National Nuclear Security Administration
February 8, 2005
The Honorable John T. Conway
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue NW, Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20004-2901
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Thank you for your November 3, 2004, letter on the Device Assembly Facility (DAF). Ambassador Brooks asked me to respond to you.
In your letter, you expressed concern regarding concurrent operations of existing and future mission activities at the DAF on the Nevada Test Site with respect to facility design, modern nuclear safety requirements, critical Safety Management Programs (SMPs), and facility infrastructure. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is planning to increase the scope and operational tempo of activities at the DAF. We will continue to ensure that hazards are properly identified and analyzed and that the SMPs and engineered safety features credited in the Documented Safety Analysis (DSA) are able to safely support the proposed activities prior to authorization.
The scope of the current DAF DSA includes such activities as subcritical experiment operations, glovebox operations to support Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research (JASPER) and storage of material, including receipt and storage of TA-18 nuclear materials. The criticality experiments mission and the downdraft table operations were not sufficiently defined for explicit inclusion and require additiona1 DSA analysis. The downdraft table analysis is now complete and in the review process. The Criticality Experiment Facility (CEF) project is developing a preliminary DSA for the missions transferring from Los Alamos National Laboratory, scheduled for completion in March 2005. The current DAF scope of work does not include interim criticality experiment or weapon dismantlement activities.
NNSA and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory understand that nuclear operations demand a high level of technical competence, analysis and documentation rigor, appropriate physical systems and administrative processes, and increased federal oversight. We recognize the transition to compliance with nuclear safety requirements mandates a change to the way DAF had been operated. As summarized in the enclosed report and detailed in the Safety Basis Implementation Plan (DAF-PLN-MG-15) dated June 2004 (previously provided to your office), there is a clear understanding of the path forward, supported both nuclear safety by a sound technical basis and a strong management commitment to and programmatic success in support of DAF activities.
Our vision of the DAF as a fully subscribed Category 2 nuclear facility supporting vital national security missions with a management and operational nuclear safety culture that is established and maintained to the highest standards is well under way. Resolutely focused on this course and in the context of the security and safety posture of the NNSA complex, we will not begin programmatic work until we assure the integrity and robustness of the DAF safety basis. Both NNSA and LLNL are committed to this vision and believe that the rigorous processes established haw, and will continue to identify and address any deficiencies in the DAF, its equipment, or safety management programs.
NNSA will continue to work with your staff to ensure continued communication. Please call me at 202-586-2179 if you have additional questions.
Everet H. Beckner
for Defense Programs
cc: L. Brooks, NA-1
J. Paul, NA-2
J. McConnell, NA-2.1