SANTA FE, N.M. — In a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, a federal nuclear safety panel says Los Alamos National Laboratory came up short during several exercises, drills and simulations intended to show how the lab would respond to potential emergencies, such as radioactive leaks, hazardous materials spills, an active shooter or an earthquake.
Dating back to 2014, the staff of the congressionally chartered Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board “found numerous weaknesses in specific areas of demonstrated emergency response,” and with the drills and exercise programs themselves, says a report attached to the letter sent to Perry on Oct. 11.
Among a long list of criticisms and findings, the report says LANL crews regularly failed at establishing adequate incident command capabilities during the simulated emergencies. There was a lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities, ineffective coordination of responses to the emergency scene and inadequate communications, among other shortcomings.
The exercises also showed delays in evacuations or getting emergency medical responders to those likely to be injured.