In response to the Administration’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, the Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued a new order limiting the way it interacts with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (the Board). The new order restricts the Board’s access to information, defense nuclear facilities, and personnel. INTERFACE_WITH_THE_DEFENSE_NUCLEAR_FACILITIES_SAFETY_BOARD As a result, the Board is seeking information from DOE and has scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, August 28th from 9 am to 12:30 pm Eastern Daylight Time. It will be live streamed. Public comment is invited and pre-registration to speak is open until August 21st. https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/august-28-2018-public-hearing
After numerous disclosures about releases and discharges from DOE defense nuclear facilities impacting public health and safety, in 1988, Congress created the Board. Its statutory mission is to “provide independent analysis, advice, and recommendations to the Secretary of Energy to inform the Secretary, in the role of the Secretary as operator and regulator of the defense nuclear facilities of the Department of Energy, in providing adequate protection of public health and safety at defense nuclear facilities.”
The Board does not have regulatory power. Even so, since its inception, the Board and its staff, including the Resident Inspectors located at DOE nuclear facilities around the country, have provided continuing oversight of complex, high-hazard operations involving nuclear weapons; remediation of nuclear wastes and legacy facilities; design and construction of new DOE defense nuclear facilities; as well as review of DOE safety standards.
The Board’s hearing record will remain open until September 28th. For more information, please see the August 10, 2018 Federal Register notice. Federal Register Notice
Following the hearing, a sample public comment letter will be available for you to use at http://nuclearactive.org/ .
On Wednesday, August 15th, the Acting Board Chairman Bruce Hamilton announced a major transformation of the Board’s staff, including a nearly doubling of the number of Resident Inspectors located at DOE sites. Currently, two Resident Inspectors are at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) – the only DOE facility producing plutonium triggers, or plutonium pits, for nuclear weapons. DNFSB Major Reform 081518
Four Resident Inspectors at LANL is a welcome development because of the many on-going and unresolved nuclear safety issues. In a July 23rd letter to the new National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator, Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, the Board described one, stating that “the Plutonium Facility continues to operate with confinement ventilation and fire suppression systems that are not qualified to survive certain seismic accident scenarios.” 2018-100-028, NA-1 Welcome Letter ARCHIVE These are serious nuclear safety deficiencies that DOE and LANL have not resolved.
Limiting access to information, facilities and personnel, as proposed by the new DOE Order, will hamper the Board’s important oversight work to keep DOE, Congress, the public, and the media informed about the DOE failures to keep the public safe.