IEER Releases Final Monitoring Report on Third Clean Air Act Audit, Questions Audit Practices and Results

The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (or IEER) this week released its final monitoring report on the third Clean Air Act compliance audit of Los Alamos National Laboratory (or LANL). The report concludes that LANL is in substantial breach of its compliance obligations. Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of IEER and principle author of the report, said, "The audit done by the Risk Assessment Corporation (or RAC) was neither thorough nor complete."

In 1994, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (or CCNS) filed suit against the Department of Energy (or DOE) for Clean Air Act violations at LANL. The consent decree that settled the case required three independent audits of LANL, including a fourth pursuant to finding substantive technical deficiencies or Clean Air Act violations during the third audit. In October, when RAC released its final report for the third audit, Dr. John Till, of RAC, said, "No substantive deficiencies [have been found] requiring corrective actions that justify having a fourth audit under the consent decree...."

IEER and CCNS disagree on the grounds that there is a lack of quality assured data on radionuclide usage supplied by the facilities with low emissions to the LANL Meteorology and Air Quality Group (or MAQ), the group responsible for monitoring air emissions at LANL. Also, IEER says that LANL's current ambient air monitoring program may not detect elevated levels of plutonium-238 particles in some cases. The audit team should have recommended a careful study of this issue, but it did not.

Currently, there is no quality assurance program for data provided to the MAQ group by individual unmonitored laboratory facilities. Dr. Makhijani said, "The accuracy of measurements, both the accuracy of the data that goes into the computer models and the accuracy of the measuring devices out there in the open, as to whether or not theyıre fit enough to catch the radioactivity is at the heart of compliance." The problem partially arose because LANL chose not to implement a suggestion made by RAC in its second audit report to create a sitewide database that would have resulted in better quality dose estimates from hundreds of radioactive release points that are not monitored.

Furthermore, CCNS and IEER believe that LANL unlawfully considers itself exempt from periodic confirmatory measurements of air emissions by the Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement (or FFCA). LANL and EPA negotiated the FFCA in 1996 in order to exempt LANL from having to perform such measurements. In 1999, the parties terminated the FFCA by mutual agreement. Therefore, it seems clear now that the lack of periodic confirmatory measurements of low emissions is a glaring evasion by LANL of its compliance obligations. CCNS has questioned the status of the FFCA for some time, but failed to receive a satisfactory reply from LANL, DOE or RAC. Dr. Makhijani said, "They are required to make these measurements and release them to the public, and I believe that they must be undertaken forthwith."

CCNS plans to invoke the conflict resolution provisions of the consent decree in the middle of January by providing DOE with a statement of dispute. For more information, please contact CCNS.

To read IEER's complete final report, please visit

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