Monday, November 11, 2013

DNFSB Questions Nuke Lab Safety

Safety problems persist and expand throughout the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons complex. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, in its latest report to Congress, cites Los Alamos National Laboratory as being the most problematic in this regard. Other troubled sites are the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Hanford site, the Savannah River site, the Pantex site, and the Nevada National Security site.

On 30 October 2013, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) issued its “Fourth Annual Report to Congress: Summary of Significant Safety-Related Aging Infrastructure Issues at Operating Defense Nuclear Facilities.”  Quoting now from that report, which is available online:

“DNFSB believes this report provides a means of keeping all parties apprised of safety-related concerns regarding aging infrastructure at Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities.”

“DOE relies on several facilities that are at or near the end of life, but still must carry out national security and legacy waste cleanup missions.”

“Two of the most critical facilities are the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research (CMR)
Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), constructed in 1952, and the 9212
Complex at the Y-12 National Security Complex that began service in 1951.”

“DOE deferred funding for the CMR Replacement Project for five years, and expects to operate the existing CMR Facility through 2019.”

“The 9212 Complex [at Y-12] is comprised of Building 9212 and thirteen collocated buildings, portions of which have been in operation for more than 60 years. The Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) is scheduled to replace the 9212 Complex, but DOE does not plan to commence operations in UPF until 2025.”

“A third facility of concern to the Board is the Plutonium Facility (PF-4) at LANL. PF-4
was designed and constructed in the 1970s and lacks the structural ductility and redundancy required by today's building codes and standards. In 2007, a DOE-required periodic reanalysis of the seismic threat present at the Los Alamos site was completed. It indicated a greater than fourfold increase in the predicted earthquake ground motion. Total facility collapse is now considered a credible event. PF-4, the nation's sole plutonium fabrication center, contains significant amounts of plutonium, much of it in a form that is readily dispersible (i.e., powders and liquids), and is stored in containers that have not been certified to survive facility collapse. The resulting radiation dose consequence to the public following such an event was determined to exceed DOE's allowed evaluation levels by several orders of magnitude. The Board formally identified its concerns with the issuance of Recommendation 2009-2, Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Facility Seismic Safety.”
“In response to this increased seismic threat, LANL undertook a series of actions to
improve the safety posture of PF-4. These actions included efforts to reduce the likelihood and severity of a post-seismic fire, and address the nine known building weaknesses that could lead to loss of PF-4' s ability to confine its nuclear material or total structural collapse. A more detailed seismic analysis to further refine PF-4's response to a major earthquake was also undertaken and completed in September 2012. It identified two additional weaknesses that would result in collapse. Detailed planning to address these weaknesses has been initiated by LANL.”

“DNFSB, in its July 18, 2012, letter, expressed concern that this latest analysis was proceeding without adequate definition and technical justification. Subsequently, the Deputy Secretary of Energy, in his September 28, 2012, response to DNFSB, reported that he had directed the National Nuclear Security Administration to initiate action to evaluate PF-4 using a second modeling approach. This alternate analysis is currently being performed by an independent engineering firm. Final results are expected in December 2013. DNFSB awaits these results before reaching final conclusions on the appropriate urgency of compensatory and corrective actions.”

“PF-4 Safety System Reliability: [this building] lacks … fire-suppression systems and [an] active-confinement ventilation system that would adequately protect the public and workers from the consequences associated with post-seismic accidents.”

“Other facilities meriting continued attention are the high-level waste tank farms at the
Hanford Site and the Savannah River Site, the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at LANL, and T Plant (Waste Storage, Treatment, and Packaging Operations) at the Hanford Site.”


“The following are the most significant safety-related aging infrastructure issues that exist today in the DOE defense nuclear complex”:

• “Los Alamos National Laboratory, Plutonium Facility (PF-4) - seismic fragility of building, and degraded safety system reliability: [DNFSB completed] seismic analyses
of PF-4 in May 2011 and September 2012 [and] identified building vulnerabilities
that could result in loss of confinement, or facility collapse, with resulting high radiological dose consequences to workers and the public. [Also,] the facility lacks a set of  safety controls (fire suppression systems and active confinement ventilation systems) that  would adequately protect  the public and workers from consequences associated with post-seismic accidents.”  

• “Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility (CMR) - seismic fragility of building: [DNFSB estimates that] there is a 1 in 55 chance of seismic collapse during a ten year time-frame, which would result in release of nuclear material, and injury/death of facility workers.”

• “Los Alamos National Laboratory, Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility-building and equipment end of life. RLWTF has reached its end of life and despite ongoing life-extension efforts, requires replacement to support future laboratory missions
reliably. Equipment failures pose a risk to facility workers.”

• “Nevada National Security Site, Device Assembly Facility - degradation of water tank and fire suppression system lead-ins.”

• “Pantex Plant, Site-Wide Fire Suppression Systems – degradation of fire-suppression systems.”

• “Y-12 National Security Complex, 9212 Complex-seismic and high wind fragility of building, and building and equipment end of life.”

• “Hanford Site, Single-Shell and Double-Shell Tank Farms-aging tanks.”

• “Hanford Site, T Plant (Waste Storage, Treatment, and Packaging Operations) - seismic fragility of building.”

• “Savannah River Site, H-Canyon - aging systems and structures.”

• “Savannah River Site, Tank Farms - aging tanks.”

• “Savannah River Site, A-Area, Fire Protection Water Supply Systems - degraded pumps and tank.”


• “Hanford Site, Double-Shell Tank Farms - aging tanks.”

• “Savannah River Site, A-Area, Fire Protection Water Supply Systems - degraded
pumps and tank.”


• “None”

“As directed by Congress, DNFSB will continue to exercise its existing statutory authority in addressing these and other safety-related issues within the DOE defense nuclear complex.”

No comments: