By John Fleck / Journal Staff - Wed, Dec 5, 2012
The contractor that runs Los Alamos National Laboratory is on the hook for $10 million as a result of construction management problems that mean the new security system at the lab’s primary plutonium site does not work, the lab and the National Nuclear Security Administration said in a joint statement issued late Tuesday.
The $10 million will cover “potentially unallowable costs” incurred in construction of the $213 million security system built around the lab’s Technical Area 55 plutonium complex, where the dangerously radioactive metal is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapon parts.
The money will come from Los Alamos National Security LLC, also known as LANS, a private company that is a partnership of Bechtel Corp., the University of California and a number of other firms. The company manages Los Alamos, a nuclear weapons research and manufacturing center, for the federal government.
The lab abruptly halted work on the project in October. Initial testing of the new Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrades Project (NMSSUP) security system, involving fencing, sensors and other security technology, showed it did not work, but the lab was out of money to begin fixing it.
Don't expect LANS to take the penalty payment out of their annual profit fee. Bechtel will probably demand that it come out of the labs operating program budgets (a new project "tax"") and maybe even move to have it covered using more LANL employee salary and benefit reductions.