LANL In No Hurry With Emergency Response Plans
In the recent letter, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board told DOE that they were concerned with the pace and completeness of the emergency preparedness and response efforts at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The Board is an independent organization that provides recommendations and advice regarding public health and safety issues at Department of Energy (DOE) defense nuclear facilities.
After LANL recently confessed “[a] sustainable, comprehensive, and coordinated training and drills program has not been fully implemented as required” per DOE requirement Comprehensive Emergency Management System, the Board staff made some preliminary observations indicating weaknesses in emergency preparedness and response at LANL. And the Safety Board plans to perform a comprehensive review of emergency preparedness and response programs at LANL in early 2016.
Some of the preliminary observations were –
- The emergency response plans that involve the inappropriately remediated nitrate salt drums, like the one that exploded and shut down WIPP, have not been updated to reflect the current understanding of the release hazards. Consequently, pre-planned evacuation zones may be not be large enough for members of the public in the event of an accident.
- Planning and conduct of emergency drills and exercises do not ensure that scenarios are sufficiently challenging and minimize artificiality and simulation and do not represent the full spectrum of credible accident types.
- Exercises show the inability to effectively shelter laboratory workers in place during a release of hazardous materials.
- Radios don’t work much of the time.
These types of problems should not consistently be showing up where safety is a priority. It will be interesting to see how much of a factor these emergency preparedness issues played in LANS, the current Lab for-profit management contractor, losing its job.
We hope the new LANL contractor can keep safety first.