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LOS ALAMOS EXPECTING TO COMPLETE WORK ON NMSSUP NEXT WEEK
Los Alamos National Laboratory is expected to wrap up work in the coming weeks on a troubled project to upgrade security at its Technical Area-55, and though the project has been delayed several months by technical problems, the lab is expecting to remain just under the project’s $244.2 million cost cap, according to an industry official with knowledge of the project. The project, known as Phase 2 of the Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrade Project (NMSSUP), declared interim operational capability in mid-February and is completing a 30-day “burn-in” period—a sort of testing period where the security system is monitored for any hiccups—that could wrap up next week with the National Nuclear Security Administration authorizing Critical Decision-4, or the completion of the project.
After a major shutdown in late 2012, lab officials had expected to complete the project in January 2014, but problems involving the cameras used for the security system, as well as issues with the sensors used, caused at least two months of delays, the industry official said. “There are still risks that some of the sensors in one of the sectors could start acting up,” the official said. “There was a lot of elbow grease put into this project at the end of Calendar Year ‘13 and the beginning of Calendar Year ‘14 to get the system to where it needed to be and in some cases there were adjustments. The risk [of a problem still popping up] is low but nonetheless there is that risk.” Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark declined to comment on the status of the project.
Project Suspended For 3 Months in 2012
The project is no stranger to challenges, and the issues came to a head in the fall of 2012 when it was initially slated to be finished. Issues with the system prevented it from working correctly, including ductwork that was to carry fiber optic cables connecting the system that was installed incorrectly, and the lab lacked funding to complete the work, so it stopped work on the project for three months. In December 2012, it said it needed an additional $41 million to complete the project, and in an agreement with the NNSA to restart the project, the lab agreed to foot $10 million of the bill and brought in new leadership for the project, including Ty Troutman, the construction functional manager for Bechtel Systems and Infrastructure.
The lab declared construction on the project complete on Nov. 15, but spent much of December and January sorting out problems with the system’s cameras and sensors, which nearly caused the project to breach its budget again. In January, the lab said the estimate-at-completion for the project was $239.7 million, $4.5 million less than its $244.2 million budget, but NS&D Monitor has learned the project is expected to come in just several hundreds of thousands of dollars under its budget due to the problems.
Cameras, Sensors Create Late Headaches
Among the last set of problems was one involving the cameras used in the system. Officials had problems getting adequate resolution, performance and fields of view from the cameras planned for the system, including problems with severe glare during the mornings when the sun comes up over the mountains to the east of the lab, but different cameras and lenses were brought in to correct the issue.
Problems with a sensor system known as OmniTrax proved to be even more difficult to fix, the official said. The sensor system is embedded into the ground around the facility’s perimeter intrusion detection system, but the close proximity of many portions of the systems created interference, rendering portions of the system unusable. As a substitute, lab officials used a microwave intrusion detection system on some portions of the perimeter system. “It’s a system of sensor systems,” the official said. “The key is how you get coverage in the areas of concern and as long as the sensor systems overlap appropriately and you have coverage it doesn’t necessarily matter what type of sensor system it is. The key is making sure you have that detection coverage.” —Todd Jacobson