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‘Inadvertent’ Nuke Risks Still Not Tracked Eight Years After Warning

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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A Department of Energy contractor still has problems with a nuclear weapons safety program eight years after a federal watchdog pointed out issues, the agency’s inspector general (IG) reported Monday.

Sandia National Laboratories’ system designed to track how problems with the nuclear weapons safety program were addressed was never completed, according to the IG report. The watchdog warned the contractor that such a system was necessary in 2008.

The safety program is intended to “minimize the possibility of accidental or inadvertent nuclear explosive detonation,” the report said. (RELATED: US Nuclear Weapons Could Die Thanks To $20 Million Of Neglect)

“[T]he project that Sandia established in 2011 to improve the formal tracking system has languished for several years without a defined scope or firm completion date,” the IG wrote. “Sandia officials postponed any updates to the tracking system.”

The contractor started a tracking system in 2008, but stopped updating it in 2011 when it launched an improvement project.

“As a result, the information that is needed to make informed decisions about safety improvements in future weapon refurbishment programs may not be readily accessible,” the watchdog continued. “[F]uture engineers may have difficulty finding the latest information on soft spots if Sandia does not maintain its tracking system.”

Employee turnover could also decrease the amount of knowledge surrounding the gaps in the nuclear weapons safety program, the IG noted. A system that tracks problems with nuclear weapons safety would reduce the knowledge lost from such turnover.

Sandia “identified 23 high priority nuclear weapons safety issues” in 2008, “for which there were either no plans to resolve the issues or plans were incomplete,” but wasn’t tracking how the contractor tracked corrections for those problems, the IG wrote.

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