November 30th, 2006 11:08 EST
DOE/NNSA Cites BWXT Pantex for Price-Anderson Violations
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) notified BWXT Pantex that it will fine the company $110,000 for violations of the department’s nuclear safety requirements. BWXT Pantex is the contractor responsible for managing and operating the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, the country’s only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility.
The Preliminary Notice of Violation (PNOV) cited violations associated with three unsuccessful attempts to separate two parts of a weapon assembly, which occurred between March 30, 2005 and April 26, 2005.
On two occasions during the separation attempts, several controls that were designed to limit the applied force to the weapon assembly were exceeded. The primary cause for the failure to maintain these controls is attributed to both inadequacy in the operating procedure and failure to follow the operating procedure.
Although no personnel radiation exposures or injuries resulted from the failure to limit the application of force to the assembly, the actions taken during the attempts to separate parts of the assembly demonstrated a nonconservative approach in decision making during a process in which strict adherence to established procedure was vital.
Included in the PNOV are two Severity Level II violations. The first violation is associated with the failure to adhere to safety limits and requirements. This includes the failures to adhere to limits in the force applied to the weapon assembly and a Technical Safety Requirement violation associated with the use of a tool that was explicitly forbidden from use as stated in a Justification for Continued Operation. The second violation is associated with failure to adhere to operating procedures. Specific examples include the failure to adhere to the control limits, failure to properly record the maximum force applied to the weapon assembly, executing a work activity not covered by the operating procedure, and failing to stop work when unexpected conditions arose. In addition, included in the PNOV are two Severity Level III violations associated with inadequacy with the operating procedure and failure to maintain tooling calibration.
BWXT Pantex has developed and is in the process of implementing corrective actions to the violations and underlying deficiencies. The Energy Department and NNSA will continue to monitor the effectiveness of BWXT Pantex’s actions and improvements in safety performance.
The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes the Energy Department to undertake regulatory actions against contractors for violations of its nuclear safety requirements. The enforcement program encourages department contractors to identify and correct nuclear safety deficiencies at an early stage, before they contribute to or result in more serious events.
Additional details on this and other enforcement actions are at www.hss.doe.gov/enforce.
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371