Sep 12, 2007

Audit: Los Alamos Not Tracking All Stock

Audit: Los Alamos Not Tracking All Stock

WASHINGTON (AP) — A stockpile of plutonium and other nuclear weapons materials stored at Los Alamos National Laboratory hasn't been fully accounted for in 13 years or more, a government audit has found.

The northern New Mexico lab's workers have done regular, partial inventories of the material, which the government considers to be at high risk of theft, the audit by the Energy Department's inspector general, Gregory Friedman, found.

Yet an inventory of all the material hasn't been done in "perhaps 13 years or more," Friedman wrote. It wasn't even done when the lab's management contract changed last year, investigators noted in the report made public Wednesday.

Friedman said he is concerned because the lack of complete inventories means that lab workers likely haven't physically accounted for all of the material in more than a decade.

"The capability to deter, detect and assist in the prevention of theft or diversion of this material is critical," Friedman wrote. Yet, he added: "We were unable to find anyone with knowledge or documentation of the last time the vault was completely inventoried."

The lab is responsible for maintaining stores of plutonium, enriched uranium and depleted uranium as well as other materials used in the nation's nuclear weapons program.

The report recommends the lab's managers improve the inventory process.

A lab spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.

Los Alamos has been plagued by security lapses over the years — from missing data storage devices to the discovery of classified data during a drug bust at a former lab contract worker's trailer.

While auditors said the lab is generally doing a good job at tracking the most sensitive material, the lack of a full inventory was one of several issues they said needed fixing. Among the other problems auditors found:

_None of the six inventories of the highly sensitive material done since December 2005 has been finished on time, a problem that was noted during similar audits in 2003 and 2005.

_Some lab employees don't follow instructions for how to develop identification numbers for the materials so they are easily identified. For example, auditors said one system was based on characters in a movie that a technician had just seen.

_In an area that stores less sensitive nuclear material — containing smaller amounts of plutonium and uranium — a new shipment of nuclear material wasn't documented for eight days. Auditors noted that it was supposed to have been entered into the system within four hours.

"Under the circumstances, the nuclear material could have been diverted without any record showing that it had ever existed," Friedman wrote.

The Energy Department defended its practice of doing weighted sampling in a memo to Friedman from Glenn Podonsky, the chief health, safety and security officer.

The lab's policy is to keep exposure to radiation as low as possible, and the sensitive materials area has a relatively high level of radiation, Podonsky wrote. He said that full inventories aren't always practical and argued that lab officials should be allowed to determine the best inventory techniques.

Friedman noted that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory does semiannual 100 percent inventories.


Anonymous said...

Well, then I suggest these auditors slap on their PPE, a respirator, go down into the TA_55 vault for inventory and take a nice, hefty dose.

LANL can't win for anything these days despite having a fully functional inventory program. Am I the only one getting really tired of all the negative publicity???

Anonymous said...

6:30 pm


As one of the workers that actually will get radiation dos by this inventory, I am more than a wee bit disturbed at the indifference to safety so that some bean counter feels good.

BTW as for LLNL they have nearly nothing compared to LANL and yes i have been to Superblock and am familiar with what they do and have.

Any blogger that has not done hands on Pu work should shut their pie hole on this thread... or offer to come help.

Anonymous said...


Sure, working with SNM in rad-controled environments is shitty work. Been there, done that.

But, how about a brief trip down memory lane, to a point in time of say, 27 years ago? Back when Don Kerr was out offering up LANL staff and real estate if DOE would just give us money to build TA-55 to work with all that nasty shit?

I don't remember too many LANL folks saying "No."

It was more like, "Ummm Donuts..."

So, you all got your wish: DOE sent money to work with SNM in shitty rad-controlled environments. Why are you complaining now?

Anonymous said...

Can't think of a greater liability than missing SNM, so pretty surprising no full-up inventory at transition.

One thing to invoke safety for say, once every five or so years for non-disturbed material with TIDs. 13 years???

Anonymous said...

"Some lab employees don't follow instructions"

Ok...tell us something we don't already know.

"auditors said one system was based on characters in a movie that a technician had just seen"

The movie?--Deep Throat

Anonymous said...

So, the gold in fort knox hasn't been audited since Eisenhower. With the meltdown of 450 Trillion $ of derivatives
now taking place, I'm more worried about

Also, when was the last time the Saudis
allowed a dipstic in Garwar?

Again, on a scale of 1-10, the above
scare me at 10. Plutonium at LANL,
I give a 5.

Anonymous said...

It all makes sense. The best way NOT to detect missing items is to NOT inventory them. The typical solution (at LANL anyways): Kill the auditors (messengers) and all our problems will go away.

Anonymous said...

"Am I the only one getting really tired of all the negative publicity???" (9/12/07 6:30 PM)

LANL can't win, no matter what we now do. It hopeless to even try any longer at this point. When a private company gets this bad of a rap, they usually throw out the CEO, the governing board, plus other top management staff. Then they rename the company and start a big ad campaign to re-claim their status. To bad LANL can't do likewise.

Anonymous said...

Who's demanding a full inventory audit? Do we suspect there might be plutonium missing? Why would a full inventory need to be done otherwise?

This is a non-issue, except for the purpose of further smearing The Lab by pandering to the general public's ignorance and emotions.

Anonymous said...

Typical. The whole ordeal with waiting 8 days to check in a shipment instead of doing it in 4 hours is noise in the northern new mexican mindset. Every try to get a fence fixed, or wait for a part for your car? You get used to that lazy, accent-laden New Mexican response of "oh man, I'm sorry. We'll get right on that", and that comes only after you point out that they're already late. If the deadline was 4 hours, and it took 8 days, the lab should count themselves lucky -- it at least got done!

I gotta say - it is a bit annoying that everyone, even the native residents, acknowledge that this phenomenon ("manana syndrome") exists. But if you point it out, you're a racist or a bigot. If it makes things any better, I don't attribute this behavior to a specific ethnic group -- I've observed the exact same lazy behavior from plain old white people who grew up in the area. There's nothing hispanic or latino about it -- the second or n-th generation white people have the same issue. Northern new mexico just breeds laziness. Maybe it's the scenery - too pretty to not sit around and stare at instead of working.

Anonymous said...

Poster 1:38 AM, a large part of this "manana" attitude comes from living off the US Government's "Golden Tit" for way too long. It breeds an entitlement attitude. Once this attitude takes a firm hold, the "what's the hurray" response becomes all too common. It infects almost all areas of LANL these days.

Anonymous said...

Inventory is a basic concept. Usually managed by people without education pas H.S.

Why can the lab not manage inventory?

Anonymous said...

> Why can the lab not manage inventory?

The Lab can (and they do). But know-nothing anti-lab dumbshits want everybody to think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

So, 3:10, the anti-LANL Associated Press dumbshits got their facts all wrong on this one, is that it?