SAFETY BOARD BLASTS NNSA PLANS FOR OAK RIDGE BOMB PLANT
RUSH TO BUILD SHORT-CUTTING SAFETY PLANS?
The statement is blunt: “The Board has determined that safety is not adequately integrated into the design.”
That from an April 2, 2012 letter to National Nuclear Security Administration head Thomas D’Agostino from Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board chair Peter Winokur. “The design” refers to NNSA plans for the $7.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
DNFSB’s letter is accompanied by a report that details concerns in five areas, including control of materials and criticality avoidance during seismic events and calls into question NNSA’s assumptions when it calculates possible doses to offsite populations in accident scenarios.
Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said, “It’s time to put the brakes on the rush to build the UPF. The General Accounting Office says they aren’t ready. Now the Safety Board says they aren’t ready. But the budget calls for money to accelerate construction. We don’t need to accelerate—we need to slow down and resolve these safety issues.”
The Safety Board letter notes NNSA tweaked the usual decision-making process for major construction projects, combining Critical Decisions 2 and 3, and in the process NNSA cancelled the Preliminary Safety Design Report for the UPF. AS a result, the Safety Board says, the NNSA plan falls short of DOE Standard 1189, Integration of Safety into the Design Process.
“For years the mantra from officials in Oak Ridge has been ‘Safety is Job One,’” Hutchison noted. “But this letter shows they are holding the Safety Board at arms length, short-cutting safety protocols, and in some cases just winging it. That’s an unacceptable level of commitment—or lack of it,” Hutchison said. “This is a plant to produce weapons of mass destruction, after all. It will process radioactive and toxic materials not found anywhere else in the country. They have an obligation to do this job safely.”
The Safety Board’s patience appears to be about exhausted. “The Board requests a report and briefing within 30 days of the receipt of this letter,” writes Winokur.
A copy of the Safety Board letter and report can be found here: DNFSB safety 4.12
For more information: Ralph Hutchison || 865 776 5050