A report released today by the Department of Energy’s inspector general says that an earthquake could destroy the building at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico that produces the plutonium cores of nuclear weapons.
In the event of a collapse, deadly levels of radiation would be released into the air.
In addition to the earthquake threat, the fire suppression system in the buildings that contain 5,600 containers of nuclear waste suffer from pipe breaks and freeze damage.
“[The bomb core building] lacks the structural resilience and redundancy required by modern building codes,” the report said, a deficiency that “makes it susceptible to structural failure if subjected to the strong seismic ground motions.”
The National Nuclear Security Administration was quick to dismiss the report saying there was a “rare possibility of a seismic event occurring in Los Alamos of sufficient magnitude to cause a significant plutonium release from PF-4 [the core building].”
The IG also said that unless upgrades were taken “the potential for very high offsite dose consequences remains.”
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said that means the residents of White Rock, seven miles downwind of the laboratory, would be exposed to lethal levels of radiation in the event of collapse.”