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Nuclear safety questioned at major laboratory

New Jersey workers might be keeping their eyes on troubling reports of safety lapses at a major United States nuclear facility. The Los Alamos National Laboratory, which developed the atomic bomb, has had a number of safety lapses and concerning incidents over a period of years.

A series by the Center for Public Integrity has highlighted federal concerns about incidents in the lab. In 2013, work was suspended at Los Alamos after safety problems were discovered, although now it is close to being in full operation.

Some of the major nuclear research and weapons labs in the United States were constructed decades ago and suffer from insufficient funding. At Los Alamos, an independent federal oversight panel highlighted that the fire alarm and suppression systems at the laboratory date back to the 1970s. The safety of the concrete building itself has been questioned in terms of its ability to accommodate an order by the Energy Department for increased plutonium pit production.

Other incidents have raised concerns. In 2016, liquid containing plutonium was incorrectly cleaned, while in 2011, lab technicians placed plutonium rods side by side for a photograph, placing the lab in danger of a nuclear chain reaction. In 2014, an improperly packaged barrel of nuclear waste caused a radiation leak at an underground waste repository.

Regardless of their occupation, when workers are injured on the job, they often require extensive medical care and treatment, and in many cases they are unable to return to work for weeks or months. Those who have been affected in this manner might want to have the assistance of an attorney in filing a claim for benefits under their employer's workers' compensation insurance coverage.

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