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DOE issues critical audit of LANL’s key safety program

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Corrective actions program > OIG finds several deficiencies, failures with lab’s ‘issues management program’

By Tris DeRoma

A government audit issued Tuesday by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General was highly critical of a key safety program at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The report called special attention to the “issues management program,” which was an umbrella term for LANL’s “employee concerns program” and the lab’s “corrective actions program.”
While the OIG labeled the employee concerns program “generally effective,” it was critical of LANL’s corrective actions program, which LANL calls “Performance Feedback and Improvement System (PFITS).
“Overall we found LANL’s corrective action program did not always adequately address issues, did not effectively prevent their recurrence, and did not consistently identify systemic problems,” read a statement in OIG’s summary of the report.
The OIG also quoted a department order that requires contractors to create a corrective actions program that notes and addresses inefficiencies, as well as provide a fail-safe system of risk measurement of such inefficiencies, and a way to document the actions taken to correct them. The OIG said this was not followed out to its satisfaction.
In the report, the OIG was more specific in its criticism.
“Our review of the corrective action program identified several deficiencies, including failure to completely address the root causes of issues, closure of corrective actions before they were complete, miscategorization of issues, failure to identify systemic issues, and failure to close records that were open for as long as two years after the corrective actions were completed.”
The OIG identified 460 PFITS incidents from Jan. 2009 to February 2014, 196 of which were of “high significance.”
The report went on to detail one incident in particular.
“We found that 46 percent of the high-significance issues were closed without addressing the root cause. For example, an operational emergency issue concerning a chemical spill and hazardous material cleanup at a waste management site occurred in August 2010. The planned corrective action called specific changes to a procedure to prevent recurrence of the issue, but those changes were not made,” read a statement in the report.
In response to the report, LANL Spokesperson Kevin Roark said LANL would address the report’s findings.
“The laboratory is working closely with NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) to address the findings of the DOE-IG Report,” Roark said in an emailed statement. “The laboratory and the NNSA are very serious about environment safety and health issues and the laboratory’s ability to deliver on mission requirements as safely as possible.”
The report included recommendations to LANL, which include having the NNSA’s Field Office Manager, Kim Lebak, makes sure LANL better adheres to the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Order 226.1B” when dealing with all “high significance deficiencies” which include “identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the problem, determining the extent of the problem and ensuring the effectiveness of corrective actions.”
The USDOE also recommended that issue entry and closure procedures are done in a timely manner, and a better categorization of issues according to levels of risk.
The Los Alamos Study Group, a local nuclear disarmament and environmental protection organization, released a statement Tuesday following the audit report. The group said that it has been warning about this problem for years.
LASG Director Greg Mello criticized the lab, as well as the USDOE for the lab’s problems.
“These requirements are not being arbitrarily imposed by DOE,” Mello said in the statement. “They are exactly what LANL and other contractors have themselves asked for, and keep asking for. ‘Just tell us what you want done, not how to do it,’ they say, ‘let us fix our own problems.’ But as this report documents, LANS (Los Alamos National Security, LLC) has no working system in place to fix its abundant management problems.”
The report in its entirety is available below.

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doe-oig-16-07.pdf1.36 MB