19 July 2011. Previous:
DOE on Nuclear Waste Site Failed Safety Culture
[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 138 (Tuesday, July 19, 2011)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-18084]
DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
DOE Response to Recommendation 2011-1 of the Defense Nuclear
Facilities Safety Board, Safety Culture at the Waste Treatment and
AGENCY: Department of Energy.
SUMMARY: On June 09, 2011, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
affirmed their Recommendation 2011-1, concerning Safety Culture at the
Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, to the Department of Energy.
In accordance with section 315(b) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. 2286d(b), The following represents the Secretary of
Energy's response to the recommendation.
ADDRESSES: Send comments, data, views, or arguments concerning the
Secretary's response to: Defense Nuclear
Facilities Safety Board, 625 Indiana Avenue, NW., Suite 700,
Washington, DC 20004.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Nick Suttora, Team Lead,
Departmental Representative to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety
Board, Office of Health, Safety and Security, U.S. Department of
Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20585.
Issued in Washington, DC, on July 6, 2011.
Departmental Representative to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety
Board, Office of Health, Safety and Security.
June 30, 2011.
The Honorable Peter S. Winokur,
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board,
625 Indiana Avenue, NW, Suite 700,
Washington, DC 20004-2901.
Dear Mr. Chairman:
The Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledges receipt of Defense
Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) Recommendation 2011-1,
Safety Culture at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant,
issued on June 9, 2011. DOE views nuclear safety and assuring a
robust safety culture as essential to the success of the Waste
Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) and all of our projects
across the DOE complex.
As the Board notes in the introduction to this Recommendation,
DOE committed itself to establishing and maintaining a strong
nuclear safety culture almost 20 years ago through Secretary of
Energy Notice SEN-35-91, Nuclear Safety Policy. This commitment was
reiterated and confirmed in February 2011, in DOE Policy 420.1,
Department of Energy Nuclear Safety Policy. We agree with the
Board's position that establishment of a strict safety culture must
be a fundamental principle throughout the DOE complex, and we are in
unqualified agreement with the Board that the WTP mission is
essential to protect the health and safety of the public, our
workers, and the environment from radioactive wastes in aging
storage tanks at Hanford.
It is DOE policy and practice to design, construct, operate, and
decommission its nuclear facilities in a manner that ensures
adequate protection of workers, the public, and the environment. DOE
line management is both responsible and accountable for assuring
that such adequate protection is at the core of how we conduct
business at our nuclear facilities. We hold our contractors to the
same standard. A strong nuclear safety and quality culture is the
foundation of our work.
Over the past year, the Department has undertaken a broad range
of steps to assure a strong and questioning safety culture at WTP
and sites across the DOE complex. We will only be successful if we
remain committed to continuous improvement and teamwork. DOE takes
all safety concerns--whether from our employees, our contractors,
the Board, or third-parties--very seriously. This input is an
integral part of the Department's efforts to constantly strengthen
nuclear safety at our facilities.
Even though the Department cannot accept the allegations without
the opportunity to evaluate the Board's full investigative record,
in the spirit of continual improvement DOE accepts the Board's
recommendations to assert federal control to direct, track, and
validate corrective actions to strengthen the safety culture at WTP;
conduct an extent of condition review to assess safety culture
issues beyond the WTP project; and support the ongoing Department of
Labor (DOL) review of Dr. Tamosaitis' case.
Reinforcing and maintaining a strong safety culture at WTP and
all DOE sites will require a wide range of approaches, including
engagement by senior DOE officials, employee input and
participation, self assessments, independent oversight by the Office
of Health, Safety and Security (HSS), recommendations from the
Board, and an open and transparent process to identify and implement
technical issues and corrective actions.
We agree with the Board that ``federal and contract managers
must make a special effort to foster a free and open atmosphere in
which all competent opinions are judged on their technical merit, to
sustain or improve worker and public safety first and foremost, and
then [to] evaluate potential impacts of cost and schedule.'' These
expectations are clearly articulated in DOE Policy 442.1, Differing
Professional Opinion; DOE Manual 442.1-1, Differing Professional
Opinions Manual for Technical Issues Involving Environment, Safety,
and Health, and DOE Order 442.1A, Department of Energy Employee
To assure that these issues were being appropriately addressed
following Dr. Tamosaitis' initial allegations, the Assistant
Secretary for Environmental Management (EM) requested that HSS
conduct a comprehensive analysis of the safety culture at WTP.
In October 2010, HSS completed its investigation, which included
interviews with more than 250 employees. While HSS found that the
fundamentals of a robust safety culture were present at WTP, the
report identified the need for improvement in key areas, including,
among others: more clearly defining federal roles and
responsibilities; identifying mechanisms to strengthen trust among
the workforce and better communicate information to employees; and
putting in place processes to ensure nuclear safety programs remain
robust and effective during project changes.
The corrective actions that address the recommendations from the
HSS report will be fully implemented by September 30, 2011. HSS will
then conduct a follow-on visit to assure that these steps were
executed effectively across the project, as well as to perform
additional analysis to determine if cost and schedule pressures are
challenging the implementation of a robust nuclear safety culture.
DOE and Bechtel National, Incorporated (BNI)--the prime
contractor on the WTP project--have been engaged in a variety of
initiatives to strengthen the nuclear safety culture at WTP for over
a year. Steps that have already occurred include completing a
revision to the WTP Project Execution Plan, currently under review,
to more clearly delineate federal roles and organizational
responsibilities at WTP and the Office of River Protection (ORP),
and conducting a number of employee forums to ensure that employees
clearly understand the changes in those roles and responsibilities.
Also in response to the HSS recommendations, BNI commissioned a
confidential survey of more than 300 WTP employees to assess if a
Nuclear Safety Quality Culture (NSQC) gap existed at the site and to
identify additional areas for improvement. As a result, the
contractor assigned a retired Navy Admiral and former nuclear
utility executive experienced in application of Institute of Nuclear
Power Operations (INPO) methods as the Manager of NSQC
Implementation for the project. To date, approximately 1,600 people
at the site, including all senior managers, have received training
focused on making the workforce comfortable with raising issues and
systematically moving issues through to resolution. In addition,
over the last 13 months, BNI has conducted three all-hands meetings
with DOE project team participation to emphasize the importance of a
robust nuclear safety culture.
Even while some initiatives are already underway, we recognize
the need to continue improving nuclear safety at WTP and across the
complex. To that end, DOE has developed a comprehensive action plan
to address the Board's specific recommendations to strengthen the
safety culture at WTP. Initial steps are discussed below:
The Deputy Secretary and I will continue to be
personally engaged in asserting federal control to ensure the
specific corrective actions to strengthen safety culture within the
WTP project in both contractor and federal workforces--consistent
with DOE Policy 420.1--are tracked and validated. Federal control
within the WTP project has been and will continue to be asserted and
regularly reinforced through our direct involvement.
This will include a series of ``town-hall'' style
meetings hosted by senior DOE officials to highlight for workers the
importance of maintaining a strong nuclear safety culture at each of
our sites and to solicit their input. These forums across the DOE
complex will also help improve the direct communication of safety
issues between senior managers and employees.
To address the concern regarding extent of condition,
HSS will independently review the safety culture across the entire
complex. This review will provide insights into the health of safety
culture within Headquarters organizations, different program
offices, and different field sites.
In addition, DOE and BNI are arranging Safety Conscious
Work Environment (SCWE) training for BNI and ORP managers and
supervisors with a firm that conducts SCWE training for the
Institute of Nuclear Power Operations Senior Nuclear Plant Manager's
We will also be joining with BNI to sponsor an
assessment of the project's nuclear safety culture by a group of
nuclear industry subject matter experts, who have experience in INPO
evaluations and/or Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspections.
At both a site and corporate level, we are also taking
steps to enhance reporting mechanisms for safety-related concerns.
At the Hanford site, we have combined the Employee Concerns Programs
for ORP and the Richland Operations Office to leverage existing
resources to both strengthen this important program and increase its
visibility at the site.
Within EM Headquarters, we have established ombudsmen
to act as advocates for employees and their concerns. We have made
it easier for employees to use a variety of avenues to raise
concerns, including: the line management for each project, site
employee concerns programs, union representatives, EM's Office of
Safety and Security Programs, HSS, and DOE's Chief of Nuclear
Safety. Each office now offers employees access to both a hotline
number and general email inbox, so that workers will have the
opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns either directly or
We will also require that both EM Headquarters and
field sites assess nuclear safety culture and the implementation of
a safety conscious work environment in their annual submittals for
Integrated Safety Management System (ISMS) declarations. The
specific criteria will build on the existing requirements for the
ISMS declarations and will be expanded to include safety culture
principles not only from DOE, but also from INPO and NRC.
Regarding your final recommendation, when the
Department became aware of Dr. Tamosaitis' petition to the Board,
the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management immediately
requested the Department's Inspector General to perform an
investigation into the alleged retaliation issues raised by Dr.
Tamosaitis. The Office of the Inspector General decided not to
examine the merits of the allegations since they were already the
focus of an ongoing investigation by DOL, which has jurisdiction and
expertise to review whistle blower claims. The Department will fully
cooperate with the DOL as requested in its investigation.
Even while DOE fully embraces the objectives of the Board's
specific recommendations, it is important to note that DOE does not
agree with all of the findings included in the Board's report.
Specifically, the conclusions drawn by the Board about the
overall quality of the safety culture at WTP differ significantly
from the HSS findings and are not consistent with the safety culture
data and field performance experience at WTP. We are concerned that
your letter includes the October 2010 HSS review in the list of
``other examples of a failed safety culture.'' The Department
disagrees with this categorization and believes the HSS report
provided an accurate representation of the nuclear safety culture--
and existing gaps--at the WTP.
As discussed above, the HSS review found areas in need of
immediate improvement; however, most WTP personnel did not express a
loss of confidence in management support, a sense of a chilled
environment, or a fear of retaliation.
Additionally, in its report, the Board alleges that DOE and
contractor management suppressed technical dissent on the project.
The Department rightly takes any such claim very seriously. Based on
an investigation by the DOE Office of the General Counsel, however,
we do not necessarily agree with some of the specific details the
Board provided. For example, our investigation found no evidence
that DOE or its contractors were aware of and sought to suppress a
Moreover, the Board's findings appear to rely on a number of
accounts describing the actions and behaviors of both contractor and
DOE personnel that we believe may have been misunderstood by the
Board. The Department feels compelled to address these for the
public record and in fairness to its personnel.
To do so effectively, on June 22, 2011, DOE requested the
Board's full investigative record, including transcripts, interview
notes, and exhibits. Per your conversation with Deputy Secretary
Daniel Poneman today, we look forward to continuing to engage with
you to obtain additional details from the Board's investigation. The
Board's investigative record or other supporting information will
allow us to provide further details on specific discrepancies
between our findings and the Board's and will be of great use in
defining the structure and scope of follow-on safety culture
improvement initiatives and actions.
We look forward to working with the Board and its staff as we
continue to strive towards excellence. It is important for the both
the Department and the Board to function collaboratively and openly
as we work to further improve the safety culture at DOE. To
facilitate that objective and in recognition of the significance of
these concerns, I recommend we jointly charter a third-party review,
such as the National Academy of Science, to evaluate how we can
strengthen our relationship and most effectively work together to
achieve our shared objective of helping DOE to safely perform its
As additional information becomes available from our actions
addressing this Recommendation, we will make it available to you. We
hope to continue a meaningful, regular, and open dialogue on this
and all safety matters.
I am designating Mr. Daniel Poneman, the Deputy Secretary of
Energy, as the Responsible Manager for this recommendation. He will
be charged with reporting to me regularly on the specific additional
steps we are taking to improve the safety culture at WTP and all of
D. Poneman, S-2
M. Campagnone, HS-1.1
[FR Doc. 2011-18084 Filed 7-18-11; 8:45 am]
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