Nuclear Health and Safety:

More Attention to Health and Safety Needed at Pantex

RCED-91-103: Published: Apr 15, 1991. Publicly Released: May 1, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined key safety and health problems at the Department of Energy's (DOE) contractor-operated Pantex Plant to determine its need for external safety oversight.

GAO found that: (1) Pantex cited a lack of personnel for its failure to complete more than half of the safety analysis reports (SAR) needed to ensure plant safety; (2) a DOE team of specialists identified several deficiencies in the plant's radiation protection program, including inadequate staffing, training, and procedures designed to protect workers and the environment from radiation; (3) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found 168 violations of worker protection regulations at Pantex that had the potential to result in death or serious physical harm; (4) radiation accidents and incomplete SAR raised questions about the adequacy of Pantex's attention to safety and health; (5) Pantex had one of the highest injury/illness and lost workday rates in the DOE weapons complex; and (6) since Pantex experienced the same types of safety and health problems as those at other DOE facilities, external oversight was needed to ensure the safety of its defense nuclear operations.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Legislation has been passed (P.L. 102-190, December 5, 1991) to include Pantex among other DOE nuclear facilities that are subject to oversight by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

    Matter: Given the circumstances that now surround Pantex, Congress may wish to reconsider including Pantex among other DOE nuclear facilities that are subject to independent, external safety oversight by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE Order 5480.23 was issued April 1992 and sets the requirements for Safety Analysis Reports at nuclear facilities. Pantex has an approved interim operations plan and a schedule for completing and/or updating all of its SAR. All of the facilities have had hazard assessments and rankings completed as of November 1993 and SAR are being developed.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct Pantex to expedite completion of its safety analysis reports, taking into consideration their hazard ranking.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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