March 1, 2019
Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility Replacement Project at Los Alamos National Laboratory
The primary responsibility of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Los Alamos National Laboratory is to ensure the safety, security, and reliability of the Nation’s nuclear stockpile. From June 1, 2006, to October 31, 2018, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) operated Los Alamos National Laboratory as an Agent for NNSA. To meet its mission, Los Alamos National Laboratory stores, treats, and disposes of low-level waste (LLW) and transuranic liquid waste (TLW) at the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility (RLWTF). The facility has been in operation since 1963, and the facility’s systems have degraded and failed on multiple occasions. Therefore, NNSA committed to constructing one facility for processing LLW and a second for processing TLW. Because of the importance of the project, we conducted this audit to determine whether NNSA and LANS effectively managed the RLWTF Replacement Project.
Although NNSA provided adequate oversight of the RLWTF Replacement Project, LANS still experienced significant problems managing the LLW and TLW projects. Specifically, we found issues with the design process, construction quality, and subcontractor management of the LLW project, as well as issues with the design phase of the TLW project. We determined that these conditions occurred because LANS had not corrected systemic project management weaknesses. In particular, LANS lacked a consistent method of analyzing and addressing project management lessons learned. Further, LANS did not effectively incorporate lessons learned from prior capital asset projects into the planning and execution of subsequent capital asset projects.
To address the issues we identified, we recommended that the NNSA (1) ensure that lessons learned are adequately implemented during TLW performance and (2) ensure that cross-cutting project management lessons learned are identified and incorporated into institutional practices.
Topic: Management and Administration