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Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Image: Larry Lamsa via Flickr)
Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Image: Larry Lamsa via Flickr)

Audit: Los Alamos Lab has poor system for fixing problems

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An audit has found that the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s system for solving management problems is lacking.

The report, released Tuesday by the Department of Energy’s Office of the Inspector General, suggests the lab’s corrective action program does not address issues or prevent their recurrence, including on health and safety issues.

The audit looked at almost 200 management issues between January 2009 and February 2014 and found that almost half were closed without addressing the root cause. For example, the report found that after an August 2010 chemical spill and hazardous-waste cleanup at a waste management site, the corrective action plan called for changes to prevent the same thing from happening again. The audit found that those changes were not made.

A procedure was revised, but it “did not address the specific handling and packaging issues that LANL determined contributed to the spill,” the audit says.

The lab is working with the National Nuclear Safety Administration to address the issues found in the audit, a Los Alamos spokesman said.

“The Laboratory is working closely with (the National Nuclear Safety Administration) to address the findings of the DOE-IG Audit Report,” the spokesman said. “The Laboratory and NNSA are very serious about environment safety and health issues, and the Laboratory’s ability to deliver on mission requirements as safely as possible.”

The audit wasn’t all bad. The report praised a program that allows employees to raise concerns and have them investigated without retaliation.

The audit comes after recent management problems prompted the Department of Energy to announce in December that it won’t renew a $2.2 billion management contract with Los Alamos National Security LLC when the consortium’s current contract ends in 2017. The department will put the lab’s contract up for bid.

In related news, Forum will take closer look at methane ‘hot spot’ over Four Corners.

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