While there is a time and place for playing nice and trying to develop a working relationship with the sites it oversees, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) should show no tolerance for amateur hour when there is an extended record of poor performance at nuclear weapons facilities. This unfortunately was the case with
After a report surfaced in November 2006 documenting the lax safety practices of lab employees working with radioactive plutonium, Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS) did not take corrective action. LANS still did not take action when a similar problem—improper placement of the gloves in the gloveboxes—was reported in December 2006. A month later, in January 2007, two workers got exposed to plutonium in two separate incidents, one serious. Both exposures were likely preventable if LANS, the company hired in 2006 to improve safety at
An internal review at Los Alamos concluded that LANS is treating the high rate of glovebox incidents as routine--the “high cost of doing business.” NNSA should make it clear that there is a high cost of doing shoddy business, and take a significant percentage of the $79 million back. Also, shouldn’t LANS’ callous dismissal of the deadly risks to workers’ health be of concern to NNSA?
Yet, last month, NNSA head D’Agostino decided not to levy a fine on LANS, so that the management could focus on combating the “broad deficiencies” in lab safety, instead of fighting the fine as the
NNSA’s decision not to make an example out of LANS for its failure to aggressively prevent safety violations strikes POGO as particularly strange given that NNSA’s parent agency, the Department of Energy (DOE), decided in December to ask a New Mexico judge to fine Jessica Quintana, a fired Los Alamos subcontract employee, $384,150 after classified material was found in her trailer during a drug bust of her roommate. The NNSA should not tolerate any more excuses and incompetence.
-- Ingrid Drake and