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Project on Government Oversight




POGO Requests White House Intervention For Los Alamos

February 11, 2010 


The Project On Government Oversight sent a letter today to President Obama citing an internal memo obtained from sources that outlines a systemic and massive failure of the Department of Energy (DOE) and Los Alamos management to adequately enforce safety policies since 2002.

The January 20, 2010, memo from DOE's Los Alamos Site Office details several recent safety incidents at a number of Technical Area (TA) facilities, such as three accidental explosions, and an accidental electric shock and burn to an employee over 5 percent of his body. These accidents closely resemble a number of other incidents at Los Alamos over the last eight years, including at least two other accidental explosions, a severe eye injury caused by a laser that lead to a six month shutdown of the lab, and an incident in which a researcher accidentally sprayed acid into other researchers' eyes.

"This memo shows that the supposed smartest people on the planet are incapable of learning from their mistakes," said Peter Stockton, POGO Senior Investigator. "Los Alamos will not adequately enforce safety requirements, until DOE begins to properly use its power of the purse and takes a significant chunk out of Los Alamos' contract award fee."

This memo, as well as these recent incidents, highlight the need for DOE to reverse its six-month moratorium on DOE-initiated functional assessments, reviews, evaluations, and inspections. In addition, the Office of Health, Safety, and Security (HSS), DOE's independent oversight body, has not scheduled any oversight inspections for 2010, but should do so immediately.

“The clear systemic management problems at Los Alamos require stringent oversight and accountability, and we ask that you designate a White House-level staff person to ensure that these problems at Los Alamos and the other nuclear weapons labs are not allowed to persist,” concludes the letter to President Obama from Danielle Brian, Executive Director, POGO.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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