What is going on – or isn’t – at Los Alamos National Laboratory?
That’s the gut reaction to a new government report that slams the nuclear weapons lab for its lack of nuclear safety compliance.
Certainly science and nuclear defense work is being done. After all, that’s what the lab is supposed to do.
But at what risks to workers, the public and the nation?
Reports of bureaucratic red tape, project delays, budget overruns and outright incompetence are nothing new for the northern New Mexico lab (a worker writing down “organic” kitty litter instead of “inorganic” litter leading to a radiation release and the indefinite shutdown of WIPP, the nation’s only nuclear waste repository, immediately comes to mind).
But a safety audit by the Department of Energy’s Office of the Inspector General lays out serious ongoing issues the lab seems to be taking way too long – in some cases years – to address.
The report gives LANL credit for making progress in some safety areas, and a DOE response accompanying the audit notes the lab’s contract operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC, has made management changes “to affect a culture change that is needed to address systemic weaknesses.”
Good to know, because LANL’s culture has needed a makeover for years.
U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for what appears to be lackadaisical efforts to get up to full speed in fulfilling the lab’s national security mission.
With daily terrorist threats and a growing global political powder keg, the U.S. needs to know its nuclear arsenal is up to snuff as a key deterrent to those who would harm us.
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