September 30, 2019

Management of Controlled Substances at Los Alamos National Laboratory

The Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (Los Alamos) is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear security enterprise.  The primary mission at Los Alamos is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.  Los Alamos executes work in all of the Department’s missions: national security, science, energy, and environmental management, as well as research and development for agencies such as the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community. 

As part of its work, Los Alamos conducts research involving controlled substances.  Controlled substances are managed under several Federal laws and regulations.  Due to the potential safety and health risks associated with controlled substances, we initiated this inspection to determine if Los Alamos National Laboratory, operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, managed controlled substances in accordance with applicable Federal laws and regulations.

We found that Los Alamos had not managed controlled substances in accordance with applicable Federal laws and regulations.  Our inspection also found that Los Alamos possessed mislabeled procurement records, inaccurate inventories, and retained controlled substance inventories well beyond the conclusion of experiments.  We determined that Los Alamos did not have appropriate institutional processes, procedures, or controls in place to monitor, track, account for, and dispose of controlled substances.  Without centralized policy guidance and monitoring, Los Alamos cannot fully ensure that controlled substances are managed from procurement to disposition appropriately.  

In response to Office of Inspector General concerns, Los Alamos identified corrective actions.  Specifically, as of January 2019, Los Alamos drafted and approved an institutional policy for the management of controlled substances.  This new policy particularly addresses procurement, inventory management, and disposition of controlled substances, which includes additional levels of review and accountability.  Since Los Alamos is moving forward to address our concerns, we did not make any formal recommendations, but we suggest that Los Alamos implements its new institutional controlled substances policy and completes an initial evaluation of the policy’s effectiveness.

Topic: National Security & Safety