National Nuclear Security Administration
February 15, 2005
The Honorable John T. Conway
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Your letter of October 27, 2004, requested a report summarizing activities associated with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Recommendation 93-6, “Maintaining Access to Nuclear Weapons Expertise in the Defense Nuclear Facilities Complex.”
The Administrator requested that I reply. In addition to requesting the enclosed report, you expressed concerns that the Department of Energy (DOE) is not supporting commitments made in response to Recommendation 93-6. Although our processes have evolved substantially since the 1993 timeframe, as shown in the report, the DOE is committed to meeting the intent of the closed recommendation. During the early to mid-1990s, the Department lacked validated formal processes for capturing safety-related information. Since that time, the process has evolved into a more rigorous and comprehensive system to document hazard scenarios and weapon responses.
The quality and processes related to weapons response have become more formal due to the inclusion of Title 10, U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Part 830, quality requirements and peer reviews. The use of the Weapons Response Database (WRD) for weapons response and the requirement to conduct activities in support of documented safety analyses also ensure a more rigorous and formal process to capture and document information. The WRD has proven to be a beneficial tool in capturing hazard scenarios and the weapons responses to those scenarios for each weapon system. The weapons safety specification is still used as the source material for hazard identification related to weapon design, aging, and surveillance activities.
The report shows a substantial amount of information that has already been archived and highlights several institutional processes to ensure continued access to nuclear weapons information. Interviews with employees in critical positions and retirees, scanning of documents, and video taping of interviews are some of the methods utilized to capture and document weapons information. Programs also exist to allow retired individuals, possessing critical knowledge, to contribute as consultants. The Nevada Test Site has a substantial program to ensure information is documented and accessible.
Archiving of weapons information has been ongoing, although it has evolved into a different form. The National Nuclear Security Administration considers maintaining access to nuclear weapons expertise and documentation of weapons information a high priority. The processes and methods will continue to be updated and modified as requirements change to ensure that weapons information is captured and archived.
If you have questions, please contact me or have your staff contact Mr. Michael Brown at 505-845-6258.
Everet H. Beckner
for Defense Programs
W. Andrews, DNFSB
D. Nichols, DNFSB
M. Whitaker, DR-1