New NAS Report about Science and Engineering at Nuclear Weapons Lab Raises Concerns
CCNS NEWS UPDATE
Runs 9/13/13 through 9/20/13
(THEME UP AND UNDER) This is the CCNS News Update, an overview of the latest nuclear safety issues, brought to you every week by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Here is this week’s top headline:
* New NAS Report about Science and Engineering at Nuclear Weapons Lab Raises Concerns
The National Academy of Sciences recently released a report about “Managing for High-Quality Science and Engineering at the [National Nuclear Security Administration] National Security Laboratories” saying that the laboratories have made significant progress in their core mission of maintaining the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18440 In 2010, Congress asked for the report to understand the quality and management of science and engineering activities at the national laboratories located in California and New Mexico, including Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and Sandia National Laboratories. The report suggests that less federal and independent agency oversight of these activities.
Jay Coghlan, Director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, responded to the report. He said, “The National Academy of Sciences report giving the nuclear weapons labs high marks is a whitewash. There is no mention of the labs’ unfulfilled claims and huge cost overruns of taxpayers’ money, such as the National Ignition Facility at the Livermore Lab and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos. Nothing is said about their exorbitant cost of doing business, which runs at nearly 50% in overhead (or “support costs”) at LANL. While arguing for diminished federal oversight, the NAS report never touches upon the inherent conflict-of-interest at the labs.” http://nukewatch.org/
One recommendation focused on reducing the administrative and reporting duties for the laboratory directors in order to “purposely free directors to establish strategic science and engineering direction at the laboratories.” Some believe that the laboratory directors have direct conflicts of interest in their roles and duties. Coghlan said, “The lab directors wear two hats, first as those responsible for annual certification of the safety, security and reliability of the stockpile to the president and Congress. Their second hat is as presidents of the executive boards of the for-profit corporations running the labs. How can we be sure they are always acting in the best interests of the country while pushing a never-ending cycle of Life Extension Programs (LEPs) for existing nuclear weapons?
“These LEPS will cost at least $60 billion by 2038, when budget projections end but the programs clearly live on (and they always run over budget). Moreover, LEPs will endow existing nuclear weapons with new military capabilities, in contradiction to declared policy at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Finally, in a touch of irony, these programs may erode confidence in stockpile reliability by intentionally introducing major changes that can’t be full-scale tested. Thus there should be more, not less, federal oversight and public scrutiny of the nuclear weapons labs.”
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