Doug Hintze, Field Office Manager for the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management program, far left, and Steve Goodrum, National Nuclear Security Administration Field Office Manager, second from left, at Los Alamos National Laboratory chat Thursday evening prior to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board public hearing in Albuquerque. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Doug Hintze, Field Office Manager for Environmental Management at Los Alamos National Laboratory, far left, speaks to Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board members Joyce Connery and Jessie Roberson Thursday evening following the Board’s public hearing in Albuquerque. Also pictured are Board chair Bruce Hamilton and technical director Chris Rosetti. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
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 answered questions Thursday evening for members of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) during a public hearing at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
The two men were part of a panel which also included Jefffrey Harrell, NNSA Manager at Sandia National Laboratory and Chris Rosetti, the DNFSB’s technical manager. Todd Shrader of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Field Office in Carlsbad was also slated to participate in the panel but was unable to attend.
The goal of the hearing was to gather additional information from the four field offices regarding DNFSB interfaces and access to information, facilities and personnel. Under a Department of Energy (DOE) order issued last spring, DOE Order 140.1, some 71 percent of the nuclear facilities previously monitored by the DNFSB under the terms of the Atomic Energy Act will no longer be the Board’s responsibility. The hearing was the third held by the DNFSB since the Order was enacted.
DNFSB members have expressed their apprehension that the Order 140.1 attempts to diminish DNFSB’s statutory mandate under the Atomic Energy Act and that exemptions included in the Order identify areas where federal and contractor personnel are not required to cooperate with the Board.
The Board is also concerned that 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 Board also believes the Order will allow DOE to deny requests related to deliberative documents, pre-decisional documents or deliberative meetings.
Board members were particularly interested in what has changed on the DOE sites since the Order was implemented and questioned panel members in depth. Panel members were asked what has changed with regard to interface with DNFSB staff on specific projects since the order went into effect.
Hintze told the Board the EM-LA relationship with the site representatives for DNFSB is excellent and that he expects little or no change in that. He said EM-LA’s responsibility is to ensure safe operations of its facilities and ensure the safety and health of the public, the workers and the environment. He said in so it’s EM-LA’s responsibility to take input from any available sources and that is expected to continue regardless of whether the facilities are the ones the DNFSB monitors under the new order or not.
“We still have same responsibility as line managers. In order to make the best decision possible to ensure safety, we expect to continue to get input and one of the things we miss sometimes is there’s a whole slew of experts out there, not just the Defense Nuclear Safety Board but regulatory agencies both federal and state. There are local governments who have experts in the field and we rely on and use all of those to get the information. The decisions are ours as the line management in order that we do ensure safe operations but we expect to continue the same relationships that we have, receive the information, assess the information, just like we do with all the sources and then make the best decisions for our operations and mission execution,” Hintze said.
Asked if there was anything that sticks in his mind that wasn’t working well prior to the order that the order has fixed, Hintze responded that anytime there are two different organizations with different objectives or basis on which they operate – everything from the federal government to the DFNSB, you see things slightly differently.
“That’s why the communications is very key and vital and I think that communication has been well,” he said. “It goes back to relationships and communication. I don’t see either way how this Order is going to change that.”
Goodrum said he has been a federal manager at multiple NNSA sites since the 90s and that when he looks at the new order he doesn’t see anything that would fundamentally change the role and relationships he holds with the board from those various roles.
“The fundamental as a risk official when you’re authorized to make a well-informed safety position, you need to make sure that you’re taking in the accountability. You need to make sure that you’re bringing in all the relevant information and that you’re balancing that information to make a well-informed risk decision. Throughout that process at described points it’s appropriate that we share information with the board and staff so that you understand our decision making process and at the appropriate times you get to see the decisions that were made the basis for those decisions,” he said. “So when you look at the new Order, I don’t think that it changes that fundamentally but I think when we roll out our procedures internal at the Laboratory, we’ll add a lot more crispness to clarifying those roles so it doesn’t change the actions by the Board of the staff but is focused to change the actions within NNSA that we have thorough lines of responsibility that we adhere to. At the same time, we have open communication lines for exchanging the appropriate information for you to conduct your oversight role and ability to provide comments.”
On the issue of training to the Order, Goodrum said training was conducted within NNSA to bring the seniors up to speed with what is in the new Order and what’s expected from them in implementation.
“That has been flowed down to the higher levels of the federal staff and relatively understood by the staff in total,” he said.
Goodrum said NNSA is in the process of doing a contract modification for the Triad contract and that once it’s in the contract formally, Triad will rewrite the procedure they use for interface with the DNFSB.
“They will also coordinate that through us. We don’t approve it but we do concur in it and we’re planning to embed in there where the nodes and the points comes back to NNSA and how to identify the principles that are in there – principles such as we share operational information real time,” he said.
Goodrum said from everything he has seen, those principles have been put in places and expectations by the Triad Corporation and their leadership.
The hearing was divided into two sessions – one for questions to the panel and the other for public comment. Speakers included Jay Coghlan and Scott Kovak of Nuclear Watch and Santa Fe County Commissioner Anna Hansen. Los Alamos County Council Chair Sara Scott attended the hearing and said she will be submitting comments for the hearing record which is open for 30 days.
Also in attendance were Stanley Riveles, chair of the Northern New Mexican Citizens Advisory Board and NNMCAB board member Robert Hull of Los Alamos as well as Eric Vasquez, executive director of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities. Riveles and Vasquez both made statements to the board.