NNSA Issues Notice of Violation to LANL for Improper Waste Storage

Canadian Coalition Demands Inspection of U.S. for Weapons of Mass Destruction

The National Nuclear Security Administration (or NNSA) released information recently about improper nuclear waste storage practices at Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL), which resulted in a preliminary notice of violation. NNSA says that LANL stored radioactive transuranic waste at an unauthorized area, called PF-185, within Technical Area-55, LANL's plutonium facility, from 1996 to 2001. NNSA cited LANL with four types of violations related to radioactive waste storage.

PF-185 was used as an interim holding area for waste bound for Area G, which is authorized to store waste before it is moved to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. According to NNSA, LANL failed to gain permission from them to store waste at PF-185, failed to classify the site as a nuclear facility, failed to do hazard and accident analyses of the site, and failed to develop appropriate safety controls. In an accompanying letter to LANL head John Browne, Linton Brooks, acting administrator of NNSA, said that he was, "personally concerned about the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding this matter...."

Brooks also said, "Although there were no immediate radiological consequences, it is fortuitous that no unanticipated events occurred that would have caused unanalyzed and significant exposures to the public." LANL representatives claim that when the improper storage was discovered in June 2001, it was reported to NNSA, and LANL immediately "took action to move the drums to an appropriate location." Nevertheless, activists are concerned that LANL was not forthcoming when they claimed that all nuclear materials were stored in secure bunkers during the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire. The insecure and unauthorized area was being used as a waste storage facility at that time, which may have had disastrous consequences in the catastrophic wildfire.

LANL has until January 17th to comment on NNSA's notice.

* A coalition of Canadian peace groups announced recently that they intend to send an international team of volunteer weapons inspectors to the United States to inspect the nation for weapons of mass destruction later this winter.

Christy Ferguson, spokesperson for the group, said George W. Bush himself inspired the initiative. Bush declared last year that the most dangerous of rogue states are those that possess massive stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; ignore due process at the United Nations; refuse to sign and honor international treaties; and have come to power through illegitimate means. Ferguson said, "On the basis of President Bush's guidelines, it is clear that the current U.S. administration poses a great threat to global security."

The organization, called Rooting Out Evil, is asking for international support for the effort. Visitors to their website, www.rootingoutevil.org, are asked to sign on as an honorary inspector, which is similar to signing a petition to support the initiative. The actual inspection team will be composed of prominent individuals from the international community. David Langille, of the organization, said, "We're following Bush's lead and demanding that the U.S. grant our inspectors immediate and unfettered access to any site in the country - including all presidential compounds - so that we can identify the weapons of mass destruction in this rogue state."

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