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Audit cites deficiencies in New Mexico labs

April 6, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A new federal audit has found Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories failed to monitor nuclear weapons designs as well as the reliability of parts being used to build them, the Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday.

The U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General’s report states both sites could not consistently locate drawings for nuclear weapons and components in official repositories, according to the Journal (http://bit.ly/1lJ0E1C).

In the March 26 report, officials said they were concerned about incorrect parts being used for nuclear weapons.

Without safeguard and proper information, the National Nuclear Security Administration “loses confidence in its nuclear weapons stockpile,” officials said.

A NNSA spokesman declined comment when reached by the Journal on Friday. But the agency previously said in a written response that it wasn’t disputing any findings and is agreeing to the report’s recommendations.

The report cites several examples including when 11 nuclear warheads damaged during production were sent to the Navy in 2010 had to be returned.

Auditors said they couldn’t find design drawings for neutron generators used in 16 of 36 weapons at Sandia using the NNSA’s record system. The time it takes to track them down could become very time consuming, auditors said.

Sandia spokesman Jim Danneskiold said the lab located all but one of the drawings because it was misnumbered.

The report also pointed out that some weapons drawings at Los Alamos were being revised after they had already been reviewed extensively and approved, creating a bad precedent.

“NNSA is at increased risk of unauthorized and inappropriate changes to nuclear weapons design information,” the report said.

In contrast, Sandia received praise for not allowing weapons drawings to be altered.

“Non-conforming” parts for weapons made up the other main concern in the document. According to the report, 19 of 30 parts tested at Los Alamos did not get the necessary technical adjustments and were labeled as “specification exception releases.”

“Officials lacked assurance that the component was suitable for use in a nuclear weapon,” auditors wrote.

In some cases, the allowance of mishandled parts has led to costly time delays, sometimes leading to more than $20 million in additional costs.

But auditors said it appears the NNSA is now trying to ensure all weapons drawings and design materials are digitally catalogued and more accessible.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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