An “adversarial” relationship between the Department of Energy and Parsons, the prime contractor constructing a vital facility cleanup facility at the Savannah River Site, must be remedied, according to a report just released.


DOE’s Office of Enforcement and Oversight conducted an independent assessment of safety culture at the Salt Waste Processing Facility Project being constructed at the Savannah River Site.


Despite earning praise for safety work, the report found major problems in the relationship between DOE and Parsons personnel.


“The consistently negative perceptions by individuals expressed in interviews, focus groups and in the electronic survey data regarding many of the behaviors and processes being implemented by Parsons is resulting in an adversarial relationship between the parties,” the report reads.


The primary objective of this evaluation was analyzing safety culture on the SWPF Project. The assessment occurred from August to September 2012, but has just been made public.


The SWPF Project is headed by Parsons and is to construct a facility that will process liquid wastes from 47 underground tanks at SRS. When operational, the facility will separate highly radioactive compounds from salt solutions.


The facility was scheduled to open in 2015, but could be delayed for several years, according to industry estimates. These delays, and budget pressures, are named as contributing factors to the disharmony, the report states.


“Many interviewees described feeling a lot of time pressure often with unrealistic schedules to get things done quickly,” the report states. “Priorities are perceived to be constantly shifting, often with no explanation as to why they are changing.”


Efforts to improve the relationship suggested by the report include a change in management.


“The relationship between all of the stakeholders involved in the SWPF Project must be re-evaluated and cooperation needs to be facilitated, perhaps through the use of independent parties,” the report concludes. “As this Project moves toward the commissioning and operational phases, the impact of the damaged relationships must be minimized in the interest of the success and safe operation of the facility. In order to ensure that the organizations can be successful, a level of trust and respect must be reestablished. Changes in the management and processes related specifically to the SWPF Project may be required.”