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Accident at nuclear weapons complex

Guest Jennifer Porter Gore

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Guest Jennifer Porter Gore

In what is a stunning example of lax federal oversight, the government agency designated to assure the security and safety of the country’s nuclear weapons complex has decided not to investigate a construction accident that occurred June 28 at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has learned.


The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced its decision in a July 10 memo--eight days after the accident in which two people were seriously injured when a steel stairway fell on them, according to the occurrence report detailing the accident. In the memo, the NNSA’s Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs tells the agency’s Los Alamos Site Office that the government will not conduct an investigation into the accident.


This is the first documented safety incident since the federal government handed the lab’s management oversight to a private company, Los Alamos National Security (LANS). Earlier this year, the NNSA announced LANS would identify and correct operational problems and safety issues. The contractor itself is also allowed to set the safety criteria that NNSA’s Los Alamos Office will use to evaluate the contractor.



“This is a preposterous situation,” said Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director. “LANL has had a long list of security and management problems. Now, the government is giving management responsibility to an outside contractor and letting that contractor set its own grading system. This is like allowing a student to grade his or her own term paper.”


The NNSA said it reserves the right to conduct an investigation.

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