ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation's premier nuclear weapons labs, is preparing to lay off hundreds of people in anticipation of federal budget cuts, a lab spokesman said Monday.
The laboratory may have to cut between 500 and 750 positions, said Kevin Roark, a spokesman for the northern New Mexico lab. About 12,000 people work at the lab.
The cuts are part of a restructuring plan the lab submitted to the federal government. If approved, the lab would ask employees to leave voluntarily, with severance packages based on their years of service, Roark said.
Those who volunteer to leave would likely be done working at the lab by January, he said. The lab then would reassess whether any employees would be laid off, he said.
Congress has not approved the fiscal year 2008 budget, but budgets have been flat for the past few years and the lab has been anticipating a cut, Roark said. That and an unusually low turnover rate, which typically stands at 3 percent, are driving the potential layoffs, he said.
Charles Mansfield, president of the Laboratory Retiree Group Inc., said the layoffs could have an impact throughout northern New Mexico, calling the facility "a major economic engine."
Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, an Albuquerque-based watchdog group, said layoffs wouldn't be necessary if the lab offered appropriate retirement incentives and reduced waste.
The announcement comes after another of the nation's premier nuclear weapons labs, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., announced last week that it plans to cut about 500 of its 8,000 employees because of rising costs stemming from a changeover in management and potential federal budget cuts.
Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque released its work force restructuring plan last month, which did not discuss numbers for possible layoffs at Sandia or its satellite location.
Sandia spokesman Michael Padilla said Monday the lab has made no decisions regarding layoffs.
Associated Press writers Melanie Dabovich and Susan Montoya Bryan contributed to this report.