Energy Dept.: contractors fined after nuclear materials misplaced
recently conducted an audit of two nuclear weapons facilities in New Mexico — Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories — and has brought down stiff fines on government contractors at those labs for failing to secure nuclear information and materials, and putting national security at risk. The audit found that, in 2007, Los Alamos National Laboratories was supposed to destroy nuclear materials at a disposal site in Nevada. It could not be confirmed that the materials ever left the facility, nor could it be confirmed that they ever arrived in Nevada. Five years passed before anyone noticed that the nuclear components had been misplaced. Due to this event, the company that operates Los Alamos laboratory must pay $247,000 in fines, in addition to unrelated fines for safety violations. Meanwhile, Sandia National Laboratory (which is run by managing contractor Lockheed Martin) was fined $577,500 for allowing classified nuclear weapons information to be accessed between 1997 and 2011 via unsecured web servers and PowerPoint demonstrations, which were handed out on CDs. Nuclear weapons design information was available to the public, due to 47 instances of a classified PowerPoint presentation online. According to last year’s performance evaluation of the lab, “Sandia continues to experience a significant number of security incidents, topping out at 190 incidents of security concern in fiscal year 2014.” Lockheed Martin was granted more than $26 million in government bonuses in 2014 for operating the lab. These two missteps alone could have had severe consequences for national security. However, these are not the first incidences of trouble for labs in New Mexico. Los Alamos’ activities had previously been suspended in both 2004 and 2006 after classified information was lost or taken by lab employees.]]>
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