DOE/NNSA Cites University of California for Price-Anderson Violations at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Press Release
Feb 26, 2007

DOE/NNSA Cites University of California for Price-Anderson Violations at Los Alamos National Laboratory

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) notified the University of California of multiple nuclear safety violations that occurred at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The University of California was the contractor responsible for managing and operating the laboratory when the violations occurred in 2005.

The Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) cites multiple violations of the department's nuclear safety requirements associated with operational events and performance deficiencies at the laboratory.

The PNOV identified 15 separate violations of the Department's nuclear safety rules. Specific citations were identified in the areas of work planning and control, adequacy of procedures, training, quality improvement, assessment programs, safety basis, and radiological and contamination controls. The PNOV noted that many of the deficiencies were programmatic and long-standing in nature, and had been the subject of previous enforcement actions directed to the laboratory.

In March 2005, several workers received small intakes of radioactive material while performing decontamination operations at Building TA-50-66. In July 2005, a worker at the laboratory's Sigma Facility inadvertently contaminated himself and transported radioactive contamination to several locations offsite and out of state. Although the resulting worker radiation doses were below the Department's limits in both cases, the effects could have been significantly greater. An inspection performed by DOE's Office of Independent Oversight in November 2005 also identified multiple deficiencies in the laboratory's implementation of environment, safety and health programs.

Due to the University of California's statutory exemption from such penalties at the time of the violations, no civil penalties were issued in this PNOV. However, had the exemption not been in place, DOE would have issued a fine of $1.1 million based on the number and severity of violations and this would have been the single largest civil penalty in the history of the enforcement program.

In June 2006, the responsibility for management and operation of the laboratory was transferred to the Los Alamos National Security, LLC, which will have responsibility for implementation of corrective actions. With this transfer, the statutory exemption from civil penalties no longer exists for any future Price-Anderson violations at the laboratory.

The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes DOE to undertake regulatory actions against contractors for violations of its nuclear safety requirements. The enforcement program encourages DOE contractors to identify and correct nuclear safety deficiencies at an early stage, before they contribute to or result in more serious events.

Additional details on this and other enforcement actions are available at www.hss.doe.gov/enforce off site link.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371