System guarding nuke triggers at Los Alamos doesn’t work!

A new $213 million security system designed to increase protection for the nation’s nuclear bomb-building lab doesn’t work, federal officials acknowledged…the latest in a series of cost-overruns and questions about the integrity of work on projects aimed at upgrading the aging plutonium facilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory…

The lab and its oversight board confirmed there are major problems with the system, which has been under construction for seven years, after a memo from the National Nuclear Security Administration about the project surfaced.

“The performance on this project has been unacceptable and we will hold LANS fully accountable for all costs,” said Joshua McConaha, a spokesman for the NNSA, the federal agency that oversees Los Alamos. “We take our responsibility to protect taxpayer dollars seriously. We will use all the tools available to correct the situation.”

He said the agency is sending a team to the lab “to examine the financial and management issues that led us to this point. As always, protection of Category 1 material is our top priority, and we will ensure that the project is completed while maintaining full compliance with all protection requirements.”

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark emphasized…blah, blah, blah.

Technical Area 55 is the only place in the country where nuclear weapon triggers can be made and includes a concrete, bunker-like complex that houses two aging labs where most of LANL’s work with dangerous plutonium is done. Work to upgrade those facilities and make sure they are structurally able to withstand a major earthquake also has been plagued by cost overruns. The complex sits atop major fault lines…

It’s a pretty big black-eye,” Greg Mello, executive director of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group, said of the latest revelations…

“The notion that the security systems guarding plutonium at the nation’s premier plutonium site are deficient and need compensatory measures has not just national but international ramifications. It makes it difficult for the United States to tell other countries that their security is inadequate.”

I always have mixed feelings about the Los Alamos National Labs. As did the original group of scientists on a project tasked with developing nuclear weapons to counter the parallel effort in Nazi Germany. The best of the lot, Leo Szilard and Robert Oppenheimer, turned their energy towards world peace and a rejection of nuclear weapons as soon as the war ended. They were reviled by our politicians and targeted by McCarthyite scum.

There are a number of scientists who came to the Labs after the End of the Cold War – responding to Clinton’s realignment of goals as part of the “peace dividend”. Goals which have since been set aside by Bush and Cheney and their Department of Homeland Security. Trying to finish the work they started must be seriously frustrating. And while they work, the right wing of American politics – tied tightly as ever to a military-industrial complex – continues to call for single-minded dedication to global death and destruction.

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