Federal officials probe national lab after worker incident

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SANTA FE (AP) — Federal officials are investigating the Los Alamos National Laboratory after an employee was involved in an incident described as a "near-miss to a fatality."

A worker entered a lab room that had insufficient oxygen despite an alarm sounding. The September incident was characterized as potentially deadly and a violation of building requirements and emergency response protocol, according to a letter sent last week to the outgoing lab director by the Department of Energy's Office of Enforcement.

No workers were injured during the incident, lab spokesman Matt Nerzig said in a statement.

"We are cooperating fully with the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Enforcement," Nerzig said.

Additional information about the incident was not provided by the lab or the National Nuclear Security Administration, the agency that oversees nuclear weapons labs.

Agency officials said the administration works closely with the Office of Enforcement to ensure that safety and health policies are properly implemented in all labs.

"The National Nuclear Security Administration is committed to ensuring the safety of our workforce," the agency said in a statement.

The investigation will include a visit to the lab and interviews with employees, according to the letter from Kevin Dressman, acting director of the Office of Enforcement.

Dressman wrote that the incident "revealed potential deficiencies" in how lab managers apply emergency management policies.

Los Alamos National Security LLC, which is a private consortium that includes the University of California and Bechtel National, operates the lab under a federal contract that expires next year.