Los Alamos National Security received a $9.1 million bonus for reaching environmental management goals in its operation of Los Alamos National Laboratory in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The bonus amounted to 90 percent of the maximum award of $10.1 million.

The U.S. Energy Department said Los Alamos National Security, which runs the lab under a contract, excelled in a number of projects to remediate areas of environmental concern. Decades of improper waste disposal have resulted in large-scale toxic and radiological contamination at the lab, which is expected to cost nearly $4 billion to clean up over the next 25 years.

In a report released Wednesday, the Department of Energy said the lab had made progress in addressing an underground plume of the chemical compound hexavalent chromium that is moving slowly toward a major aquifer. It also rewarded the contractor for progress in cleanup at Technical Area 21, where chemical research and production of plutonium occurred for more than three decades.

The contractor was given bonus points for storage of nitrate salt drums — the same type of drums that were improperly packaged at the lab, resulting in a chemical reaction in a waste drum that burst underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in early 2014. That caused a radiological leak and shuttered WIPP for nearly three years.

The contractor was penalized for only partially meeting milestones related to management of the nitrate salt drums, earning $63,000 of a possible $400,000 award. The specific shortcomings were not detailed in the report.

Los Alamos National Security also was docked points for weaknesses in emergency management, management of safety and other issues, procedural compliance, quality assurance and cost controls.

Steven Horak, a spokesman for the Department of Energy’s environmental management office at Los Alamos, said his office is working to ensure the lab improves in the areas of emergency and issues management.

“These areas are vital to the safe and efficient operations of all nuclear facilities,” he said.



Last week, the Department of Energy released an annual report on the lab’s overall management, which showed marked improvement over previous years. Los Alamos National Security earned $35 million, or 85 percent, of a possible incentive fee of $41.3 million.

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.

Correction: This story has been amended to reflect the following correction. A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the Environmental Management Field Office at Los Alamos is operated by the National Nuclear Security Administration. It is operated by the Department of Energy.

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