Energy Inspector General Faults Beryllium Controls at Los Alamos National Laboratory

The IG's Feb. 20 report concluded LANL did not fully implement an effective Prevention Program as required, did not complete hazard assessments with sampling plans for each record in its 2016 beryllium inventory, and released potentially contaminated areas for other use without a formal evaluation to ensure any residual contamination was within acceptable limits.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Inspector General issued a report Feb. 20 that is critical of the controls on beryllium exposure that are used by DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. The report concludes LANL did not fully implement an effective Prevention Program as required, did not complete hazard assessments with sampling plans for each record in its 2016 beryllium inventory, and released potentially contaminated areas for other use without a formal evaluation to ensure any residual contamination was within acceptable limits.

The report is cited in a Feb. 26 article by article by Rebecca Moss of The Santa Fe New Mexican that is featured on the ProPublica.org website; The Santa Fe New Mexican is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

The report discusses how the IG personnel conducted their inspection between May 2016 and February 2018 at LANL, saying the office initiated it because of "the significant risk to the work force of beryllium exposure." It says "several internal and external entities" from 2009 to 2015 assessed LANL's compliance with its Prevention Program and cited concerns with beryllium inventory completeness and hazard assessment documentation.

The report makes four recommendations to the manager of the Los Alamos Field Office:

  • LANL documents inventory updates, hazard assessments, and sampling plans as required by the lab's federally approved Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program.
  • LANL reviews and updates the inventory to ensure it is accurate and complete.
  • The Field Office review and approves, as appropriate, significant revisions to the Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program.
  • LANL, in coordination with the Field Office, should assess the risk associated with repurposed beryllium areas and make a risk-based judgment about the level of residual contamination and potential for beryllium exposure.

In its response, which is included in the report, LANL management said it concurs with the recommendations and that corrective actions have been initiated or are planned to address issues identified in the report. It also said the National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Safety and the DOE Office of Environment, Safety and Health Assessments will complete an evaluation of the Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program by Dec. 31, 2018.

Also included is a Jan. 20, 2018, letter to the IG's office from William I White, NNSA chief of staff and associate principal deputy administrator, in which White writes, "Although the weaknesses noted by the IG did not result in any known exposures to beryllium, NNSA is committed to strengthening worker protection programs including beryllium safety."

Chronic beryllium disease is an often debilitating and sometimes fatal lung condition, as the report states.

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