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Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board – (nuisance to the nuclear industry) to be got rid of?

Efforts underway to remove ‘redundant’ nuclear safety board, Santa fe – New Mexican , By Rebecca Moss | The New Mexican, Oct 19, 2017 

Efforts have been underway to defund and dismantle an independent board charged with overseeing safety and security at nuclear weapons sites, and much of that work has been spearheaded by the board’s own Republican chairman, according to an investigative report released Thursday.
The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a five-person panel appointed by the U.S. president, has been charged for three decades with conducting independent safety reviews at Los Alamos National Laboratory and other nuclear sites, as well as with advising the U.S. energy secretary and informing Congress about potential health and safety risks to workers and communities, accidents and contamination events at the sites, and efforts to remedy problems.

The board’s recommendations do not require action by the labs or the Energy Department but have led to more intense scrutiny of labs — including Los Alamos, which has had a poor safety record in recent years, with several serious breaches — and more stringent regulations.

 In June, Sean Sullivan, a Republican member of the nuclear safety board who was appointed chairman by the Trump administration, proposed in a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget that the board be eliminated. He called it a Cold War legacy that is no longer relevant and said it creates “myriad unnecessary costs for the Department of Energy.”……

The efforts to disband the board and undermine its independence come amid increasing questions about the safety culture at a number of national labs, but particularly at Los Alamos.

In the past year, Los Alamos has faced a federal investigation for improperly shipping nuclear materials out of state and violated nuclear safety protocol in August at its plutonium facility. A small fire there in April also caused one worker to suffer second-degree burns.

Most of these issues were made public by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, which posts its weekly reports online.

Earlier this year, the safety board voiced concerns to Congress about Los Alamos’ ability to handle nuclear materials and raised questions about whether the lab’s nuclear facilities are structurally sound.

In early June, the board held a hearing in Santa Fe to question lab and Energy Department officials about whether the lab would be prepared to manage increasing quantities of nuclear material as ramped-up production of plutonium pits — the grapefruit-sized triggers inside nuclear bombs — begins as part of a plan to modernize the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

Given the protracted and ongoing safety issues at Los Alamos, a number of safety board members and lawmakers have objected to any relaxed oversight at the lab.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told the Center for Public Integrity that repeated safety issues, “including the two [labs] in New Mexico, are among the reasons for strengthening — not eliminating the outside oversight board.

“These incidents have demonstrated that there is a need for a strong watchdog that does not have a direct financial or political stake in the success of the labs,” Udall added………http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/efforts-underway-to-remove-redundant-nuclear-safety-board/article_73572fa5-362a-53dc-ba80-640b03e52f2b.html   Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.

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October 21, 2017 - Posted by | politics, safety, USA

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