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    Subject Term: "Nuclear facility safety"

    3 publications with a total of 12 open recommendations including 3 priority recommendations
    Director: David C. Trimble
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's ability to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of policies that call for all organizations, including contractors, to embrace a strong safety culture and create a work environment that encourages a questioning attitude by all employees, the Secretary of Energy should develop and implement an independent evaluation process for routinely and accurately measuring contractor employees' willingness to raise safety and other concerns without fear of retaliation. This process should ensure that an independent third party develops, conducts, and consistently applies the evaluation methodology--which should include safeguards that protect anonymity. The process should also enable DOE to oversee and ensure that appropriate corrective actions are taken in response to evaluation results.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation. In December 2016, the Office of Enterprise Assessments formed a working group to address our recommendations. According to DOE, as of March 2017 the working group developed a strategy and plan to independently analyze data associated with willingness to raise concerns within contractor organizations at DOE sites with high hazard nuclear facilities. We will continue to monitor DOE's efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that the organizational placement and practices of DOE- and contractor- provided Employee Concerns Programs (ECP) do not inhibit contractor employees from raising safety and other concerns, the Secretary of Energy should revise DOE's ECP order and guidance to (1) require that the organizational placement and practices of contractor ECP's do not compromise or impair their independence, (2) clarify the circumstances under which DOE's ECP is permitted to transfer and refer concerns to contractors, and notify or require approval of the contractor employee raising the concern, and (3) provide criteria for overseeing and evaluating the effectiveness and independence of contractor-provided ECPs.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation. To address this recommendation, DOE planned to update DOE Order 442.1A, Department of Energy Employee Concerns Program, to (1) address the potential for conflicts of interest that could affect the independence of contractor ECPs, (2) clarify the circumstances under which an employee concern can be referred or transferred from a DOE ECP to a contractor ECP, and (3) specify that the processes already identified in DOE Order 226.1B, Implementation of Department of Energy Oversight Policy, be used as part of the oversight processes for contractor-provided ECPs, to include evaluation of their effectiveness and independence. According to DOE, the draft order was affected by a Presidential Memorandum issued in January 2017, which put a temporary stop to the DOE directives process. We will continue to monitor the status of DOE's implementation of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Congress has the information it needs as it considers whether or not to make permanent the enhanced whistleblower pilot program and that DOE has assurance that contractor employees have an effective mechanism to seek remedy for unlawful retaliation, the Secretary of Energy should fully evaluate the extent to which the pilot program has been implemented and whether its provisions will mitigate challenges associated with DOE's 708 program. This evaluation should include, at a minimum, an assessment of (1) contractors that have adopted the pilot program and the date they did so; (2) contractors that have not adopted the pilot program and an explanation of why not; (3) cases filed under the pilot program, if any; and (4) the pilot program's potential for mitigating challenges associated with the 708 program.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred in principle with the recommendation. In response to this recommendation, the Office of Hearings and Appeals conducted a review of the Part 708 program that, according to DOE, evaluated each of the areas of concern and compared current part 708 regulations with the pilot program. We will update the status of this recommendation after we review the resulting report.
    Recommendation: To help improve DOE's ability to take enforcement action against unlawful retaliation when appropriate and take action against contractors that create a chilled work environment, the Secretary of Energy should expedite the department's time frames for codifying in regulatory language its policy that retaliation for nuclear safety-related disclosures is a nuclear safety violation and develop a specific schedule for issuing the proposed and final rules.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation and planned to amend its regulations to clarify which DOE regulations constitute DOE Nuclear Safety Requirements. DOD planned to expedite the schedule for this rulemaking. We will update the status of this recommendation after we confirm DOE's actions
    Recommendation: To help improve DOE's ability to take enforcement action against unlawful retaliation when appropriate and take action against contractors that create a chilled work environment, the Secretary of Energy should direct DOE's Office of Enforcement to routinely collect information from the Department of Labor and other sources regarding substantiated cases of retaliation and take appropriate enforcement action.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to DOE, the Office of Enforcement has revised its internal implementing procedure to require that a review of DOE Office of Hearings and Appeals whistleblower cases, Department of Labor complaints submitted under the Energy Reorganization Act, and an online legal research service (for court decisions) be conducted each quarter to identify cases wherein a DOE contractor may have retaliated against an employee for reporting a safety concern and evaluate the information for potential enforcement action. We will update the status of this recommendation after we review the updated procedure.
    Recommendation: To help improve DOE's ability to take enforcement action against unlawful retaliation when appropriate and take action against contractors that create a chilled work environment, the Secretary of Energy should revise DOE's Integrated Safety Management policy and guidance to clarify what constitutes evidence of a chilled work environment and define the appropriate steps DOE should take to hold contractors accountable for creating a chilled work environment.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation. DOE officials said that the department was revising the Integrated Safety Management policy but the revisions are currently on hold indefinitely along with all other actions to publish new, or update existing departmental directives in response to two Presidential Executive Orders issued in January and February 2017 that directed federal agencies to, among other things, reduce and reform agency regulations.
    Director: David C. Trimble
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve NNSA's ability to choose the best alternative that satisfies the mission need for lithium production, the Secretary of Energy should request that NNSA's Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs take steps to ensure that NNSA objectively consider all alternatives, without preference for a particular solution, as it proceeds with the analysis of alternatives process. Such steps could include clarifying the statement of mission need for lithium production so that it is independent of a particular solution.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, NNSA has not finalized its analysis of alternatives. However, documents provided and statements made by agency officials indicate that NNSA plans to construct a Lithium Production Facility. NNSA's preference for constructing a lithium production facility prior to finalizing its analysis of alternatives is not consistent with our recommendation.
    Director: David C. Trimble
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    5 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's management and oversight of the WTP project, the Secretary of Energy should, in assessing the alternatives, revise cost and schedule estimates for the Low Activity Waste Pretreatment System and the Tank Waste Characterization and Staging facility in accordance with industry best practices.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: We will monitor the status of this proposed requirement.
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's management and oversight of the WTP project, the Secretary of Energy should revise the statements of mission need for the two proposed projects to allow DOE to consider a variety of alternatives without limiting potential solutions, consistent with the DOE requirement that mission need statements should not identify particular solution such as equipment, facility, or technology.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to DOE DARTS report on 5/19/16, revision of the statement of mission for the Low Activity Waste Pretreatment System "has become overcome by events". We will continue to follow up on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's management and oversight of the WTP project, the Secretary of Energy should, in accordance with DOE's Office of River Protection quality assurance policy, conduct an extent-of-condition review for WTP's High Level Waste and Low Activity Waste facilities' systems that have not been reviewed by DOE.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOE agreed with the recommendations and in its written responses to our report stated that it had implemented them. However, we believe additional actions are needed, as indicated in the priority recommendations letter we sent to DOE in 2017. To fully address the recommendations, DOE should conduct an extent-of-condition review for WTP's High Level Waste and Low Activity Waste facilities' systems.
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's management and oversight of the WTP project, the Secretary of Energy should consider whether or to what extent construction activities for the High Level Waste and Low Activity Waste facilities should be further limited until aggressive risk mitigation strategies are developed and employed to address technical challenges that DOE, the contractor, and others have identified but not yet resolved.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOE has noted that these activities were already limited and stated that a specific set of criteria has been established for resuming construction on the High Level Waste facility. However, as we noted in our report, an extent-of-condition review has not been performed on the remainder of the facility's systems, and recommendations from the facility's design and operability review have not been implemented. DOE also stated that construction on the Low Activity Waste facility is nearly complete, that the WTP Federal Project Director has a detailed risk register, and that each remaining risk is being proactively mitigated. This statement, however, does not fully reflect the extent or potential seriousness of the technical risks that remain. An extent-of-condition review may mean limiting the production of new design documents until this review is complete in order to avoid potential costly rework. We believe additional actions are needed. To fully address the recommendation, DOE should consider whether or to what extent construction activities for those facilities should be further limited until this review is completed and aggressive risk mitigation strategies are developed and employed.
    Recommendation: To improve DOE's management and oversight of the WTP project, the Secretary of Energy should enlist the services of another agency or external entity to serve as an owner's agent to assist the Office of River Protection in reviewing and evaluating the WTP contractor's design and approach to mitigating design challenges.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress required DOE to meet this requirement in the 2016 NDAA, and DOE reports that they issued a contract to Parsons Government Services on September 29, 2015. We have requested a copy of this contract for review to ensure that the recommendation has been addressed.