Contact: Jay Coghlan (CCNS) 505/986-1973; Bernd Franke (IEER) 301/315-8251

CCNS Seeks Court Assistance to Require DOE to Provide Funds to Complete Clean Air Act Consent Decree Audits

The first ever civilian technical audit of a U.S. nuclear weapons facility is stalled for lack of funds. The Department of Energy has refused to provide the necessary funding to finish the independent civilian technical audit of the radioactive air emissions monitoring program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The audit, believed to be the first of its kind for a nuclear weapons facility by a civilian group, is the result of a settlement of a lawsuit brought by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety (CCNS) against DOE for the labıs five year long violations of the Clean Air Act. Today, CCNS has served a motion with the District Court of New Mexico seeking to require DOE to provide the necessary funding to complete the audit.

The technical audit is being performed by Dr. John Till from the Risk Assessments Corporation (RAC) and monitored by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER). Dr. Till, explaining the need for more funding, stated that since the audit was the first of its kind, it was impossible to know in advance the amount of funds that would be required. "There is a lot of work which needs to be done to finish the audit satisfactorily," he said. "It's been thorough and rigorous so far, but it's not finished."

Matthew Ortiz, the lawyer representing CCNS, commented, "The independent auditor has already found LANL to be in violation of the Clean Air Act for 1996. I guess that explains why the DOE doesn't want the auditors to finish their work."

According to Bernd Franke, Executive Director of IEER, "If DOE doesn't provide the funds so that the auditors can finish this audit, we have no choice but to file our monitoring report to the court indicating that the terms of the Consent Decree have not been met because the audit has not been completed."

In a May 1998 Draft Partial Report, the auditors determined that LANL was in violation of the Clean Air Act for 1996, despite explicit contrary claims made by LANL and DOE in court documents and public announcements. As the basis for calculating radioactive doses to the public from lab operations, LANL is required by the Act to inventory nuclear materials used at the site. The RAC report found that "a lack of documentation regarding facility inventories severely precluded a thorough evaluation" and was a "primary deficiency that prevented the audit team from verifying what sources may have existed and, therefore, quantitatively verifying compliance."

Jay Coghlan, CCNS LANL Program Director, commented, "The lab's failure to complete a satisfactory and auditable nuclear inventory cost the audit team much additional time and money. It is ironic that LANLıs nuclear weapons budget has grown by nearly half since the fall of the Berlin Wall, that cost overruns for lab weapons facilities are all too commonplace, and yet when the lab causes major problems with an unprecedented independent civilian audit of its radioactive air emissions, DOE refuses to provide the necessary money to finish the job."

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