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IG: Safety issues not addressed

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LANL > Documents for improvements at PF-4, tritium facility fall short of standards

By The Staff

A new audit from the Department of Energy’s Office of the Inspector General was critical of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s actions to implement nuclear safety management measures.
The report, “Nuclear Safety: Safety Basis and Quality Assurance at the Los Alamos National Laboratory,” was released on Thursday.
According to the audit, which was conducted in February, LANL has taken steps to improve nuclear safety, specifically mentioning seismic-related risks at PF-4, the lab’s plutonium facility and taken some other steps, but LANL “continued to have problems in fully implementing a number of critical nuclear safety management requirements.”
Among the findings of safety shortcomings, the audit said LANL had fallen short in developing safety basis documents that met the National Nuclear Security Administration’s expectations in regard to nuclear hazards and mitigation controls, it hadn’t adequately resolved issues for two nuclear facilities — WETF and WCRRF — and hadn’t resolved other “long-standing” deficiencies.
The report noted that NNSA management was in general agreement with IG’s findings.
According to a memo from NNSA’s undersecretary Frank Klotz, “the (NNSA) concurs with the auditor’s recommendations and actions are already underway to address the issues identified.”
The IG noted that many similar problems at LANL were found in an audit dated August 2010.
As for the problems identified at WETF (Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility), one of the lab’s nuclear facilities, the IG noted that “the facility had been unable to perform gas processing operations since July 2011.”
That facility, as well as the WCRRF, according to the IG, had experienced “numerous delays in resolving the issues identified in the annual updates because draft documents did not meet Los Alamos Field Office’s quality expectations.” That resulted in “extensive” review comments that had been going on for nearly two years at WETF and nearly three years for WCRRF (Waste Characterization, Reduction and Repackaging Facility).
Safety basis revision for WETF has been going on for more than seven years.
As for its documenting issues, the audit said those needed documents are produced jointly from LANL and LAFO and delays may have occurred due to either entity.
“However, the problems identified in our review generally reflected LANL’s inability to consistently develop quality safety basis document,” the audit stated.
As for other processing facilities, including PF-4, resolving long-standing safety issues were slow in implementation.
Specifically noted in the report, LANL had not “resolved facility and operational deficiencies necessary before it could restart gas processing at WETF” and had not “resolved PF-4 safety issues identified by facility operations staff...before the resumption of programmatic activities at PF-4, which have been suspended since June 2013.”
It also stated LANL’s Criticality Safety Program at the plutonium facility didn’t comply with DOE’s requirements because documentation was lacking, something the NNSA identified as an issue going back to 2005 and confirmed in a 2013 report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
The IG recommended that the NNSA take action to ensure than LANL develop needed technical resources to meet the Safety Basis Improvement Plan requirements and that the NNSA “ensure effective implementation of corrective actions for long-standing issues that impact the restart efforts of (WETF) and PF-4, including addressing the shortage of experience Criticality Safety Analysis to assess and correct nuclear criticality issues.”