Concerns over lab’s plutonium project in memo

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• NNSA says memo taken out of context

By Roger Snodgrass

A memo from a frustrated official in Washington earlier this year raised questions about management of a $13 million plutonium project at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A program manager from the Department of Energy Office of Radioisotope Power Systems urged Los Alamos Site Office Manager Don Winchell at the beginning of the year to correct “the laboratory’s chronic poor performance on this program.”

The memo, which was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) in Washington, D.C., criticizes the lab’s plutonium-238 program which is supposed to supply nuclear-powered electrical systems for space and defense projects.

“They’re running a shoddy ship out there,” said Peter Stockton, POGO’s principal investigator, this morning.

A National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman disagreed.

“This is a clear case of a group taking information out of context to mislead the public,” said Damien LaVera, spokesperson from the NNSA in Washington. “The fact is that government oversight in this instance effectively served the taxpayer’s interests. The department raised issues with the lab and requested a planning document, which was immediately provided.”

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