Unnatural Disasters: On Oct. 26, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board publicly urged Los Alamos National Laboratory to beef up safety systems in its main plutonium facility. According to the board’s report, a “seismic event” (big earthquake) would result in damage that exceeds the allowable federal standard by more than two orders of magnitude. What’s worse than being scolded for poor safety systems? Having known about it for five years. According to John E Mansfield, the safety board’s vice chairman, both LANL and the board have known since 2004 that the likelihood of a big earthquake at LANL is much higher than previously thought, and that the ventilation and fire suppression systems—which were accurate pre-2004—are inadequate. Read more on the report at SFReeper.com.
Tribal Tribulations: Los Alamos wasn’t the only place set to blow up last week. In a special legislative session across the border in Window Rock, Ariz., the Navajo Nation Tribal Council approved a bill to place the nation’s president, Joe Shirley Jr., on paid administrative leave. Shirley will remain on leave while an investigation is conducted into alleged ethics violations related to his involvement with two companies, Utah-based OnSat Network Communications and Shiprock-based Biochemical Decontamination Systems (BCDS), that contracted with the Navajo Nation. According to the Phoenix New Times, the complaints concern millions in Navajo Nation funds paid to OnSat for internet services that were never received and over $2 million from the Navajo Dam Escrow Account that was used as collateral for a private loan to BCDS.
Shirley, for his part, publicly insists he’s innocent and accuses the council of placing him on leave for political reasons: He favors a December ballot measure that would reduce the size of the council from 88 to 24 and another that would give the president line-item veto authority. Navajo Nation Attorney General Louis Denetsosie has 60 days to decide whether to appoint a special prosecutor.
Emerald City: Despite continued budget negotiations—Act II, in which almost everyone becomes vehemently indignant about the Legislature’s proposed budget cuts—there’s a bright spot, money-wise: The state of New Mexico is set to receive just more than $8 million in federal stimulus funds through the Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant Program. The money is to be used for reducing energy use and improving efficiency. The City of Santa Fe, slated for a cool half-million, says it will spend the funds on making city buildings more efficient—a project it claims will save the city $75,000 in energy costs, create seven jobs and reduce carbon emissions by 849 tons per year.