Improperly packaged nuclear materials sent from Los Alamos to Aiken County

June 24, 2017

Proper procedures were not followed in shipping small amounts of nuclear material to Aiken County, as well as to a lab in California, according to a news release.

The National Nuclear Safety Administraton, or NNSA, said in a news release Friday that the procedural breakdown occurred involving a shipment of “small quantities of special nuclear material” from the Los Alamos National Lab, or LANL, in Arizona.

Nuclear materials were transported last week by commercial cargo plane, instead of by commercial ground cargo services, to two destinations, the release said.

One destination was the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The other was the Savannah River National Laboratory, or SRNL, in Aiken County, according to the release.

“This failure to follow established procedures is absolutely unacceptable,” NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said in a statement. “I require the contractors who manage and operate our national laboratories and production plants to rigorously adhere to the highest safety and security standards in performing the vitally important work they do for our national security.”

An SRNL representative was not immediately available for comment Saturday morning.

The news release did not specify what the nuclear materials where, exactly when they were shipped or the exact quantity.

The error occurred due to the way shipping documents were prepared, according to the release.

“Upon receipt of the shipments at their respective destinations, safety tests confirmed that there was no loss of radioactive material or contamination,” the news release states.

An investigation is underway to determine what led to the breakdown. NNSA said in the release it will review terms of its contract with the responsible party or parties, and will hold any responsible parties accountable.

SRNL is an applied science and technology laboratory whose operations primarily support the Savannah River Site and its mission. It also works with the Department of National Homeland and Security to protect nuclear interests, according to SRNL documents.

Specifically, SRNL offers chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosives training at SRS, and also helps manage cleanup of legacy waste at SRS.

SRNL also provides “advanced laboratory support to the Site Tritium Operations of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Liquid and Solid Waste Operations, Nuclear Materials Operations Programs and Site Infrastructure,” the SRNL website states.