Nuclear Weapons: Information on Safety Concerns with the Uranium Processing Facility Page: 6 of 21
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final stages of reviewing the agency's actions. 15 Six other concerns remain open while NNSA is
completing the corrective actions, which Safety Board officials said they will review once the
actions are completed. 16 For the final concern-about the methodology used to calculate the
rate at which radioactive material would settle out of the atmosphere in the event of an
accident-Safety Board staff and NNSA officials said that they are not likely to agree on a path
to resolution, and NNSA has conducted additional analyses to clarify its position.
On August 26, 2013, the Safety Board sent NNSA a letter that acknowledged the agency's
progress in addressing the Safety Board's previously identified concerns with the UPF.
However, the Safety Board said that NNSA must continue to improve the effectiveness of the
UPF's safety controls and strengthen oversight to ensure planned controls can reliably perform
their safety functions. In addition, the Safety Board identified 12 additional specific safety
concerns, such as those related to potential fire and explosion scenarios, based on the CD 2
interim safety document approved by NNSA in February 2013. See enclosure III for a
description of these 12 additional concerns. According to NNSA officials, the agency is
currently reviewing the Safety Board's letter and preparing a response. Safety Board staff said
that additional concerns may be raised as UPF completes final design and moves into
In addition to the specific safety concerns raised above, the Safety Board has also raised
general concerns with NNSA's plans to defer the installation of some uranium processing
capabilities into the UPF at a later date and after the UPF is operational. As discussed above,
NNSA currently plans to install uranium processing capabilities into the UPF in phases, after the
building's exterior, support systems, and some processing capabilities have been completed.
However, NNSA officials said that the agency does not plan to complete final design and safety
work for the deferred capabilities until after the initial phase of the UPF is operational, which
NNSA expects to occur in 2025. Safety Board staff stated that if NNSA encounters any
challenges while finalizing the design and safety controls for the deferred scope, it will have
much less flexibility to address them since the building will already have been constructed.
Currently, NNSA plans to begin and complete subsequent UPF phases between 2030 and
2036. Safety Board staff stated that this project execution strategy introduces safety-related
risks that will challenge the project's ability to integrate safety into the design. For example, at
an October 2012 public hearing on the UPF, a senior Safety Board staff member noted that
other DOE projects that have attempted similar complex execution strategies, such as the
Hanford Waste Treatment Plant, which chose a strategy that allowed construction to begin prior
to completing design, have had little or no success. In the UPF project, NNSA has decided to
defer scope for key manufacturing and machining operations and will add them back to UPF
sometime after it is built, which the senior Safety Board staff member said was similar to the
Hanford Waste Treatment Plant decision to begin construction before completion of design, and
magnified the impacts on the plant's cost and schedule when safety-related issued were
15For example, the Safety Board raised concerns about NNSA's methodology for analyzing fires resulting from an
earthquake, and in response, NNSA conducted a new analysis providing additional details on its methodology.
16For example, the Safety Board raised concerns that NNSA's project office is understaffed to perform effective
oversight, with many officials sharing project management and technical oversight responsibilities. In response,
NNSA developed a staffing plan and the project has recently been approved to fill an additional 10 specialist
positions, such as fire safety engineers and criticality engineers.
GAO-14-79R Nuclear Weapons
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Nuclear Weapons: Information on Safety Concerns with the Uranium Processing Facility, text, October 25, 2013; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302471/m1/6/: accessed April 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.