The statement is blunt: “The Board has determined that safety is not adequately integrated into the design.”


That from an April 2, 2012 letter to National Nuclear Security Administration head Thomas D’Agostino from Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board chair Peter Winokur. “The design” refers to NNSA plans for the $7.5 billion Uranium Processing Facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


DNFSB’s letter is accompanied by a report that details concerns in five areas, including control of materials and criticality avoidance during seismic events and calls into question NNSA’s assumptions when it calculates possible doses to offsite populations in accident scenarios.


Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said, “It’s time to put the brakes on the rush to build the UPF. The General Accounting Office says they aren’t ready. Now the Safety Board says they aren’t ready. But the budget calls for money to accelerate construction. We don’t need to accelerate”we need to slow down and resolve these safety issues.”


The Safety Board letter notes NNSA tweaked the usual decision-making process for major construction projects, combining Critical Decisions 2 and 3, and in the process NNSA cancelled the Preliminary Safety Design Report for the UPF. AS a result, the Safety Board says, the NNSA plan falls short of DOE Standard 1189, Integration of Safety into the Design Process.


“For years the mantra from officials in Oak Ridge has been “˜Safety is Job One,'” Hutchison noted. “But this letter shows they are holding the Safety Board at arms length, short-cutting safety protocols, and in some cases just winging it. That’s an unacceptable level of commitment”or lack of it,” Hutchison said. “This is a plant to produce weapons of mass destruction, after all. It will process radioactive and toxic materials not found anywhere else in the country. They have an obligation to do this job safely.”


The Safety Board’s patience appears to be about exhausted. “The Board requests a report and briefing within 30 days of the receipt of this letter,” writes Winokur.


A copy of the Safety Board letter and report can be found here:  DNFSB safety 4.12


For more information: Ralph Hutchison   ||  865 776 5050


Sunday Vigil at Y-12 in Oak Ridge Tennessee

Sunday Vigil

The OREPA Board has now decided that we are prepared to do a limited re-opening of the Sunday vigil to allow for slightly more participation.  We are asking anyone who wants to attend a Sunday vigil to sign up in advance—by the Thursday before. There are two ways to sign up. You can email Ralph at or you can call him at 865 776 5050. If the five slots are already taken, we’ll ask you to wait until next week. All vigilers are expected to wear masks. Bring your own chair. Avoid physical contact and maintain an appropriate social distance in the circle of chairs. Of course, if for any reason you feel you may have been exposed to the virus or to someone with the virus, you should not attend the vigil. At this point, we are not resuming our monthly potlucks.

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