Nuclear Safety:

Safety Analysis Reviews for DOE's Defense Facilities Can Be Improved

RCED-86-175: Published: Jun 16, 1986. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reported on the adequacy of the Department of Energy's (DOE) safety analysis reviews (SAR) for its existing nuclear defense facilities. GAO examined eight facilities to determine the effectiveness of DOE efforts to protect workers and the environment.

GAO found that: (1) DOE did not approve the reviews for three of the eight facilities, each of which had the potential for significant on-site or off-site releases of radioactive material in a major accident; (2) the reviews' safety design criteria varied considerably between the facilities; (3) the reviews used different approaches to identify and analyze potential accidents at DOE facilities, with some approaches being more comprehensive than others; and (4) DOE approved the reviews internally, which precluded an independent review process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As of September 1987, all existing high-hazard facilities, according to DOE, have approved SAR. An accomplishment report is being drafted.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should complete and approve SAR for all high-hazard facilities in a timely fashion.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Page changes to DOE Order 5481.1B, Safety, Analysis and Review System, issued May 19, 1987, incorporated this recommendation. An accomplishment report is being drafted.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require that SAR include a detailed comparison of the plant against current DOE design criteria, highlighting and explaining any deviations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE Order 5480.23, "Nuclear Safety Analysis Reports", and the related safety guide was signed on April 10, 1992, and became effective on April 30, 1992. This action should ensure more consistency in preparing safety analysis reports.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should develop more consistent requirements to be followed in preparing reviews, outlining appropriate methodologies and assumptions to be used in analyzing accidents and their consequences.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Fiscal year 1989 authorization for DOE mandates the establishment of the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. Board members were appointed in 1989 and the board is currently functioning.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should establish an arrangement with an outside independent organization to review those SAR for the most hazardous facilities. This could be accomplished either by establishing a working arrangement with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or an independent review panel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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