U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Energy Secretary Visits Nuclear Labs to Outline Security Role

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is making his first visit to the Sandia National Laboratories this morning after paying a visit to the Los Alamos National Laboratory yesterday. Both labs are administered by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a separately organized agency within DOE that works on military application of nuclear science.

Chu is scheduled to deliver a speech today on the role of the nuclear security labs in meeting national challenges and advancing the nuclear security agenda President Obama has outlined, and he will tour the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications Microelectronics Laboratory at Sandia.

On April 3, DOE issued Preliminary Notices of Violation to Stanford University, Pacific Underground Construction, Inc., and Western Allied Mechanical, Inc. for violations of 10 C.F.R. Part 851, Worker Safety and Health Program, in a polyvinyl chloride pipe explosion that occurred Sept. 13, 2007, at DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif. Stanford is the managing and operating contractor at the facility. The violations occurred as Pacific Underground Construction was performing work there; Western Allied Mechanical was a subcontractor to Pacific, according to DOE, which said it noted deficiencies against the three contractors in construction safety, fire protection, and adhering to safety procedures. The proposed civil penalties were $210,000 for Stanford, $42,000 for Pacific, and $56,000 for Western, but DOE did not fine the university because it is a not-for-profit educational institution that receives no fee to operate the facility.

DOE said the explosion occurred as a welder began cutting into a metal pipe to install a pressure gauge. The metal pipe was connected to PVC piping that had been installed the previous day using PVC primer and cement, then sealed for pressure testing. The heat from the welder's acetylene torch ignited vapors from the primer and cement inside the piping, causing an explosion in an outdoor trench. No workers were permanently injured, but one worker suffered temporary hearing loss, the agency said.

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