Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials

Plutonium capable of being used in a nuclear weapon, conventional explosives, and highly toxic chemicals have been improperly packaged or shipped by nuclear weapons contractors at least 25 times in the past five years, according to government documents. While the materials were not ultimately lost, the documents reveal repeated instances in which hazardous substances vital to making nuclear bombs and their components were mislabeled before shipment. That means those transporting and receiving them were not warned of the safety risks and did not take required precautions to protect themselves or the public, the reports say. The risks were discovered after regulators conducted inspections during transit, when the packages were opened at their destinations, during scientific analysis after the items were removed from packaging, or — in the worst cases — after releases of radioactive contaminants by unwary recipients, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation showed. Only a few, slight penalties appear to have been imposed for these mistakes.

UNM suspends professor (again) over new complaints

The University of New Mexico again suspended an Anthropology professor over sexual harassment allegations. The school made the announcement about the suspension of the professor, Cristobal Valencia, late Tuesday afternoon, less than a week after the Albuquerque Journal reported Valencia would be reinstated from a suspension involving sexual harassment. Valencia was suspended from late March to June, reported the Journal. A spokeswoman for UNM said the new “emergency suspension” came as a result of “new information.”

“Effective immediately, Valencia is suspended from all academic duties associated with his faculty appointment, including teaching, research and service,” UNM spokeswoman Dianne Anderson said in a statement. “The suspension will remain in place while the new complaints are investigated by the appropriate authorities, or until the case is resolved.”

Valencia was previously suspended and censured after an investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

UNM employees facing possible elimination

Several employees and positions at the University of New Mexico are under review for potential elimination in an effort to consolidate positions between the university’s main campus and the Health Sciences Center. At least 21 employees between main campus and HSC received letters earlier this month with “UNM and HSC Consolidation/Alignment” as the subject. The reviews come three months after a controversial change to the governance of HSC. Earlier this year, UNM’s Board of Regents voted to bring the HSC under more direct control of the regents. UNM Regent President Rob Doughty, who with Regent Marron Lee authored the changes, at the time said the governance changes wouldn’t affect employees.