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LANL security fixes behind schedule

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Work to fix a troubled $244 million Los Alamos National Laboratory security system will likely continue into February, beyond the original planned December completion date, lab spokesman Fred deSousa said Tuesday.

The repairs were needed over the last year after lab officials discovered problems with a newly built network of fences, intrusion detection systems and cameras surrounding the lab’s plutonium complex.

“Construction is nearing completion and we’ve finished the testing, acceptance and verification phases in a number of areas,” deSousa said in a written statement to the Journal in response to questions about the status of the project.

According to deSousa, the project’s completion is taking longer than expected because of additional problems found as repair work was done over the past year. The newly discovered problems involved integration of cameras and sensors, deSousa said in a telephone interview.

The $213 million Nuclear Materials Safeguards and Security Upgrade Project was nearly completed when the lab discovered in October 2012 that its high-tech security systems did not work they way they were supposed to.

Because its entire budget had already been spent, the lab had to shut down work and post armed guards in its place while officials with the lab and its parent federal agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration, sorted out what to do.

In a memo to Los Alamos staff last November, lab director Charles McMillan said the problems had “damaged the laboratory’s credibility.”

The final total cost, after the fixes and temporary security needed to protect the facility in the interim, stands at $244 million, according to deSousa.

Last December, the NNSA and the lab’s management contractor, a consortium run by industrial giant Bechtel Corp. and the University of California, agreed the federal government would be reimbursed $10 million because of the problems.

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