Lab Worker Files Suit After Plutonium Shipping Led to Firing

Empty nuclear waste shipping containers in front of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

A former worker at a national laboratory who was fired for shipping weapons-grade plutonium by air instead of ground alleges in a lawsuit that he was made a scapegoat for problems at the New Mexico facility.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the legal action by Juan Montoya cited “root cause systemic failures in processes, procedures, supervision, resources (and) training” at Los Alamos National Security LLC.

Lab spokesman Matt Nerzig denies Montoya was singled out over the incident.

“Los Alamos National Security held accountable those involved from the individual contributor level up the management chain through actions that included terminations, suspensions and compensation consequences,” Nerzig said in an email.

The incident followed a series of safety problems at the lab, including a fire in the plutonium facility that was linked to an unlabeled container and the shipment of mislabeled hazardous waste to a facility near Denver.

Montoya worked at the lab for 15 years before he was fired last summer from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Federal regulations require the shipping of plutonium by ground.

Montoya is asking for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, among other things. Efforts by the newspaper to reach him for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

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