NAS Report Critical of Intensive DOE Oversight at National Labs

For the second year in a row, a report published by the National Academies of Science studied the work of U.S. national security laboratories, generally praising their scientific efforts but suggesting federal oversight has become burdensome.

The Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia labs conduct a broad range of research, in part to ensure the functionality of America's aging nuclear stockpile in the absence of live weapons testing. The report's authors found no problems with the quality of the labs' science and engineering efforts for stockpile stewardship and nonproliferation. The cost of some programs, though, has escalated because of the Department of Energy's intensive and sometimes duplicative efforts to supervise lab contractors, according to the report. Researchers also raised concerns about the consistency of project funding, risk management and improvements that could be made to computer modelling capabilities. Entitled “The Quality of Science and Engineering at the (National Nuclear Security Administration) National Security Laboratories,” it warned that these costs could make too many experiments unaffordable in an environment of risk avoidance.

Ordered by Congress, the report is significant because it informs budget and legislative decisions that define the Department of Energy's role in overseeing the labs. According to Global Security Newswire, a defeated proposal by House Republicans last year would have stripped the DOE of regulatory and oversight authority at the nuclear security sites. A scaled-back proposal this year would require the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to conduct cost-benefit analyses of its recommendations.

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  • Anonymous

    The US is allowing China to walk away with the IP for the Thorium Molten Salt Reactor, how about our own Crash Program on the Th-MSR?

  • Anonymous

    Interesting.  All the concerns about security and projects running over budge, and THEY believe the labs should be run with less oversight. Too bad they didn't mention safety concerns...

    Were these guys mostly former labbies?

    Interestingly enough, they interviewed a few senior HQ personnel (mostly with no field experience) and the rest were labbies.

    How much additional oversight do you think a bunch of bankers would tell you was needed for the banking industry?