BY MAIRE O’NEILL
William “Steve” Goodrum, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Los Alamos Field Officer Manager and Doug Hintze, Environmental Management (EM), Los Alamos Field Office Manager are among those on the panel for a Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) meeting to be held at the Albuquerque Convention Thursday evening.
The goal of the meeting is to gather information from Department of Energy (DOE) Field Offices at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory and the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad regarding DNFSB interfaces and access to information, facilities and personnel.
The DNFSB is concerned about DOE Order 140.1 and how it will be implemented. The Board wrote to Energy Secretary Rick Perry in September 2018 stating that testimony by DOE officials at an August 2018 public hearing confirmed the Board’s apprehension that Order 140.1 attempts to diminish DNFSB’s statutory mandate under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. The Board is concerned that exemptions included in the Order identify areas where federal and contractor personnel are not required to cooperate with the Board.
One concern is that under the Order, DOE will determine which facilities adversely affect public safety and health but that the Atomic Energy Act gives the Board the authority to make that determination. The Order does not apply to DOE Nuclear Hazard Category 3 or below facilities that do not adversely affect or adversely affect public health and safety which is defined in the Order as the health and safety of those beyond the boundaries of DOE sites and defense nuclear facilities. The Board believes the Atomic Energy Act does not refer to the site boundary as the demarcation for defining public health and safety. The DOE maintains that the Order is consistent with the Atomic Energy Act’s regulations and policies that differentiate between radiation and exposures to members of the public and occupational exposures to workers.
Secretary Perry has responded to the Board that DOE’s longstanding policy is to continue a strong and productive relationship with the Board and its staff as a valued external and independent review. Perry told the Board that when it comes to the safe operations of DOE sites and facilities, the buck stops squarely at DOE’s door and that DOE takes full responsibility for that safety for which Congress and the public holds it accountable.
The Board is also concerned that language in the Order would remove the Board’s statutory authority to make determinations on the information it needs to carry out its responsibilities and give that power to DOE. In addition, the Board believes the Order will allow DOE to deny requests related to deliberative documents, pre-decisional documents or deliberative meetings. Secretary Perry believes the Order doesn’t hinder DOE’s cooperation with the Board or prevent the Board from conducting independent analyses and submitting recommendations to him.
Santa Fe County Commission Chair Anna Hansen requested a meeting with DNFSB officials prior to the public hearing and is slated for a meeting earlier in the day. The Santa Fe County Commission has asked that Secretary Perry ‘reissue a revised order that does not impinge on the DNFSB’s statutory authority to perform its critical mission of helping ensure the safety of Santa Fe County residents and all New Mexicans who live near or work at federal nuclear facilities” in the state.
Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott said Monday that she will be attending the meeting.
The second session of the meeting is set aside for public comment. Pre-registration to make public comment can be made by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling 800.788.4016 by Tuesday.
On Thursday, a live web stream link to the hearing will be provided by DNFSB at https://www.dnfsb.gov/public-hearings-meetings/february-21-public-hearing
The Albuquerque Convention Center is located at 401 2nd St NW, Albuquerque.