LANL responds to beryllium report

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The Los Alamos National Laboratory has already taken steps to correct criticisms about the lab’s beryllium safety program made in a Feb. 20 report from the Department of Energy’s Office Inspector General, according to a lab spokesman.

In it’s February report, the DOE’s Inspector General’s office found some federal guidelines outlined in the Los Alamos National Laboratory Chronic Beryllium Disease Prevention Program were not followed, putting lab workers at risk.

“The IG report cited record-keeping issues dating back a year, and not worker exposure or safety concerns. That said, these record-keeping issues have been addressed,” a lab spokesman said, who asked not to be named.

The spokesman also said the Los Alamos National Laboratory has added more personnel resources to the program, corrected the process of how beryllium is tracked through the facility, and increased management oversight.

In the report, Deputy Inspector General Michelle Anderson said the lab failed to create plans that would prove areas where beryllium was present were safe for other uses.

The lab also didn’t keep accurate enough records of beryllium operation locations and contamination areas, according to the report.

A site inspection revealed that two transportable containers used for beryllium were actually buildings.

“Another inventory location documented a transportable container as ‘not found.’ However, we located the transportable container and it was being used to store beryllium-contaminated equipment,” the report said.

According to Marshall, the lapses occurred because the Los Alamos National Laboratory followed a newer procedure that wasn’t approved by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field office.

“For example, the hazard assessment form for one inventory record specified that a surface sample was required to be performed each time a beryllium operation takes place; however, the corresponding record on the 2016 beryllium inventory specified that surface sampling was not required,” said the report.

The lab followed the non-compliant procedure in response to findings in  2015 Occupational Safety and Health Division report.

“Even though the procedure was implemented in 2016, it was not the valid requirement for management and controlling worker exposure to beryllium because it was not approved for use by the field office,” the report said.

Greg Mello, executive director of an environmental and nuclear group called Los Alamos Study Group, noted that the lab statement did not contain anything about harm to workers due to the oversights.

“They don’t want to know the answers. They don’t want to have to report beryllium contamination, so their procedures are biased to avoid creating a beryllium public relations and morale problem.”

According to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet on beryllium, beryllium is used in the manufacture of electrical components, tools, and structural components for aircraft, missiles and satellites.

Workers continually exposed to beryllium can get berylliosis, a disease characterized by non-cancerous legions in the lungs. Effects can be delayed by three months and up to 20 years. Symptoms of the disease also include reduced lung capacity, shortness of breath, fatigue, anorexia, dyspnea and malaise and weight loss.