.News Update 5/31/06

LANL Makes Transition to New Managementand The Divine Strake Experiment Delayed Indefinitely

LANL Makes Transition to New Managementand The Divine Strake Experiment Delayed Indefinitely

LANL Makes Transition to New Management

On June 1st Los Alamos National Security (LANS) will become the contractor responsible for management of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). LANS is a limited liability corporation made up of Bechtel National, Inc., the University of California, BWX Technologies, Inc., and the Washington Group International, Inc. According to DOE, this contract may be worth up to $36.6 billion over the next 20 years.

Due to the complexity of the contract and the private legal status of the contractors it is unknown how the LANS consortium will assign the operational responsibilities between its four members. It is therefore unclear who will be accountable to the public and congress. Along with the decrease in accountability, this transition to a multi-corporation consortium such as LANS will increase the managing problems LANL has already.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) does not believe that LANS has demonstrated an ability to take over full management and operation responsibilities on June 1st. DNFSB is an independent federal agency established to provide safety oversight of the Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear weapons complex. In its May 5th report, the Board asserted, "While LANS's top-level management and the basic operations structure are evident, it is less clear what are the key mid-level positions, who will be the key occupants, what are their qualifications, and how will LANS ensure confidence in its overall ability to control nuclear operations on and immediately following June 1St. LANS has observed LANL operations; however, LANS has not yet demonstrated readiness to analyze and control operations on a daily basis."

Scott Kovac, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said, "It's a transition from a non-profit university to for-profit corporation, and because the product is nuclear weapons, public interests might get dropped and left behind after this handoff."

The Divine Strake Experiment Delayed Indefinitely

DOE has indefinitely delayed the Divine Strake experiment. The delay is due to the need for scientific research into the environmental impacts of the experiment.

The Divine Strake experiment was to be an open-air detonation of a 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil bomb at the Nevada Test Site. The explosion was intended to test what capabilities are needed to attack hardened underground targets. Originally scheduled to be conducted on June 2nd, it was subsequently rescheduled for June 23 to allow a federal court to review a lawsuit filed against the experiment. The Lawsuit was filed by several western Native American Tribes as well as downwinders in Nevada and Utah.

The lawsuit claims that the federal government failed to complete the required environmental studies before planning the detonation. The indefinite delay was announced after DOE withdrew its initial environmental assessment, in which it found that the experiment would have no significant impact. The federal lawyers withdrew this assessment without acknowledging any shortcomings alleged in the lawsuit.

The experiment has been widely criticized by many parties including congressional lawmakers. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, of Utah, said, "We have been repeatedly told. . .that this was not a concern. But since we've asked them to back up their conclusions with scientific evidence, it looks like our concerns are justified."

Back to News Index