Audit targets safety at SRS

  • Posted: Sunday, May 3, 2009 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, May 3, 2009 9:12 p.m.

Failures in quality assurance at the Savannah Rive Site cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and could cause injury to workers and the public and allow spills of thousands of gallons of high-level radioactive waste, according to an audit report.The report, released last week by the inspector general of the Department of Energy, stated that SRS contractors repeatedly procured dangerous construction materials and components that failed to meet federal safety standards.The report specifically names Washington Savannah River Company (WSRC) and MOX Services; most failures in the report relate to lower-tier vendors not following guidelines.The report highlights problems in three facilities - the Tritium Extraction Facility (TEF), the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX) and the Interim Salt Processing (ISP) project.An inadequate component within the ISP project facility "could have resulted in a spill of up to 15,000 gallons of high-level radioactive waste," the study found.At the MOX facility, which is currently under construction, "three structural components were procured and installed by the prime contractor ... during construction of the MOX Facility that did not meet the technical specifications for items relied on for safety." "These substandard items necessitated costly and time consuming remedial action to, among other things, ensure that nonconforming materials and equipment would function within safety margins," the report continued. "As of October 2008, the MOX Facility had incurred costs of more than $680,000 due to problems associated with the procurement of $11 million of nonconforming safety-class reinforcing steel. In general, the internal control weaknesses we discovered could have permitted, without detection, the procurement and installation of safety critical components that did not meet quality assurance standards. In a worst-case scenario, undetected, nonconforming components could fail and injure workers or the public."In addition to the rebar, $3.5 million of piping and embedded steel plates were purchased by the contractor from a subcontractor that did not assure the components were suitable for use in a nuclear facility."While Shaw/AREVA had conducted audits and surveillances of quality assurance at its subcontractors, it did not ensure that appropriate (quality assurance) requirements were flowed down to lower-tier vendors," the report reads.WSRC's construction of the TEF was faulted in several areas, including the purchase of a substandard $12 million glovebox (used to handle radioactive materials) that "may not adequately protect workers from exposure to radioactive gas." Also, furnace modular doors, that cost $690,000, needed an additional $100,000 of quality assurance procedures to assure they were suitable.

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