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The Los Alamos contractor that packaged the radioactive waste linked to a leak at the government’s nuclear waste dump is laying off workers.
A Los Alamos spokesman Wednesday confirmed that Energy Solutions has reduced its workforce by 115 because its contract for packing the waste for shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad expired June 30.
That is the date the lab was supposed to have thousands of barrels of contaminated waste off its northern New Mexico campus. But the final shipments were halted after the February leak that shuttered WIPP was traced to a barrel packed by Energy Solutions.
The lab statement said, “We have been informed by Energy Solutions of a reduction in force of 115 personnel by the end of June. These reductions in force coincide with the long scheduled expiration of the laboratory’s subcontract with Energy Solutions on June 30. We thank these men and women for their contributions to the laboratory and we wish them well.”
In all, 34 people were let got March 30, another 23 on June 2 and 58 effective Monday.
Scientists think a reaction in the waste was fueled by the inorganic cat litter that was packed in the barrel to absorb moisture. Investigators are looking at the process followed by Los Alamos and the contractor in switching from inorganic to organic litter.
According to the press release from the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, a message from EnergySolutions Vice President Miles Smith said: ”Previously, as part of the completion of waste processing for the 3706 Campaign, on March 30, 2014, EnergySolutions reduced staffing by 34 people. This was done to meet LANL requirements and to right size for the new follow-on tasks. Subsequently, because of the requirement for LANL to fund storage at Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews, Texas, we were required to reduce personnel by another 23 people on June 2.
“ We anticipate having to release an additional 58 personnel by June 30, 2014. This is being driven by the fact that $20 million of LANL’s 2014 Environmental Management funding has been reallocated to pay for the WIPP incident Technical Assistance Team made up of national laboratory personnel from across DOE and for continued storage of 113 containers of waste at WCS.” The anticipated layoffs happened as planned this past Monday.
The Albuquerque Journal, meanwhile, reported that Smith said his company believes nothing it added to waste drums caused a radioactive leak.
“We followed the procedures that were provided to us, and I think LANL did their due diligence,” Smith told the newspaper.
Theories have abounded including absorbent cat litter added to the drums caused a reaction that cracked the lid on at least container at WIPP.