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New contractor hired to run Los Alamos National Laboratory includes same manager that was effectively fired 

By Rebecca Moss, The Santa Fe New Mexican , 10 June 18, 

Despite a lengthy record of safety violations, the University of California will continue its 75-year legacy of running Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration announced Friday.

A management partnership that includes the university, research and development nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute and Texas A&M University, the alma mater of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, will be paid $2.5 billion annually to run Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb. They’re calling their partnership Triad National Security LLC.

The contract could be worth upward of $25 billion over the next decade, with hundreds of millions of dollars more in performance-based bonus fees. Six other corporations will join the team in support roles……..

This is the second time the University of California has effectively maintained control over the laboratory despite concerns about serious mismanagement. In 2003, and again in 2015, the National Nuclear Security Administration said it would seek a new management contractor for the New Mexico lab following significant security breachescostly accidents and injured employees.

The current management team, which also includes defense contractor Bechtel, amassed more than $110 million in fines and withheld bonuses because of health and safety issues. An electrical accident in 2015 left a worker hospitalized for over a month, and waste packaging errors led to a drum burst in 2014 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, exposing workers to radiation. The accident caused the storage facility to shut down for nearly three years…….

This is a pivotal time for the lab. Los Alamos is expected to take on new nuclear work, building up to 30 plutonium pits per year. Producing the softball-sized plutonium metal cores, which trigger a reaction inside a nuclear weapon, is dangerous work, and Los Alamos has struggled to safely build even a single stockpile-ready pit in recent years.

Critics of the lab questioned how the university emerged as a winner once again and how any serious overhaul of the lab’s problems can occur if part of the existing leadership remains in place. Even the federal government called for a “culture change” at Los Alamos when it solicited bidders for the new lab contract last year.

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June 11, 2018 - Posted by | safety, USA

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