The UC-affiliated Los Alamos National Laboratory will not have to pay the $1.1 million in safety fines it was facing, due to its previously held non-profit contractor exemption status.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the lab, recommended the fines, but released a statement on Monday acknowledging that federal law prevented it. NNSA brought the charges up for nuclear safety violations that occurred in 2005, when the lab was still under UC control.
Had the suggested fines been paid for the 15 violations, it would have been the largest civil penalty in the history of the NNSA program. Because LANL is now managed by a coterie of national defense contractors as well as the University, it has lost its exemption status and can be forced to pay fines for future incidents.
Control of the facility was formally transferred to Los Alamos National Security, LLC in June 2006.
According to the NNSA report, several workers were exposed to small amounts of radioactive material in March 2005. Additionally, that July, another worker contaminated himself and spread radiation to several offsite locations.
The resulting radioactive exposure did not exceed NNSA limits; however, the association found the effects of the leaks could have been significantly worse.
In addition to those incidents, A DOE Office of Independent Oversight inspection conducted in November 2005 uncovered several deficiencies in Los Alamos’ implementation of environmental, health and safety programs.