Safety Documents Under Review at Pantax Plant

Newly formed National Nuclear Security Administration is evaluating safety at the plant in Amarillo, Texas.

The Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Environment, Safety and Health will conduct an independent evaluation of safety documentation at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas. The evaluation is the first into safety documentation at a National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) facility and is a follow-up to a 1996 evaluation of safety management at Pantex.

"Protecting the safety and health of workers, the public and the environment is an integral part of the Department of Energy's mission, including the responsibilities carried out by the National Nuclear Security Administration," Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said. "I am committed to continuing the department's emphasis on independent safety reviews while transitioning our nation's defense activities to a new organizational structure."

Safety documentation is used to identify all credible risks and hazards arising from DOE activities, as well as the controls necessary to mitigate these risks.

The three-month review will begin March 27. A 12 person team will thoroughly examine the safety documentation for selected Pantex facilities and operations to ensure that it is current and technically accurate. They will also evaluate the processes DOE and Pantex contractor Mason & Hanger Corp. use to develop, review, approve and maintain safety documents. At the conclusion of their review, the team will report their findings to Richardson.

The evaluation will assess progress that has been made toward resolving previous concerns and highlight areas that may require further action. Concerns about the quality of safety documentation at Pantex have been identified in recent years. For example, Mason & Hanger was cited in the 1996 review by the DOE's Office of Environment, Safety and Health and by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in a 1998 recommendation and several technical documents.

The evaluation is unrelated to the steps Richardson ordered March 6 to address recently reported groundwater contamination at Pantex.

Congress established the NNSA as a semiautonomous agency within DOE. It began operating March 1.

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