SRS Sign, SRNL Suspension

An entrance to the Savannah River Site, a 310-square-mile nuclear complex. The Savannah River National Laboratory is located at the Site.

All non-essential work at the Savannah River National Laboratory was suspended for two weeks following an uptick in "events," according to an independent oversight report and confirming comments from a lab spokesperson.

The pause began April 5 and ended April 22, according to the lab spokesperson. A Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board weekly report, dated April 12, corroborates that timeline.

A widespread review followed the lift. The assessment allowed work to begin again in a "deliberate and methodical" manner, the lab spokesperson said.

"The focus during the suspension was on personal ownership and accountability of safety and security," the lab spokesperson said.

The pause did not interrupt mission-essential or regulatory activities, per the DNFSB report.

The lab spokesperson said mission-essential work makes up a "considerable" amount of what is done at the Savannah River Site-located lab.

"There was no impact to any customer deliverables," the spokesperson noted.

Regulatory activities include facility rounds and other maintenance pursuits.

The suspension of work was preemptive and served as a reset ahead of the summer months, the lab spokesperson said.

"The number of small events was trending in the wrong direction, so SRNL leadership decided that the review was necessary to refocus our employees to avoid an event of greater significance," the spokesperson continued.

The most recent mishap that led to the pause involved someone "inadvertently cutting the fingertip on a glovebox glove they were wearing," according to the April 12 report. The person was uninjured, per the same information, and the response was deemed "appropriate."

A previous safety pause at the lab began April 26, 2018. The DNFSB report briefly acknowledges it.

SRNL Director Vahid Majidi and Deputy Director Sharon Marra, alongside the U.S. Department of Energy, held six group discussions with the "entire management team" to review the "events," probe their significance and forge a path forward, the lab spokesperson said.

Plans were put together, and they required managers to speak with "all staff" about accountability, safety and security, the spokesperson added.

More oversight – via management – is now in place at the lab, per the spokesperson.

Exactly what qualifies as a so-called event was not disclosed in the DNFSB report.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, led by Fluor, oversees the lab. 

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin