In a January 24th letter sent by the Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments to Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (Livermore Lab’s management entity), the DOE office announced that it is opening an investigation into an April incident in which radioactive contamination from the nuclear weapons lab was found on and off-site.
The letter is scant on details, however it refers to an otherwise previously undisclosed, “March 2023 loss of contamination control and the discovery of contaminated property both on and offsite, including at a Lawrence Livermore National Security worker’s residence, on April 8, 2023.”
Tri-Valley CAREs, a community-based watchdog group that monitors Livermore Lab, expressed concern at the delay of informing the public of the existence of the contamination problem and the remaining lack of detail about the extent of the contamination.
“It is disappointing to learn that the Lab has been aware of newly contaminated property both on and offsite since March of last year, but never disclosed its existence to the public,” said the organizations Executive Director, Scott Yundt. “There has been years of effort to open transparency regarding lab incidents and accidents, yet it still takes the parent agency, in this case the DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments, decision to investigate the contamination to release even the most basic details of the problem to the public. This community deserves better communication about the Labs hazards,” Yundt continued.
The letter from the DOE Office of Enterprise states that, “Although investigating the loss of contamination control and offsite discovery of contaminated property will be the general purpose of this investigation, additional issues relating to the scope, nature, and extent of compliance with DOE’s nuclear safety requirements… may be pursued as issues arise during the course of the investigation.” It goes on to say that, “The investigation will include an onsite visit and interviews with contractor personnel.”
Livermore Lab has a long history of both routine and accidental releases of radiation and toxic chemicals into the environment. It has been on the Federal Superfund List of contaminated sites requiring cleanup since 1990.
“It is alarming to hear about the new on-site radioactive contamination, but even more so the hear that radioactive contamination has again made its way from the Lab into the community,” said Tri-Valley CAREs Senior Advisor Marylia Kelley. “Without more details about the extent of the problem or even the particular radionuclide that was involved, the community is left in the dark,” she added.
“We will be following up on this announcement with Freedom of Information Act requests for more information about the causes and extent of the contamination and we will provide that information to the public seeing as we cannot depend on the Lab to do so voluntarily,” Yundt remarked.
Click here for the DOE Office of Enterprise Assessment 1-24-24 letter