“The public deserves an explanation,” said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance. “Given the persistent criticality safety problems at Y-12, it is astonishing that the National Nuclear Security Administration has turned the management over to Fluor and Amentum, two companies that have racked up millions of dollars in fines in the last two decades for nuclear safety violations.”
immediate release: December 13, 2021
more information: Ralph Hutchison 865 776 5050 / [email protected]
According to the web site goodjobsfirst.com, which tracks violations in government contracting, AECOM, parent company of Amentum, has been penalized more than $167 million for 114 violations since 2000. Fifty-one of those violations were safety related, for a total of $4.5 million in penalties and fines; of that total, $3,866,250 was assessed for nuclear safety violations.
“From the beginning of October to mid-November, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board documented nine nuclear safety incidents at Y-12, an average of more than one a week,” Hutchison said. “Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly—Y-12 is consistently plagued by nuclear safety issues, many of them from legacy activities or the ongoing degradation of the buildings used to manufacture nuclear weapons components.
“And the equally sad truth is that contractors at Y-12 have a history of failing to aggressively address issues as they arise. An outside assessment delivered in October noted that Consolidated Nuclear Services declared some cases ‘closed’ even though the actual problem had not been corrected and the cases were, in fact, still open.
“There is an incentive to fudge just a bit—because performance lapses can cost a company a lot of money when the annual performance review comes around.”
Between them, Amentum and Fluor have had contracts at sites across the nuclear weapons complex: Fernald, Savannah River, Hanford, Rocky Flats, Idaho National Lab, Portsmouth, Paducah, and Los Alamos.
Flour’s track record is similar to its partner’s. Since 2000, Fluor has been fined more than $28,000,000, including nearly $2 million for “nuclear safety violations,” $4 million for “kickbacks and bribery,” and nearly $10 million for False Claims Act violations.
A Department of Energy Notice of Violation in November 2020 announced Fluor was fined almost $600,000 for nuclear safety deficiencies at Idaho National Lab. In 2016, Patrick Malone of the Center for Public Integrity reported that Fluor Hanford paid $1.1 million to settle a complaint that it had used federal money to lobby the government; the woman who blew the whistle received $200,000; Fluor denied wrongdoing.
AECOM’s fines and penalties include $20 million for fraud.
“It’s more than just the number of violations and the million dollar fines,” said Hutchison. “When companies have this much malfeasance going on, a lot of people in the company know it. That opens up a whole can of security worms. The potential for compromised security is huge.
“No individual with this kind of track record could pass a security clearance—they wouldn’t get within a hundred miles of a job at a nuclear weapons facility. But somehow NNSA thinks Fluor and Amentum are good corporate citizens who will place the safety of workers and the public before profits? What world are they living in?”
Nuclear Safety Incidents at Y-12 National Security Complex
October – November, 2021
The following incidents were reported in the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board weekly reports.
October 1, 2021 weekly report
- Contaminated material released through stack during maintenance activity
- Uranium chips catch fire, responders violate procedures (criticality safety infraction)
- Criticality safety loading limit violation
October 8, 2021 weekly report
- Potential Inadequacy in Safety Analysis (PISA) declared
- HEU briquettes in storage expanding, pushing lid off container
October 15, 2021 weekly report
- Facility degradation (Building 9212) compromises criticality safety
October 22, 2021 weekly report
- Outside assessment of criticality safety issues 2 findings, 3 weaknesses, 7 observations and 14 opportunities for improvement. Notes that contractor CNS closed cases even though deficiencies had not been fully addressed and were still open.
- Unexpected discovery of Cesium-137 (when technician triggers alarm)
November 12, 2021 weekly report
- Nuclear criticality safety infraction: wet material in prohibited container
November 19, 2021 weekly report
- Four personnel contamination events in past two weeks
- 23 personnel contamination events in 2021 to date
November 19 weekly report is the most recent report available.