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USA’s Plutonium facility at Los Alamos ruled not safe

safety-symbol1Federal Safety Board Cautions DOE on LANL Plutonium Facility L0s Alamos Study Group, 20 May 14

Main plutonium facility might “collapse” in earthquake unless repairs are completed; scope of work needed still unknown

Board says full re-start of LANL plutonium facility premature; nuclear criticality accidents not ruled out

On May 16, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB, Board), cautioned Congress about the structural integrity of the main plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the event of an earthquake similar to those which have rocked the site in recent millenia.  The building in question, “PF-4,” was built in 1978 to earlier, less stringent earthquake standards.

The Board was established by Congress in 1988 to advise the Department of Energy (DOE) on the safety of DOE’s nuclear facilities.

Also on the 16th, DNFSB Chairman Peter Winokur wrote National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Frank Klotz about the Board’s concerns regarding LANL’s planned re-start of higher-hazard plutonium operations in PF-4 without first evaluating the potential of those operations to result in nuclear criticality accidents.  Such accidents, were they to occur as a result of human error, mechanical failure or any other cause, would invariably involve very high levels of radiation and have often been fatal to surrounding workers.  Such accidents have happened before at LANL and at other nuclear facilities in the U.S. and abroad.  (See for example this LANL review.)

Regarding the first issue DNFSB writes in its “Report to Congress on the Status of Significant Safety Issues Concerning the Design and Construction of DOE’s Defense Nuclear Facilities” that:

..the Board remains concerned that PF-4 is vulnerable to seismic collapse. The large plutonium inventory of PF-4, coupled with the facility’s proximity to the public, creates the potential for high off-site radiological consequences. DOE is pursuing actions to address the collapse vulnerability, but maintains that PF-4 is safe to operate in the interim and complies with DOE standards for seismic performance. The Board communicated to DOE in a letter dated July 17, 2013, that it does not agree… -:


May 21, 2014 - Posted by | - plutonium, USA


  1. Reblogged this on abraveheart1.

    Comment by susan2196 | May 21, 2014 | Reply

  2. Reblogged this on Head Space.

    Comment by tlarremore | May 24, 2014 | Reply

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