FIA-19-0005 - In the Matter of Martin Pfeiffer

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On March 13, 2019, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) granted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal filed by Mr. Martin Pfeiffer (Appellant) from a final determination issued by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Appellant's FOIA request sought "[a]t least 20 photographs of Plutonium Tetrafluoride (PuF4) in which the pinkish/reddish color of PuF4 (sometimes referred to as "pink cake") is clearly visible." In its response, NNSA referred Appellant to a photograph of PuF4 it had provided to Appellant in response to a FOIA request he had filed  in 2017 and indicated that it was unable to locate any other photographs responsive to his request. On appeal, Appellant asserted that a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) had told him in 2016 that multiple photographs of PuF4 existed at LANL and that he found it unlikely that "a world-center of plutonium research since the 1940s, would have one and only one color photograph of PuF4." OHA contacted NNSA regarding how it had conducted its search for responsive records, and NNSA indicated that the management and operating (M&O) contractor for LANL had conducted the search. The M&O contractor reported that it had contacted two divisions within LANL, and that a scientist within one   of the divisions had produced the photograph previously provided to Appellant. When queried as to where the photograph was stored and whether there might be other photographs of PuF4, the scientist indicated that the photograph was labeled for storage in LANL's photograph database, and that the photograph database likely contained more photographs of PuF4, but that he believed that the photograph he had provided was the best representation of the true color of PuF4. OHA determined that the search was inadequate because it was reasonably likely that more photographs of PuF4 might be stored in LANL's photograph database and the M&O contractor had not searched the photograph database before responding to Appellant's FOIA request. Accordingly, OHA granted Appellant's appeal and remanded the matter to NNSA to search LANL's photograph database. OHA Case No. FIA-19-0005.