Ploughshares Fund Grantee Uncovers Poor Nuclear Management, Costing Taxpayers Millions

Upon filing of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) released Performance Evaluation Reports for its eight nuclear sites this week. The reports, which provide insight into management of the plants and also disclose funds awarded to contracting corporations, reveal some disturbing information about already unsettling projects.

The company managing the laboratory constructing of the new Radiological Laboratory and Utility Office Building in New Mexico, Los Alamos National Security (LANS), is cutting 600 jobs during a period of record-breaking $83.7 million in profits. The reports found that LANS was deficient in their management of the $312 million project, which was supposed to be fully operational in 2011 and is now running behind schedule.

At another site, this one California, the contractor managing construction at the Lawrence Livermore Lab is failing to produce promised results in its National Ignition Facility Campaign, a $7 billion project whose goal of “nuclear ignition” is years behind schedule. In Tennessee, a plan for site readiness and a safety inspection at the Y-12 site were deemed unacceptable. Honeywell, the contractor responsible for the construction of a new Kansas City Plant, has chosen to ignore EPA recommendations and has left heavily contaminated water at the old plant creating health risk for plant workers.

These reports, which initially were public, were then removed from open access by the NNSA in 2009. This raises fundamental questions of accountability and public disclosure. The estimated $54 billion spent on nuclear weapons and related programs by the US each year is already catastrophically high. But where is that money actually going? If contractors are being awarded large profits at the same time they are failing to meet their basic milestones, what confidence can we have that other national nuclear programs are well-managed? We would not stand for such inefficiency and failure to perform in other institutions, why allow it to happen in the nuclear weapons arena?

The public disclosure of these innefficiencies makes it difficult for proponents of nuclear spending to justify their position without answering these questions. 

Photo by Peter Fedewa