July 20, 2009

Calif. lab questioned over beryllium work

The Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California could face fines and penalties over its use of the hazardous material beryllium, a federal official says.

John Belluardo, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said the enforcement actions could come about if the federal agency determines the lab in Livermore, Calif., violated Energy Department regulations, the Contra Costa Times said Monday.

Belluardo said preliminary findings by his agency determined the Lawrence Livermore National Security system for dealing with beryllium at the lab is lacking in some regards.

Beryllium is used to make lightweight metal alloys but can be poisonous if particles or fumes containing it are inhaled.

The LLNS system for beryllium hazard identification, assessment and abatement is not as comprehensive or thorough as it should be, the agency spokesman at the Livermore site told the Times.

Lawrence Livermore National Security is a partnership between several companies and the University of California that operates the Livermore facility for the Department of Energy.

The lab has a sound hazards control system in place, lab spokesman Jim Bono said in an e-mail response to the federal probe. However, some mistakes were made with regard to beryllium exposures.