Triad Wants DOE to Accept Increased Risk from Plutonium-238 Stored in Uncertified Containers at LANL

The independent Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recently reported that Triad National Security LLC, the nuclear weapons contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), wants the Department of Energy (DOE) to accept the risk of bringing large shipments of plutonium-238 in uncertified containers for repackaging in the Plutonium Facility.  Triad wants DOE to approve an increase that would exceed the established quantity limits for the first floor of the Plutonium Facility and quantity limits for the gloveboxes that would be used in the repackaging operations.

According to the Safety Board, the potential risk to the public from a radiological release from the Plutonium Facility as a result of an earthquake, fire or both would be three to fifteen times the DOE guidance limit of 25 rems, or 83 to 378 rems.  Even so, there is substantial uncertainty about that estimate.  It could be more significant.   Los Alamos Week Ending December 3 2021  and Los Alamos Week Ending November 26 2021  and  HOPE CCNS & GILKESON COMMENT TO DNFSB 8-20-2013

A rem is a measure of radiation and being exposed to 25 rems can cause death or serious injury.

Dan Hirsch, a retired director of environment and nuclear policy programs at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said, “Just 25 rem is 12,500 X-rays and a very, very high cancer risk.  That [the request is] so far over it is astonishing.”

Plutonium-238 is used as a heat source that can be converted to electricity for long-range space flights, rovers and satellites.

Over the decades, DOE has taken risks storing and transporting plutonium in uncertified containers.  The Safety Board’s report does not provide information about the type of uncertified containers being used, nor where the large shipments would originate.

In 2002, Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, or Tri-Valley CARES, filed a citizens’ suit against DOE for using the DT-22 canisters that failed the government’s “crush test.”  Through the Freedom of Information Act, Tri-Valley CARES received reports about the safety of the canisters that revealed that DOE’s own engineers had concerns, citing several scenarios in which the canister could be crushed.  As a result of the suit, DOE stopped the plutonium shipments from the Rocky Flats Plant, near Denver, Colorado, to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in Livermore, California. and

Hirsch commented, “They’ve identified another safety hazard at Los Alamos regarding containers that may not be able to keep the material from getting released, and they’re estimating doses that are astronomical.”  Even so, Triad National Security, LLC, the nuclear weapons contractor at LANL, is asking for a pass.

1. Wednesday, February 2, 2022, 1 to 3 pm ET, or 11 am to 1 pm MT. Public Mtg. about S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Regulatory Readiness for Oversight of Potential Large-Scale Commercial Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel.  The notice with links is available at:



2. Saturday, February 12, 2022 – last day for NM Environment Department (NMED) Secretary to Decide Whether Significant Public Concerns about the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in WIPP’s newly mined Panel 8 Requires a Public Hearing as a Class 3 Permit Modification Request to the NMED Hazardous Waste Permit.



3. Wednesday, February 16 at 5 pm MT – Public comments due to the NM Environment Department about whether the proposed financial assurance requirements for the cleanup, closure and post-closure of the LANL Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF) at Technical Area 50 are adequate.

For more information: , scroll down to Los Alamos County, then to the U.S. DOE NNSA-LANL heading and scroll down to Ground Water Quality Bureau for Discharge Permit DP-1132.  Stay tuned.  Sample public comments you can use will be available soon at CCNS’s website at



4. Friday, February 25, 2022 – Public Comments due to NM Environment Department, Air Quality Bureau, about revision to LANL’s Air Quality Permit to add two lathes for machining beryllium metal.

For more information: , scroll down to Los Alamos County, then to the U.S. DOE NNSA-LANL heading and scroll down to Air Quality Bureau, for Public Notice for Air Construction Permit (632MI).  Stay tuned.  Sample public comments you can use will be available soon at CCNS’s website at


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