I recently joined Tri-Valley CAREs as a legal intern. CAREs is a nonprofit watchdog organization that has monitored the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for over 30 years. Already I have learned things about LLNL that concern me as a resident of this community. I reviewed LLNL’s 34 Unusual Occurrence Reports that were generated in 2018, and the following three were particularly serious.
In May 2018, there was an issue with the ventilation system in Building 132, which was causing fumes to be taken into the ventilation system only to be filtered back into the same building. This recirculation of harmful fumes had persisted for “some time” with various workers complaining of a strong chemical odor. However, it was not addressed, and there is no indication as to whether worker exposure was evaluated.
At LLNL’s high explosive testing facility at Site 300 in Tracy, there were six separate violations in an inspection by the San Joaquin County Department of Environmental Health found in 2018, including the failure to implement the spill prevention, control and countermeasures plan for the site. What is also alarming is that just two years ago, LLNL was granted a new Hazardous Waste Permit and it currently seeks to expand bomb blasting.
Perhaps the most alarming report was in September 2018 when a class III curium-224 source (a radioactive material) went missing in Building 194. It was determined that this radioactive material had been missing since June of that year, and it took LLNL three months to notice that it was missing. What is even more concerning is that this dangerous material has still not been located.
I have filed Freedom of Information Act requests seeking more information about these accidents for CAREs. The question is not if there will be more accidents, but when and how serious will they be.
I am relieved that CAREs is watching out. Check out their work at www.trivalleycares.org.