Friday, January 07, 2005

Safety Observation

After hearing of Linton Brooks' "modified" safety findings, in which LANL was made to appear much worse than any other facility in the DOE complex at the time of the shutdown, Brad Holian made this comment:


We know that in the week before the shutdown one person died at Hanford
and one at Savannah River (they are "in the DOE complex", by the way).
None have died at LANL in the past year, though there may well have
been some "near misses." What is this "orders of magnitude worse than
at any other place else in the DOE complex"? Lee McAtee (Health, Safety
and Radiation Protection Division Leader at Los Alamos National
Laboratory) stated in an opinion column for the Los Alamos Monitor
(Nov.29, 2004) that "At the end of 2003, the Department of Energy
(DOE)-wide average rate was 1.8, compared to our current value of 2.5.
(By comparison, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory had injury rates of 1.5 and 1.2, respectively.)"
While he selectively chose to report site averages for LANL (including
both construction workers, and researchers) to compare with
researchers at the other labs, nevertheless the numbers do not show
more than a factor of two difference--not 10 or 100 times ("orders of
magnitude"). If site averages are used for all three labs, there is
virtually no difference in injury rates. In an article in the Santa Fe
New Mexican, Chris Steele (LAAO DOE Safety Officer) was quoted to the
effect that the plutonium pit manufacturing facility should remain
closed. So, I asked a colleague in the LANL safety analysis section if
there was some horrible ("secret") information about safety violations
at the plutonium pit manufacturing facility at LANL that upper Lab
management doesn't want the public to find out about.


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