Safety Problems Found at Livermore Lab

Safety lapses at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created increased dangers for both facility employees and the public, federal investigators have found, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today (see GSN, Nov. 7, 2003).

Investigators for the congressional Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said in a five-page report dated March 17 that recent safety changes at Livermore made systems less effective.

For example, changes have downgraded the ventilation system enough to raise concerns about public safety from accidental escapes of radioactive material, says a letter from safety board Chairman John Conway to the Energy Department.

The investigators say the following features of the laboratory’s plutonium building were adversely affected by changes:

*         the emergency power system;

*         ventilation systems linked to gloves that allow workers to work with plutonium inside sealed chambers;

*         components of the building ventilation system; and

*         parts of the fire detection and suppression system.

Joe Sefcik, program leader for Livermore’s nuclear materials technology program, which includes the plutonium building, denied the charges.

“There is no hazard. . . . We’ve gone to a level of safety that is unique in the (U.S.) nuclear weapons complex,” Sefcik said. “There are 200 of us that work in this facility every day. If it wasn’t safe, none of us would work there,” he added (Keay Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle, May 7).

May 7, 2004
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Safety lapses at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have created increased dangers for both facility employees and the public, federal investigators have found, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today (see GSN, Nov. 7, 2003).

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