The Department of Energy vows more rigorous oversight of Savannah River Sites procurement practices after an Inspector Generals audit found a pattern of faulty materials purchases.
The five-month inquiry, which included analysis of selected purchases of items at the sites Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, the Tritium Extraction Facility and the Interim Salt Processing Project, detailed problems that included the purchase of 9,500 tons of substandard reinforcing steel.
The Energy Department said its Office of Environmental Management will increase scrutiny on the flow-down of nuclear quality assurance programs for lower-tiered vendors who sell products to approved contractors.
The department also plans to increase the number of quality assurance oversight personnel from one to five by the end of the 2009 fiscal year, and create a lessons learned coordinator position to make sure agencies involved with SRS construction programs can learn from past problems and prevent future ones.
The responses were outlined in a memo from Ines R. Triay, acting assistant secretary for environmental management, to Rickey R. Haas, deputy inspector general for audit services.
Even though the sites primary subcontractors were audited and qualified as suitable suppliers, the report said the quality assurance standards failed to flow down to lower-tier vendors.
The National Nuclear Security Administration, while disputing the auditors findings of cost impacts and the seriousness of the findings relating to materials installed in the MOX facility, acknowledged that steps need to be taken to improve quality assurance.
William Ostendorff, NNSAs principal deputy administrator, outlined a four-page list of proposed improvements that included better communication, the addition of a senior quality assurance manager and strengthening the MOX contractors award fee criteria to emphasize quality assurance compliance.
Auditors also made the observation that the Energy Department will use massive amounts of Recovery Act stimulus funds to initiate and accelerate ongoing projects.
Following publication of the audits criticism, one nuclear nonproliferation group said Monday that DOE should halt some SRS construction efforts.
Edwin Lyman of Union for Concerned Scientists told the Associated Press he had no confidence the DOE or its contractors were following safety guidelines.
On the Web: to view the complete audit report, go to: