Audit Report, "Fire Protection Deficiencies at Los Alamos National Laboratory"

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The Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos) maintains some of the Nation's most important national security assets, including nuclear materials. Many of Los Alamos' facilities are located in close proximity to one another, are occupied by large numbers of contract and Federal employees, and support activities ranging from nuclear weapons design to science-related activities. Safeguarding against fires, regardless of origin, is essential to protecting employees, surrounding communities, and national security assets. On June 1, 2006, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), became the managing and operating contractor for Los Alamos, under contract with the Department's National Nuclear ... continued below

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Creator: Unknown. June 1, 2009.

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The Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos) maintains some of the Nation's most important national security assets, including nuclear materials. Many of Los Alamos' facilities are located in close proximity to one another, are occupied by large numbers of contract and Federal employees, and support activities ranging from nuclear weapons design to science-related activities. Safeguarding against fires, regardless of origin, is essential to protecting employees, surrounding communities, and national security assets. On June 1, 2006, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), became the managing and operating contractor for Los Alamos, under contract with the Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). In preparation for assuming its management responsibilities at Los Alamos, LANS conducted walk-downs of the Laboratory's facilities to identify pre-existing deficiencies that could give rise to liability, obligation, loss or damage. The walk-downs, which identified 812 pre-existing fire protection deficiencies, were conducted by subject matter professionals, including fire protection experts. While the Los Alamos Site Office has overall responsibility for the effectiveness of the fire protection program, LANS, as the Laboratory's operating contractor, has a major, day-to-day role in minimizing fire-related risks. The issue of fire protection at Los Alamos is more than theoretical. In May 2000, the 'Cerro Grande' fire burned about 43,000 acres, including 7,700 acres of Laboratory property. Due to the risk posed by fire to the Laboratory's facilities, workforce, and surrounding communities, we initiated this audit to determine whether pre-existing fire protection deficiencies had been addressed. Our review disclosed that LANS had not resolved many of the fire protection deficiencies that had been identified in early 2006: (1) Of the 296 pre-existing deficiencies we selected for audit, 174 (59 percent) had not been corrected; and, (2) A substantial portion of the uncorrected deficiencies, 86 (49 percent) were considered by the walk-down teams to be significant enough to warrant compensatory actions until the deficiency was corrected or was tracked to closure through implementation of corrective actions. Further, we found that 32 of the significant deficiencies had been closed by the previous Los Alamos contractor, prior to LANS assuming responsibility for operation of the Laboratory, even though the deficiencies had not been corrected. A fire protection expert provided technical support during the audit. As an example of uncorrected problems, LANS had not resolved, by performing periodic tests, a deficiency identified in 2006 regarding a kitchen hood fire suppression system in a facility located within the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. Such systems are required to be tested twice a year by the National Fire Protection Association standard, a standard that had been adopted by Department of Energy under DOE Order 420.1B. Yet, in 2006, the LANS walk-down team recognized that this system had not been inspected since May 2004 and noted that deficient suppression systems could result in significantly high levels of property damage and loss. After we brought this issue to management's attention on February 6, 2009, LANS officials stated that the Laboratory would correct this deficiency. As with the problems involving the fire suppression system, we observed that LANS had not always corrected life safety deficiencies involving building exits at one of its primary facilities. This included providing a secondary emergency exit for a building with occupants on multiple floor levels. LANS had removed personnel from the third floor and improved the sprinkler system of the facility, but it had still not provided a secondary exit for personnel on the second floor by the time we completed our review. NNSA has since stated that this fire protection issue will be completely addressed by relocating personnel from the second floor. Perhaps most serious, our testing revealed that a number of deficiencies were formally closed even though actual corrective action had not been completed. Notably, we observed that action had not been taken to resolve a recommendation to replace a fire alarm panel found to be unreliable. After the walk-down was conducted but prior to contract transition, the former contractor closed the recommendation in its action tracking database even though the panel had not been replaced. The walk-down team had categorized the fire alarm system as requiring replacement since it had been modified many times, was old and obsolete, and had very limited available spare parts. In fact, the walk-down team concluded that the panel 'must be considered to be unreliable and should have a very high priority for replacement'.

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  • Report No.: DOE/IG-0816
  • Grant Number: None
  • DOI: 10.2172/958300 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 958300
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc932062

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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Creation Date

  • June 1, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Oct. 24, 2017, 3:41 p.m.

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Audit Report, "Fire Protection Deficiencies at Los Alamos National Laboratory", report, June 1, 2009; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc932062/: accessed January 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.