Safety board faults Savannah River Site contractor for errors in emergency drill

 

Savannah River Site’s primary contractor has received another negative safety report from a federal nuclear facilities safety oversight board.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the management and operations contractor, failed to meet safety requirements for emergency equipment during a simulated drill on May 14, according to a July 3 report from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. It also did not meet safety objectives during the exercise when firefighters violated a temporary radiological buffer area at the drill’s incident scene.

“While SRNS stated the equipment issues were relatively minor individually, the cumulative impact was that the emergency equipment needed to effectively respond to emergencies is seriously degraded,” the report says.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions was also warned of an apparent spike in safety concerns in an April 4 report. After numerous safety violations, contamination incidents and injuries at the site, SRNS and liquid-waste contractor Savannah River Remediation were called on to make corrective actions to prevent recurrences before a more serious incident occurs.

The May 15 safety drill was an annual evaluated exercise. Four objectives – radiological/chemical monitoring, emergency response facility staffing and activation, notifications and offsite interactions – were “partially met.”

According to the report, SRNS ordered personnel in a two-mile radius of the incident site to stay indoors while safety criteria for the potential radiological release was 3.8 miles. Also, the incident command posts were located within the 885 feet radius that is considered “the threshold to early lethality.”

The July 3 report also identified several leak sites in another liquid radioactive waste tank at the site. Tank 15 has a 15-inch crack located “relatively high in the tank” and smaller leak sites closer to the waste.

Many of the site’s Cold War-era storage tanks are cracked, rusty or have leaked. Several of the tanks have been operationally closed by removing the waste and filling them with a custom-made grout that permanently seals them in place.

 

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