Friday, December 02, 2005

LANL Bio Safety Lab Review Set

By John Arnold
Journal Staff Writer

A new environmental review begins this month for Los Alamos National Laboratory's controversial $4.1 million Biological Safety Level-3 Facility, designed to study live infectious agents like anthrax and plague.

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced this week that it will prepare an environmental impact statement, beginning this month, with public input on the scope of the study. The process will take at least nine months, and it could be January 2007 before lab operations begin, according to John Ordaz, an NNSA environmental stewardship manager.

The BSL-3 lab has been sitting idle since it was built two years ago. It was originally scheduled to open in the spring of 2004, but the opening was delayed following a legal challenge and NNSA's decision to redo studies on the environmental impacts of the lab.


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It's ok (apparently) to have a sloppy operation which allows workers to track Am-241 over a four state region.

It is not ok to have a sloppy operation which allows hazardous bioagents to "accidentally" escape. Am I the only one uncomfortable with that likelihood, given LANL's history?
No problem. Just like in the Andromeda strain, we'll nuke the lab if something gets out.
Snake Lips has a cogent solution. Now if we can just get it into the EIS. That would make it a serious game, rather than just "aw shucks"!

For those who don't think the AM-241 incident was serious, think again. The health effects may not, we hope, be serious, but it cost millions of dollars. Was the TSM fired, or was it "aw shucks"? If he/she was not fired, why not? And why is the BSL-3 a good idea for those who don't play a serious game?
Considering the number of larger BSL-3 labs already operated by UC (over a dozen at various its campuses and medical centers) and many other universities/institutions in this country, I'm amazed by the blind fear of BSL-3 work at LANL and LLNL... there are only a very few places where Pu and other SNM is handled, but not the same when it comes to bio work at the BSL-3 level and the knowledge level and work practices for safely doing this work is well known and monitored by the CDC... the problem is DOE is trying to apply a nuclear safety model for regulating this work instead of letting the CDC do its job - the ultimate in turf wars... UC could do the same work safely in one of its existing BSL-3 labs under CDC and California State regulations, but trying to do it in a DOE funded lab with DOE rules sends the cost through the roof in order to meet useless (sometimes silly) DOE requirements, without improving safety one little bit.
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