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Safety

U.S. National lab errs by sending nuclear material by air

by Cheryl Hogue
July 3, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 27

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Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory
NNSA is probing the cause of a contractor’s shipping error at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory
NNSA is probing the cause of a contractor’s shipping error at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico shipped nuclear material to two other national labs by air in violation of federal regulations, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced in late June. Tests run on the material after it arrived at the Lawrence Livermore lab in California and Savannah River lab in South Carolina showed no contamination or loss of radioactive material, NNSA added. Nevertheless, regulations require that the nuclear material be shipped by ground transportation, not air. “This failure to follow established procedures is absolutely unacceptable,” said NNSA Administrator Frank Klotz. The agency has launched an investigation to determine the cause of the mistake and consider what procedures could avoid repeating this mistake in the future. “I require the contractors who manage and operate our national laboratories and production plants to rigorously adhere to the highest safety and security standards in performing the vitally important work they do for our national security,” Klotz said. The material was packaged appropriately for ground cargo transportation, NNSA said.

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