WHAT IS THE DNFSB?
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) was established as an independent agency on September 29, 1988, by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The Board is composed of five members appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, from among United States citizens who are respected experts in the field of nuclear safety.
The DNFSB reviews and evaluates the content and implementation of standards for defense nuclear facilities of the Department of Energy (DOE); investigates any event or practice at these facilities / which may adversely affect public health and safety; and reviews and monitors the design, construction, and operation of facilities.
The Board makes recommendations to the Secretary of Energy concerning DOE defense nuclear facilities to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety. In the event that any aspect of operations, practices, or occurrences reviewed by the Board is determined to present an imminent or severe threat to public health and safety, the Board shall also transmit its recommendations directly to the President.
News & Updates
19 seconds – the amount of time airborne radiological contamination could be released before the safety dampers close. This assumes that all other components work perfectly.
A recent report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) explains the DNFSB’s calculations on the proposed new (estimated at nearly $300 million) safety significant confinement ventilation system (SSCVS).
There should be no expanded pit production until nuclear safety is fully assured by an independent, unrestricted Safety Board, and our congressional delegation should be the first to demand that.
On January 29, 2019, DOE’s Office of Enterprise Assessments notified Nuclear Waste Partnership, LLC (NWP), the managing and operating contractor for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plan (WIPP), of its intent to investigate heat stress-related events and chemical exposures at WIPP. The events, occurring from July through October 2018, include multiple overexposures to hazardous chemicals, including carbon tetrachloride, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, as well as a series of heat-stress incidents.
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
immediate release: Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Watchdog groups call for Congress to protect nuclear weapons communities—stop DOE limitations on Safety Board
Watchdog groups from across the country are insisting the Department of Energy withdraw DOE Order 140.1, a controversial order that would compromise safety at dozens of facilities in the US nuclear weapons complex, and are asking key Congressional committees to annul the revised order and preserve the critically important prerogatives of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).
DOE MUST RESTORE DEFENSE NUCLEAR FACILITIES SAFETY BOARD ACCESS TO INFORMATION, NUCLEAR SECURITY FACILITIES, AND PERSONNEL
On May 14, 2018, the Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Secretary approved DOE Order 140.1 Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which limits release of information, limits the DNFSB’s access to nuclear security sites, and personnel. The impacts are already being felt by Congress, the Board, DOE contractors and workers, and in communities located near some of the most dangerous nuclear facilities across the nation.
The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability has reviewed DOE Order 140.1 and believes it imposes a level of constraint on DNFSB that jeopardizes the important mission of the Safety Board. In fact, it may well violate the legislation that established the Board. ANA groups and the public at major DOE sites have come to rely on the Safety Board’s expertise to identify and hold accountable the DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration for worker and public safety related issues.
November 27, 2018
RE: DOE Order 140.1 should be annulled by Congress
Dear House/Senate Armed Services Committee Members:
We are writing to ask that you annul the May 2018 DOE Order 140.1, Interface with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and reinstate the previous DOE Order 140.1.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (“DNFSB” or “Safety Board”) was established by Congress in September 1988 (Public Law 100-456) in response to growing concerns about health and safety protection that the Department of Energy (“DOE”) was providing the public and workers at defense nuclear facilities. In so doing, Congress sought to provide the general public with an independent source of critical oversight to add assurance that DOE’s defense nuclear facilities are safely designed, constructed, operated, and decommissioned. Over the past 30 years, the Safety Board’s authority and funding has been supported by Congress on a bi-partisan basis.
Alliance for Nuclear Accountability
Kathy Crandall Robinson (Washington, DC): 202 577 9875
Joni Arends (New Mexico): 505 986 1973
Tom Carpenter (Washington state): 206 419 5829
Tom Clements (South Carolina): 803 834 3084
Jay Coghlan (New Mexico): 505 989 7342
Don Hancock (New Mexico): 505 262 1862
Ralph Hutchison (Tennessee): 865 776 5050
Marylia Kelley (California): 925 443 7148
Watchdog groups from across the nuclear weapons complex are pushing back against a new Department of Energy order that severely constrains the oversight capacity of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board [DNFSB] at an August 28 hearing in Washington, DC. Kathy Crandall Robinson will speak at the hearing.
Members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network of organizations that addresses nuclear weapons production and waste cleanup issues, hail the work of the DNFSB as a critical guard against DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration efforts to cut corners on safety.
“The Safety Board works outside of the media spotlight,” said Tom Clements, Director of Savannah River Site Watch in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Its value to the public is immeasurable. DNFSB frequently provides information about SRS operations which DOE fails to communicate. The role of the Safety Board should be expanded, not curtailed.”
Marylia Kelley, Executive Director of Tri-Valley CAREs in Livermore, California, said, “The DNFSB is absolutely vital to worker and public safety. I have spent 35 years monitoring Livermore Lab. I can tell you that workers and community members rely on the Safety Board to do its job—every day!”
Los Alamos Cleanup At the Crossroads:
Treat All Los Alamos Lab Radioactive Wastes Consistently
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board’s role and responsibility includes gathering information regarding the hazards to the public and workers posed by the management of transuranic (TRU) wastes at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), as well as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) plans to address those hazards. The Board will examine DOE’s actions taken or inadequacies addressed in the current safety policies of the various facilities that manage or store TRU wastes at LANL. The Board is also interested in understanding actions taken to improve TRU waste management at LANL after the improper handling and treatment of TRU wastes that resulted in a ruptured barrel that shut down the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP).
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.