Los Alamos Historic Document Retrieval & Assesment

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Introduction Summary

Eighth Public Meeting
Public Comments / Questions and Answers

(These statements are NOT direct quotes. All statements are paraphrased. "Team" refers to either one or more members of the project team who responded to a questions or comment.)

Public: In order to safeguard the Manhattan Project, the president issued a security classification preventing information about radiation effects on humans from being released. Do you see any remnants of this very old security classification?

Response Tom Widner: No. We have seen hundreds of records dealing with litigation of various types. None that we have seen fall within the six protected categories. Some information is protected by the privacy act.

Public: Have you obtained access for other owners, such as the Air Force, other than the United Kingdom?

Tom Widner: Work for others (WFO) is part of our study. When we find relevant documents from other owners we will obtain special permission to review them.

Paul Renard: Our experience has shed some light in regards to WFO documents. In past studies, we learned late in the process that WFO information can be very important and very difficult to get access to. With the United Kingdom documents, we made an early request to push these documents through the system. So far, we have not looked at a lot of WFO, but we will. We also have not seen the United Kingdom documents yet, but access has been granted.

Tom Widner: In regards to Air Force records, we have looked at reports in the Reports Collection on different phenomena related to weapons and releases. We have not been denied access.

Susan Flack: In the early years there were two to three times as many military people as civilians that were part of LANL, and many of the documents we are reviewing are military records.

Peter Malmgren: I have talked to two people who participated in Air Force cloud monitoring activities, mainly at the Pacific islands. I have also talked to people who were charged with cleaning the planes used to collect samples from the mushroom clouds.

Tom Widner: We have seen reports regarding this monitoring.

Peter Malmgren: This monitoring and clean-up of planes was completed by volunteers because the Air Force knew it was dangerous.

Public: Cloud monitoring supposedly ended by 1962. Have you found any evidence regarding later cloud testing around LANL?

Tom Widner:Yes, we have seen records of cloud monitoring of non-nuclear explosives drops around Sandia Base and other military bases.

Public: You said the new draft will address the high explosives issue. LANL has long history of hydro testing, using high explosives. What are the potential impacts of hydro testing?

Tom Widner: The report includes updated analysis with estimates of uranium released in hydro tests. Hydro testing causes uranium to be a priority, but what we must address is how much settled locally or traveled off site.

Public: Don't be obsessed with uranium.

Tom Widner: We are not putting blinders on. We are looking at all materials used at LANL.

Joe Shonka: LANL made their own estimates regarding radioactive lanthanum releases, and we have placed it in our prioritization scheme.

Public: One of the reports available in the reading room addresses natural uranium.

Public: Where else have similar studies been conducted?

Tom Widner: Rocky Flats, the Oak Ridge Reservation, the Savannah River Site , Fernald, and Hanford. Some are finished; others are about half way completed. Savannah River is in a full-blown dose reconstruction.

Public: During the last meeting you said more sample documents would be available at this meeting. Did you bring any samples?

Paul Renard: So you like sample documents. We have a better crowd at this meeting despite the weather; now I know why.

Tom Widner: We can get you more samples.

Susan Flack: At first it was fairly easy to get documents released; now it is harder.

Tom Widner: We will send you six or seven more samples. In addition, CDC is considering scanning select documents and making them available.

Public: Because of the September 11 attacks, are you seeing increased problems gaining access to documents on the Web?

Tom Widner: No. It may be harder to park at LANL, but the procedures have not changed.

Paul Renard: In fact, our access has improved.

Tom Widner: The security level is heightened and the workdelete extra spaceload of personnel who must escort us has increased. As a result, getting to some venues may take longer, but access has not changed.

Public: Are you behind the firewall [referring to our access to LANL computer networks]?

Tom Widner: Yes.

Public: Will you be issuing a description of the documents you are denied access to?

Tom Widner: Yes. The descriptions will be terse but we will be glad to share them.

Paul Renard: Today, we have spent much of our time hashing out the details of the appeal process. The procedures will be discussed at LANL during the next management meeting. Results are promised to us by next week.

Public: Based on worker experiences, you may ultimately be denied access to the chain of information. You will still need to reveal to the public the kind of information not being released.

Paul Renard: CDC is concerned with the credibility of the study. We want to keep the nation secure, but at the same time the increasing restrictions on access to information brings up the issue of credibility and integrity of the study. As promised, if we can't go over a hurdle, we will let you know. This has never happened at this site. I really think people are looking at our efforts in a good spirit.

Peter Malmgren: Can you be challenged to produce reports and summaries making them more comprehensible to the general public?

Paul Renard: First we are extracting scientific data. Then we are preparing citizen summaries that report our findings in language that is as nonscientific as possible.

Tom Widner: We strive to write our reports at the appropriate level.

Public: How long will the study take?

Paul Renard: We will soon pass our original deadline, and have extended the study 3-4 years. I really don't know when the study will be complete. It depends on the cooperation we receive to view records. Plus, there are many more records than we originally anticipated.

Public: Do you encounter the same problems at each site?

Bob Whitcomb: We break new ground at each site. For example, access here is compounded by the fact that everything is compartmentalized, and there are many facets of record repositories, each having a different methodology to access records.

Paul Renard: At Hanford and Fernald, the studies were directed searches. We did not look at all the records. Instead we followed leads to particular records. This caused problems and we had to readjust source terms as an example. Through those studies, we learned we must go through all of the records.

Public: It's good that you are examining reports of the LANL Health Division. Their public monthly reports ended in 1963. Have you found any monthly reports after 1963?

Susan Flack: We have reviewed a 20-page memo that claims monthly reports were issued more sporadically but go through 1967. Jack Carter does not have copies of thesebecause they don't have LA numbers. We will make a request to Roger Meade to get these reports.

Public: The ones I found useful don't have numbers.

Susan Flack: We have reviewed binders in the Oppenheimer Study Center that contain unclassified versions of many of the H Division reports. The collection doesn't have all of the months and some pages are missing.

Tom Widner: We will keep an eye out for health reports issued after 1963.

Peter Malmgren: I brought a taste of the photo exhibit, which has been -delete extra spaceextended to the public at an exhibition held at the Santa Fe Community College. The photos are archival photos provided by Roger Meade. The text comments are those of people interviewed. The exhibit will be displayed in January at Los Alamos in the main library.

Public: In regards to applying correcting factors to air effluent data, I have a comment: the factors can't corrected for deficiencies in the equipment.

Paul Renard: We are not saying that the data are perfect.

Bob Whitcomb: Another way to look at calculating source terms is data verification, for example using environmental data.

Public: Do they tend to jive?

Bob Whitcomb: Yes.

Paul Renard: Some exceptions exist and we find that releases were higher than reported.

Joe Shonka: Reports from all the divisions are very enlightening, and we continue to look for others.

Susan Flack: The X-Division Progress Reports from the 40s and 50s are also very useful. They contain quantities of explosive materials cast and disposed of as waste.

Claudine Kasunic: I have found while looking through different documents from the early years that they tend to be very factual and straightforward. The people that wrote those seem very honest.

Paul Renard: That statement is true at other sites too. This is another reason why we try to go back to the original documents. Monthly summaries are important, but we have found that the original reports are most reliable.

Claudine Kasunic: I find that notations in the margins are also very open. They note disagreements on draft reports. We are seeing initial drafts with actual revision notations.

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