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Natsios Young Architects

3 March 2010

[Federal Register: March 1, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 39)]
[Page 9196-9197]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access []



Letter From Secretary of Energy Accepting Defense Nuclear 
Facilities Safety Board (Board) Recommendation 2009-2

AGENCY: Department of Energy.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Department of Energy (DOE) is making available the 
February 2, 2010, Secretary's letter to the Board accepting the Board's 
recommendation 2009-2 regarding seismic safety at the Los Alamos 
National Laboratory Plutonium Facility.

ADDRESSES: U.S. Department of Energy, HS-1.1, 1000 Independence Ave, 
SW., Washington, DC 20585.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DOE is making this letter available for 
public information and solicits comments from the public. Comments may 
be sent to the address above. The text of the document is below. It may 
also be viewed at:

    Issued in Washington, DC, on February 23, 2010.
Mark B. Whitaker,
Departmental Representative to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety 
February 2, 2010.
The Honorable John E. Mansfield, Vice Chairman, Defense Nuclear 
Facilities Safety Board, 625 Indiana Avenue, NW., Suite 700, 
Washington, DC 20004.

    Dear Mr. Vice Chairman: The Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledges 
receipt of Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) 
Recommendation 2009-2, Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium 
Facility Seismic Safety, issued on October 26, 2009, and I accept the 
    In December 2008, the National Nuclear Security Administration 
(NNSA) Los Alamos Site Office (LASO) approved a new Documented Safety 
Analysis (DSA) for the Plutonium Facility at Los Alamos National 
Laboratory (LANL), the first major upgrade to the Plutonium Facility's 
Safety Basis since 1996. The DSA conservatively describes potentially 
high mitigated consequences to the maximally exposed off-site 
individual (i.e., the public) from a first-floor fire following a 
seismic event, approximately two orders of magnitude higher than our 
evaluation guideline for selecting safety class controls.
    Approval of the DSA included recognition of weaknesses in the 
facility's control set and the need to upgrade a number of safety 
systems in order to meet DOE nuclear safety policies. As a result, Los 
Alamos National Security (LANS) has initiated a number of improvements 
to address safety issues identified in the DSA, including transitioning 
to an active confinement ventilation strategy.
    LANS recently submitted to LASO an update of the facility's DSA 
that includes revised seismic accident scenarios to more accurately, 
but conservatively, evaluate the consequences of such scenarios. The 
DSA annual update, to be reviewed and approved by LASO, includes about 
a factor of 15 reduction from the previous DSA of the mitigated 
consequences to the maximally exposed off-site individual from a post-
seismic fire. This proposed reduction is accomplished by establishing 
stricter limits to the overall material at risk allowed in the facility 
and by defining specific material quantity limits for various forms of 
material such as liquid, metal, and oxide and for heat-source 
plutonium. However, additional upgrades will be needed in order to meet 
DOE nuclear safety policies.
    A significant number of actions have been completed recently or are 
planned in the near future that improve the safety posture of the 
facility. For example, in the near term, NNSA will incentivize LANS to 
accomplish the following in FY 10:
     Install an automatic seismic shutdown capability for non-
vital laboratory room electrical loads that provides an engineered 
control to reduce laboratory room electrical ignition sources;
     Develop conceptual designs for potential seismic upgrades 
to key active confinement ventilation subsystems and to the fire 
suppression system;
     Robustly package or otherwise disposition greater than 250 
kilograms of plutonium-equivalent material;
     Reduce first floor material at risk limit by 40 percent; 
     Complete safety class encapsulation of the existing 
inventory of heat-source plutonium currently stored in Russian Product 
Containers (RPCs) that will subsequently be stored in the vault water 

NNSA has also provided additional funding to LANS for FY 10 to support 
the repackaging and disposition of material, risk reduction activities, 
and new generation container development. Also, for FY 10, LASO and 
LANS have developed performance-based incentives of about $1.3M for 
materials repackaging and disposition, updated seismic analyses, and 
safety upgrades to the Plutonium Facility. These actions in

[[Page 9197]]

FY 10 build upon actions taken by LANS in FY 09 and early FY 10, 
including the following:
     Removed nearly 11 tons of combustible material from the 
facility, primarily first-floor laboratory rooms;
     Repackaged 60 existing RPCs with pressure safety concerns 
into new safety class containers;
     Replaced 195 high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) 
filters with 500[deg]F-rated HEPA filters; and
     Developed a hydraulic model of the Fire Suppression System 
that identified weaknesses that are being addressed and will be used to 
inform decision-making for making this system safety class.

A more comprehensive summary of key actions is provided in the 
enclosure to this letter.
    As noted above, the changes to the DSA currently under review would 
reduce the potential consequences at the site boundary due to a post-
seismic fire event by a factor of 15. Approving updates to the DSA and 
Technical Safety Requirements is the binding mechanism by which DOE 
directs changes to the nuclear safety posture of its facilities. DOE is 
expediting its review of the updated DSA to achieve its implementation 
at the earliest feasible date.
    I have assigned Mr. James J. McConnell, Acting Assistant Deputy 
Administrator for Nuclear Safety and Operations, Office of Defense 
Programs, NNSA, to be the Department's responsible manager for 
developing the Implementation Plan. He can be reached at (202) 586-


Steven Chu

[FR Doc. 2010-4128 Filed 2-26-10; 8:45 am]