- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Officials at Sandia National Laboratories confirmed Wednesday that they’ve revised procedures to ensure control and accountability of all radioactive materials and devices that are required to be tracked by the federal facility.

The move comes after a small device used to eliminate static went missing following an explosive handling activity. The device - about the size of a double A battery - contains a tiny amount of the radioactive element Polonium 210 but doesn’t pose a health hazard.

The device was shipped back from the test site to the lab earlier this year, but the package appeared to be empty when it arrived. After a search, the lab declared the ionizer lost.

The U.S. Department of Energy sent an enforcement letter to the lab last week, calling the incident a “preventable nuclear safety matter.”

Lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold said the ionizer isn’t a hazard to the public or the environment and that corrective actions have been taken. That includes registering all of the ionizers in the lab’s database and improving procedures for tracking the devices and all other accountable radioactive materials.

“Sandia takes its responsibility to protect the public and the environment and to control radioactive material seriously,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Citing the lab’s response, the DOE declined to levy a fine or take other enforcement action.

The DOE said its Office of Enforcement and the National Nuclear Security Administration will continue to monitor Sandia’s actions to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico have been criticized over the years for a culture that some blame for a series of safety and security lapses. Earlier this year, federal officials issued notices of violation against the contractors that run the labs for breaches that included failing to keep track of classified materials and disclosing classified information.

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