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DECADE LATER, LOS ALAMOS NUKES STILL UNSTABLE

It's ten years later, and Los Alamos still hasn't stablizied its most dangerous nuclear materials. That's the word today from the Energy Department's Inspector General, Gregory Friedman. Here are some of the "highlights" of his report:

* In 1994, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board recommended that the Department of Energy stabilize fissionable and radioactive materials at Los Alamos National Laboratory and at numerous other Department sites. The purpose of the Board's recommendation was to reduce safety and health risks to Department employees and the public.* Citing little progress at Los Alamos, in 2000, the Board reemphasized the importance of the stabilization program and recommended that the Department accelerate its schedule.* Although the Department has made some progress in stabilizing the most hazardous fissionable materials, stabilization has not been accelerated to the level anticipated.* According to Los Alamos' most recent Project Execution Plan, the materials will not be completely stabilized until 2010; a date well beyond the original projected completion date. The Department has also missed interim milestones and project tasks, which may delay the stabilization effort beyond 2010.* Unless the Department and Los Alamos place a higher priority on stabilizing these materials, radioactive materials at the Laboratory may continue to deteriorate and negatively impact the safety and health of workers. Further, by extending the schedule until 2010, the Department will incur an estimated $78 million in additional costs to stabilize these dangerous materials. Any delay beyond 2010 would exacerbate the situation.
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