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Los Alamos Reduces Workforce in Wake of Plutonium Project Hold

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New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory will shed 400 to 800 people through voluntary layoffs this spring, or about 10% of its permanent staff, to cut $300 million from its budget. It will leave the 69-year-old, 36-sq-mi. laboratory with 11,271 students, post-doctoral, term and union workers, which is the same staff number as four years ago.

Photo courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Lab has a current annual budget of $2.2 billion.
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The site is managed by Los Alamos National Security LLC, comprised of Bechtel National, the University of California, Babcock & Wilcox Co., and URS for the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Staff reduction will come from Los Alamos’ 7,585 permanent employees.

“There's no way to predict who will volunteer or from what disciplines,” says lab spokesman Fred DeSousa. “By taking action now, we reduce the possibility of involuntary layoffs.” In 2008, the lab offered a similar plan that resulted in 431 willing job cuts. If the lab doesn’t reach its target workforce number, however, it would first have to make another submittal to the National Nuclear Security Administration for involuntary layoffs. The lab, with a current fiscal year budget of $2.2 billion, began cutting costs on purchasing, travel, energy use, and other areas in November. 

The NNSA recently asked Congress to indefinitely postpone the lab’s proposed plutonium research facility amid a looming federal deficit and President Obama’s budget, which delays funding for five years. Although the project is expected to create 1,000 temporary construction jobs, the building has yet to break ground, despite spending $600 million over nearly a decade. The price-tag, meanwhile, has jumped from an estimated $400 million up to $6 billion during the last eight years.

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