University of California Reaches $2.8M Settlement on Los Alamos Lab Security Breakdown

The University of California has agreed to pay the federal government $2.8 million over a security breakdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory last year.

Under the settlement, the university will not seek a judicial review of the penalty and has accepted responsibility for the violations, the National Nuclear Security Administration said Monday in a news release.

The amount of the settlement is slightly less than the $3 million civil penalty the NNSA had imposed in September on the university, which was the sole manager of the northern New Mexico nuclear weapons laboratory for the Department of Energy until June 2006.

The penalty stems from an October 2006 incident in which Los Alamos police discovered more than 1,000 pages of classified documents and several computer storage devices during a drug bust at the trailer of a former worker for a lab subcontractor.

The university said in a statement that it strives to provide the strongest security for classified matter at Los Alamos lab and "recognizes that further protections could and should have been provided to reduce the opportunity for the cited unauthorized removal."

The university had previously denied violating DOE security requirements, saying the employee who took the information home worked for a lab subcontractor, not the university.

The employee later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, saying she took the information home to catch up on scanning documents. The drug raid was aimed at another person living in the trailer.

Los Alamos laboratory has been plagued by security problems in recent years, which led the DOE to put the lab's management contract out for bid for the first time since the lab was formed in 1943 as a top-secret project to develop the atomic bomb.

The lab is now run by a limited liability corporation called Los Alamos National Security, which is made up of Bechtel National Inc., BWX Technologies Inc., the Washington Group International Inc. and UC.