A federal nuclear safety oversight panel has warned the U.S. Department of Energy that an apparent spike in safety violations, contamination incidents and injuries at Savannah River Site must be addressed before a more serious incident occurs.
In a safety report for the week ending April 4, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board found an uptick in safety concerns during the first quarter of 2014. Site contractors Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and Savannah River Remediation and DOE have been trying to make corrective actions, according to the report.
“During the first quarter of 2014, the site has experienced a mixture of external events, legacy issues and events caused by inattention to detail, poor quality or a failure to call a time out. This combination is affecting the productivity of several facilities and worker safety,” the report says.
At the Defense Waste Processing Facility under the management of SRR, five contamination events occurred in January and February, compared to two in the previous 10 months.
SRNS operations at the H-Canyon processing plant were also hit by safety mishaps, requiring modifications to the ventilation system. At two SRNS nonnuclear facilities, a worker cut his hand with a reciprocating saw and another worker was sprayed in the face and eyes with a chemical solution.
Additionally, SRNS and SRR violated DOE Technical Safety Requirements five times.
DOE site spokesman Jim Giusti said SRS remains concerned about the safety lapses and has worked with SRNS and SRR on corrective actions to prevent recurrences.
“The department is currently monitoring those actions through closure and will verify adequacy of the corrective actions after closure,” he said.
Marolyn Parson, the chairwoman of the SRS Citizens Advisory Board, said she was surprised by the reported number of safety incidents, adding that the site has a strong safety culture.
“These issues are a concern,” Parson said. “The CAB will ask DOE for an update on the incidents and follow up on what should be done.”