National Nuclear Security Administration
November 2, 2006
The Honorable A. J. Eggenberger
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
625 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20004-2901
Dear Mr. Chairman:
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has reviewed the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board letter regarding implementation concerns about the Nuclear Criticality Safety (NCS) Program at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and associated NNSA oversight.
The NNSA is committed to conducting operations with fissile material safely. NNSA has demonstrated its commitment to nuclear criticality safety by providing leadership to the Headquarters Criticality Safety Monitoring Program (CSMP). The NNSA formed an expert team and conducted a review of the LANL criticality safety program in late October 2005. The Team identified three Safety Recommendations and fourteen findings. The Team found that the LANL nuclear criticality safety program did not meet many of the expectations of the national consensus criticality safety standards. LANL developed a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) to fully accomplish the Safety Recommendations and bring all operations into compliance with national consensus criticality safety standards.
LANL has implemented interim compensatory measures based on their assessment of operations. NNSA has increased oversight of the LANL program. An expert team under the auspices of the NNSA Chief of Defense Nuclear Safety (CDNS) has independently reviewed LANL's approach and actions to address the three safety recommendations.
The review report will be completed by the end of' November 2006. Based on the results of this review, NNSA will re-evaluate the need for Federal compensatory measures or additional LANL compensatory measures. Preliminary results from the CDNS team indicate that there are no imminent, as-found, uncontrolled criticality accident hazards at LANL.
NNSA is currently meeting regularly with the LANL criticality safety group to assess progress against the schedules in the PIP. LANL has fallen behind in meeting these milestones. LANL is in the process of updating the PIP and NNSA will approve the revised plan and actively monitor progress against the agreed-upon schedule. A performance incentive has been added to the contract to encourage LANL accomplishment in this area. Both NNSA and LANL are increasing staff to meet NCS program goals. A General Engineer has been assigned as a full-time NCS Engineer at the
Los Alamos Site Office. Full completion of qualifications is required by April 2008; NNSA is exploring mechanisms to accelerate this qualification. NNSA will continue to review all new criticality safety evaluations for new or modified operations until satisfied that the evaluations produced are of high quality. Review will then continue on a sampling basis. LASO is evaluating and modifying its Criticality Safety Oversight Plan for implementation. LASO will continue to receive technical assistance from the Service Center, Headquarters, and other NNSA resources.
LASO has taken contracting measures designed to incentivize LANL in improving their NCS program. This, coupled with the addition of DOE Order 420.1B to the LANS contract (currently in negotiation with LANS), requires that NNSA approve the plans produced, and allows NNSA to hold incentive fee at risk to ensure that LANL's performance in these areas is sufficient. The metrics identify quarterly reviews of LANL progress against milestones.
Collectively, these actions will ensure that all ongoing operations and all new or modified operations will be conducted safely from a criticality safety perspective.
The detailed LANL response to the three specific issues you raised in your letter is provided in the attachment. If you have any questions, please contact me or have your staff contact Mr. Patrick Moss of the NNSA Los Alamos Site Office at (505) 665-9233.
Linton F. Brooks
T. D'Agostino, NA-10
E. Wilmot, LASO
M. Whitaker, HS-1.1
J. McConnell, NA-2.1