be able to assemble the picture. If the document retrieval process is successful, we will assemble the information we need. If it is not successful, we determine if we stop or go back to collect more information. This is how we briefed our upper management, who are not familiar with the issues unique to LANL.

Tom Widner (Project Update)

Slide 1

Slide 1 of 15

Slide 2

Slide 2 of 15

The organizations involved in the project include those listed on the slide. Researchers who are reviewing the documents hold DOE Q-level security clearances.

Slide 4

Slide 3 of 15

For several years, the team has been in the first stage of the process, which is collecting all the information available, making an inventory of the information, and evaluating the information. Based on the team's findings, CDC will work with you and other stakeholders to determine if we should go to any of the subsequent steps.

Slide 4

Slide 4 of 15

To clarify the purpose of our work: our team's focus is on off-site releases. We will not predict future releases or doses, nor will we focus on worker exposures. While our focus is on off-site releases and health effects, some of the information we are finding is also relevant to workplace exposures. We do notify NIOSH of documents that we find that appear to be relevant to worker exposures.

Slide 5

Slide 5 of 15

These are the products the team is working on. The summary of historical operations and releases is a work in progress. Copies of it are available upon request and on the Web. It is an early draft, and we want your feedback on it.

Relevant documents are summarized and added to the project information database. A form of that database that is accessible on the CDC Web site includes all of the documents that are available at the public reading room at the Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico. We continue to encourage DOE to establish a reading room closer than Albuquerque. The Department of Energy (DOE) is investigating possible hosting by the Mesa Public Library in Los Alamos and/or by El RAEHA. We have received a strong message that a closer reading room is necessary. Another 14-15 boxes of records will be added to the current reading room soon.

Slide 6

Slide 6 of 15

Sample documents are available at the welcome desk. The slide summarizes the documents included in the sample set which were selected as typical of several types of documents that are relevant. For example, H-Division progress reports document how materials were used and what problems the health division folks were concerned about at the time.

Slide 7

Slide 7 of 15

The process has been challenging during these last three years. We went through the fire, operational reviews, the missing hard drive incident, and espionage investigations. Together with the September 11th terrorist actions, these events led to heightened security conditions and increased restriction of our access to classified records at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The course of this project has been described as a roller-coaster ride.

Slide 8

Slide 8 of 15

We have now reviewed more than 100,000 technical reports, and created about 3,500 document summaries that are available in the project database.

Slide 9

Slide 9 of 15

We must now be escorted at all times when we are in a document repository. With the heightened security, more limits have been placed on the number of people allowed in a facility at any one time. We can continue to work, but the increased security has made it more difficult and time consuming. Now, all documents must be prescreened by their "owners." We are able to appeal if we are denied access to a document that we think is important for our study. During the last couple of weeks, we successfully worked through some problems. We have a better plan in place. We will be denied access to some documents that fall into six categories. The appeal process will be important, because a second set of eyes will review documents we were not able to review, to determine if that denial was appropriate. A couple levels of appeal will be in place. Very few of the documents at LANL fall into the categories of deniable material, and we are confident that we will have access to the documents that are likely to contain information relevant to off-site releases.

Slide 10

Slide 10 of 15

The types of documents that we will not have access to include these listed on the slide. They include nuclear weapons design information, including drawings and photos; Sigma 14 and 15 information, which touches on nuclear weapon vulnerabilities and similar issues; and vendor proprietary information which can include patentable information and trade secrets.

Today showed that the appeals process can work. We reviewed some United Kingdom documents to which we were initially denied access. We will push when there is any chance that a document that is withheld from us may be relevant.

Slide 11

Slide 11 of 15

Historical operations at Los Alamos have been very diverse. These photos show some examples, namely atomic and thermonuclear weapon production and a wide variety of support functions. Unlike typical applications of high explosives (to blow things up), LANL used them to assemble precision-machined parts in precise fashions. We are looking closely at support functions such as production and testing of high explosives and nuclear reactor operations.

Slide 12

Slide 12 of 15

These photos are related to nuclear material processing. Early plutonium processing in D Building (upper left) was done in open hoods with ventilation that led to releases thru rooftop stacks with no filtration or effluent monitoring. Later, LANL transitioned to DP West site (lower left). During our investigation, we are looking for various forms of data. We strive to find the most basic forms of data, for example the handwritten "raw data" sometimes found in logbooks or laboratory data sheets. Radionuclide releases during the early years of LASL operation were not monitored so they will have to be independently reconstructed.

Slide 13

Slide 13 of 15

Los Alamos personnel were also involved with field operations across the country and across the world. The U.S. conducted over 1,000 nuclear tests, with LANL providing the devices for many of them and LANL personnel performing many support roles, such as flying monitoring and sampling missions through test shot clouds.

Slide 14

Slide 14 of 15

Few records were kept concerning toxic chemicals that were used, particularly before 1970. Susan Flack is our leader for investigating and prioritizing past uses of chemicals. We often work backwards after identifying the materials that were used after 1970. We find these aspects of the project to be among the most challenging. The photo shows people in Los Alamos watching a non-nuclear test shot at a Technical Area in the background.

Slide 15

Slide 15 of 15

We are collecting records of the effluent monitoring that was done by Los Alamos personnel. We have applied several adjustments to airborne radionuclide releases as reported by LANL. These are to account for deposition of some material in sample lines and for burial of some alpha particles in the filters used for airborne effluent sampling. LANL also applied adjustments like this, but they did not apply them for the early years of operation. As the first step toward prioritization, we have looked at the volumes of air or water that would be required to dilute LANL releases to maximum permissible concentrations in the environment.

Public Comments / Questions and Answers

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

Public: Have you had access to the health physics log books?

Bob Whitcomb: What we looked at today was foreign government information.

Tom Widner: Yes, we have gone through thousands of log books, some health physics, and we have extracted some records that are in the database and the DOE Reading Room in Albuquerque.

Public: These documents are important.

Tom Widner: We have found that the log books are a good source of basic data.

Public: Incidents with plutonium and other contamination incidents that took place are in the log books. They include the amount and what was released.

Regan Burmeister: The quality of information in the log books is usually better than that seen in latter (summary level) reports. We have free access to log books. They are in some cases unclassified.

Public: What about surveys? There were times we had spills that may have rolled out the door.

Regan Burmeister: These are often noted in log books.

Public: You need to look at the log reports get more reliable information. The weekly and monthly reports are not written by the people doing work. They are watered down. They don't want the information getting out.

Public: Structure workers, supervisors, section leaders, rewrite again. They "sugar coat" before going to the division leader. Notebooks are kept by the person doing the experiment. They tell the truth in these reports. They put exactly how and what happened.

Public: When you get down to the section reports, they should be more accurate.

Bob Whitcomb: We have had experience looking at weekly reports, and work for others, and foreign reports.

Public: You don't know where the skeletons are located. We can tell you where to look. LANL likes documents, but they shred; they hide.

Bob Whitcomb: We need your input and feedback.

Public: LANL didn't check carpool calls. One janitor brought home contaminated clothes in the carpool. That isn't reported.

Tom Widner: We've seen a lot of reports where contaminants were carried home.

Public: Regarding stack releases, are you familiar with giraffes? If releases are over a certain amount, they were just thrown out. Filters are often closed off.

Peter Malmgren: We want access to operational information for practical reasons. How can workers get compensation? How can you help us facilitate getting access to information they need?

Tom Widner: We are trying to streamline the process. We are getting information out as fast as we can.

Public: We can't get access to unclassified controlled nuclear information.

Tom Widner: We're not seeing that (UNCI) much at LANL compared to other DOE sites. We are trying to identify and use what we can release to the public.

Public: Have you seen the documentation from when the TIGER team came out? It is in the basement of CMR.

Public: How about incident reports in the medical section? The report high dosage, or cuts received on contaminated on equipment or high levels in urine.

Tom Widner: We are taking note of health records.

Public: When will you be into the linear accelerator, LAMPF?

Tom Widner: This is a new area that Jack Buddenbaum has just recently begun investigating.

Public: Thyroid cancer is still unexplained. How can I learn about the nature of materials and processes of uranium targets since the beginning? There was an incident in France where there was a target release of radionuclides. Can you change the database to capture the isotopes? Another important one is xenon. Where did the iodine that was produced go? I found documents about Omega West Reactor radionuclides (including iodine) that were helpful. These documents are in the database but I have to go to Albuquerque to look at the documents.

C.M. Wood: I asked the contractor how much it would cost to scan the documents. It would cost less to send a CD. But we don't want to become librarians for DOE.

Public: Germantown has documents on CD regarding materials disposed of in Area G. It might be a good place to send someone. Tom Widner: Yes, also the national archives and other collections will be searched.

C.M. Wood: We have a list of places that has records pertaining to LANL and DOE sites in general. I agree we have to look at all places. We have visited the Germantown facility on previous occasions.

Public: I would like to go back to Peter's point. You can help them and us by providing full-text searching in the database. I have gained information out of Las Vegas. I have just sent the lady there an e-mail, and she offered to send me a CD. Using that database helped a man with mercury poisoning. I found five memos that were used for his case.

Bob Whitcomb: We let NIOSH know what is relevant to them. We let them know so they can include the documents in their information. We make note of documents that contain information relevant to workers.

Public: Have you checked the Los Alamos medical center?

Bob Whitcomb: I know about Project Sunshine, which was concerned about strontium-90 fallout.

Public: This was not fallout, but releases.

Bob Whitcomb: Hopefully we can find some confirmatory information.

Public: How about unauthorized autopsies?

Tom Widner: We are reviewing data about autopsies.

Bob Whitcomb: Was this related to litigation?

Tom Widner: Not to my knowledge.

Public: What criteria are used to determine if the study moves forward past the document retrieval phase?

Bob Whitcomb: There are no regulations that set a point, no guidance is in place. That is why we bring it to the attention of the public. When information gathering is complete, we will have to determine if we can go forward with the information in hand. We expect a lot of public involvement in that decision.

Public: We are concerned about that. I think this is the biggest meeting that has happened so far.

Bob Whitcomb: This is a process. We need people to follow it, to let us know if we are following the right paths.

Public: We are still saying that we need another reading room here. You will get more participation.

Bob Whitcomb: We are still pushing for another. Albuquerque was the easiest one to get done, but we are still pushing DOE to establish another.

Public: This is very important for people of northern New Mexico. How loud do we have to talk?

Public: We are uncomfortable with DOE controlling reading rooms. It seems like institutional flypaper. They probably have someone that notes what you are interested in. Oak Ridge has bar codes. A grass roots effort may be the best way around that. Give us a CD, and we can set up our own system.

Public: You seem to focus on the environment and are ignoring worker compensation issues.

Bob Whitcomb: We are giving information to NIOSH.

Public: I would be interested in seeing your Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Why can't NIOSH get one?

Bob Whitcomb: Our MOU is on the CDC Web site, and is updated every five years.

Public: Richard Espinosa shared some meeting dates dealing with the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program. These included an August 8 stakeholder meeting for the Special Cohorts aspect of the of NIOSH program. The next advisory board meetings are August 16 and 17 in Cincinnati, and then October 15 and 16 in Santa Fe.

Public: What are the purposes of these meetings? Are they required?

Mr. Espinosa: The establishment of special cohorts is the purpose of the meeting [Special cohorts are groups of people who are eligible for benefits under EEOICPA if, after covered employment, they contracted a number of specified diseases].

Public: Will you be talking to workers and technicians?

Bob Whitcomb: We are working with Peter Malmgren, who is addressing that. We have interviewed workers at other sites.

Tom Widner: We are also going to be stepping up our interviews. First, we are getting familiar with the history of LANL so we can intelligently conduct interviews. We will be conducting interviews in addition to those being conducted by Peter.

Bob Whitcomb: If you would like to be part of the interviewing process, let us know.

Public: There was a dump truck that was contaminated and they just drove it into the dump and buried it. I know a couple of guys that were truck drivers. I still remember those things.

Public: What is the issue with the documents being at Zimmerman? Who is making that decision?

Tom Widner: Zimmerman is the official DOE reading room in the area. DOE is required to support a reading room in the area. We are pushing for another that would be closer.

Bob Whitcomb: We provide well categorized, easy to locate documents. All the documents are already cataloged, we need someone to provide shelf space.

Peter Malmgren: To update you on the Oral History Project, I have 109 transcribed interviews that will be placed in the NM State Archives at Santa Fe. Some of the interviews are anonymous. Most have names. They will be available in about a year.