Los Alamos: Timeline of events

2013: A waste container at the lab is packaged with a volatile mix of nitrate salts and organic kitty litter and is shipped to WIPP.

Feb. 14, 2014: The container ruptures in the underground WIPP facility, leaking radiation. Several workers are exposed, although levels are not considered a health hazard. WIPP is closed indefinitely.

March-December 2014: Federal investigators issue scathing reports finding multiple problems with how waste is handled at the lab. One report finds workers who tried to alert supervisors to problems with waste containers were ignored.

Chronology of major incidents marking Los Alamos National Laboratory’s management history, Local News, Santa Fe, New Mexico , 4 Jan 16 The New Mexican

Jan. 1, 1943: A secret national laboratory is set up in Los Alamos to design a nuclear bomb during World War II. The University of California is named the official lab manager and is paid $5 million for a one-year contract. The U.S. Department of Energy oversees the lab’s operations. J. Robert Oppenheimer is the lab’s director.

1945: An atomic bomb is tested at the Trinity Site in Southern New Mexico on July 16, ushering in the nuclear age………

1988: A new federal law gives the Department of Energy more leverage over lab contractors. The University of California at Los Alamos National Laboratory is exempted from the law.

1989: Len Trimmer, a senior-level lab technician, tells lab management about rusting, leaking nuclear waste drums and other problems at Area G, where LANL stores nuclear waste. Trimmer says he’s harassed by lab management, goes on medical leave and files a whistleblower lawsuit against the lab four years later. The lab denies harassment.

1991: The Department of Energy’s Complex-wide Tiger Team audits LANL and finds the lab is failing to properly monitor radioactive emissions into the air. “Management accountability and oversight are lacking,” the team finds. Another federal report finds the lab hasn’t tallied up all the hazardous materials on site and that the “Energy Department has neither the information nor the qualified staff to clean up nuclear weapons complex facilities.”

The New Mexican culminates a three-month investigation with a six-day series called “Fouling the Nest” that looks at contamination from more than 1,800 hazardous waste dump sites around Los Alamos from lab activities. Cost to clean up: an estimated $2 billion.

The newspaper’s publisher, Robert McKinney, defends the lab, fires a reporter and the managing editor, and allows LANL to publish a special supplement defending itself.

The Cold War ends, leading to the beginning of major mission changes for the lab.

1992: Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety sues the lab over federal air quality violations and eventually wins.

April 1994: Safety violations close the lab’s plutonium facility at Technical Area 55……….

March 1999: A veteran 20-year Los Alamos scientist, Wen Ho Lee, is fired and then arrested months later on 59 charges that he illegally copied classified nuclear weapons files. He is suspected of sharing the documents with China but is never charged with espionage. Lee’s supporters say he was unfairly singled out because he is ethnic Chinese. The government later drops all but one charge against him.

More than two dozen other security violations are reported by the lab after Lee is fired. The lab stops publicly reporting computer security violations………

May 2000: The Cerro Grande Fire burns close to lab property, prompting state officials to push the lab to get thousands of containers of legacy hazardous waste off the Hill……….

April 2003: Nanos removes more than a dozen lab managers from their positions. Energy Secretary Abraham announces the LANL contract will go up for a competitive bid for the first time in the lab’s 60-year history. UC’s contract ends Sept. 30, 2005. Some 266 scientists ask to retire. A senior Energy Department official acknowledges “university failures, our failures and cultural failures as the three root causes” for problems at the lab……..

June 1, 2006: The LANL contract is awarded to Los Alamos National Security, a consortium that includes the University of California, Bechtel Corp., BWX Technologies and Washington Group International (now AECOM). Michael R. Anastasio is named lab director.

October 2006: Classified materials are found at the home of a contract employee during a drug raid. An employee takes home a computer containing hundreds of pages of classified documents; she is arrested.

2007: The lab produces a plutonium pit for a nuclear bomb core, the first since the 1989 closure of the Rocky Mountain Flats lab in Colorado. A plutonium accident contaminates a high-security nuclear area.

Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, is told to resign by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, in part over security breaches at LANL………

2009: A scientist takes home a computer containing classified material, which is later stolen out of his house.

2011: The Las Conchas Fire burns thousands of acres around the lab. Gov. Susana Martinez urges the lab to move up its deadline to get remaining hazardous waste containers down to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

Workers are exposed to arsenic. The lab is fined. Nuclear physicist Charles F. McMillan replaces Anastasio as lab director.

2012: A worker is exposed to beryllium. The lab is fined. In addition, the Neutron Science Center and nine homes off lab property are contaminated after a worker opens a container of a highly dispersible radioactive powder, according to accident reports.

2013: A waste container at the lab is packaged with a volatile mix of nitrate salts and organic kitty litter and is shipped to WIPP.

Feb. 14, 2014: The container ruptures in the underground WIPP facility, leaking radiation. Several workers are exposed, although levels are not considered a health hazard. WIPP is closed indefinitely.

March-December 2014: Federal investigators issue scathing reports finding multiple problems with how waste is handled at the lab. One report finds workers who tried to alert supervisors to problems with waste containers were ignored.

December 2014: Eight workers are exposed to plutonium while working on a glovebox in the lab’s PF-4 facility. Exposure is not serious, according to the lab………

December 2015: The Department of Energy tells Congress it is putting the LANL contract back up for bid. http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/chronology-of-major-incidents-marking-los-alamos-national-laboratory-s/article_555658e6-077e-5043-98e0-633ab04fe8eb.html

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