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Secretary Sweet-Talks Los Alamos Staff

The red carpet was rolled out at Los Alamos National Laboratory yesterday, as Department of Energy secretary Spencer Abraham was in town to touch base with staff at the troubled research site.

The New Mexico facility, birthplace of the atom bomb, hit the headlines earlier this year when two disks containing classified information were reported missing during a routine inventory (see Los Alamos Searches for Lost Media and Los Alamos Lessons Loom Large).

Fallout from the storage snafu extended far beyond Los Alamos. After the disks were reported missing, a worried Abraham promptly ordered all DOE operations using classified hard drives or computer disks to stand down until procedures were improved (see Abraham Orders CREM Stand Down).

Staff at Los Alamos have been under intense scrutiny since the problems emerged, not least from disciplinarian lab director Peter Nanos, a former admiral. Speaking to employees yesterday, Abraham reiterated his support for Nanos' decision "to take strong disciplinary action to address those few who thought they didn't need to follow the rules."

Although some staff have already been fired over the incident, the government energy supremo hinted at the impact on the lab's future. "We must not lose the confidence of those who ultimately will make decisions affecting the future of this institution," he said.

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