ABQ Journal editorial on Triad taking over LANL
The big news is that inadequate federal performance reviews and bad press over safety lapses at LANL didn’t cost the University of California a piece of the contract. UC has been part of the lab’s management since the Manhattan Project, first alone at the top and then as part of a private consortium with Bechtel and two other companies since 2006.
In any case, UC went with new partners and won again. Now it’s time to see if LANL can stop generating bad news
It’s always seemed odd to those of us with only an outside view of the lab – where so many brilliant scientists and engineers come to work – that many of its public failures come from not following simple, factory-like instructions.
The WIPP accident famously resulted from using a wheat-based kitty litter to absorb liquid in a waste drum with nitrates – a mix that anyone with a basic knowledge of should have known would lead to a reaction. Indeed, “People with deep expertise of the chemistry of nuclear waste weren’t necessarily deeply embedded.”
Someone at the lab sent plutonium across the country using a commercial air cargo service, a mistake that cost the contractors another $3.1 million in government fees.
If computer makers can make tiny chips by creating dust-free environments, LANL managers should be able to impose similar rigor when handling dangerous radioactive materials.
The lab has a lot of important things to do, but paying attention to blue-collar details should be job number one when Triad takes over in November.
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