Y-12 conduct of operations: another round of problems

y12overviewAs noted in previous posts, there have been persistent concerns about the conduct of operations at Y-12 this year, many of which have been spelled out in reports by staff of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. That trend seems to be continuing.

In a recently released staff report for the week ending May 15, site reps William Linzau and Rory Rauch cited a list of errors involving conduct of operations and work planning and control for the prior two weeks. Those problems included:

— Two instances in the production organization where workers failed to “perform procedurally-directed fissile material receipt verifications.” As a result of that and a similar issue in April, the Y-12 site manager suspended on-site transfers of fissile material. Those transfers resumed a couple of weeks later, in early May, after the production management responded with enhanced training and other measures.

— At Building 9215, a material clerk loaded an enriched uranium part in a container that was
not approved for that loading, per the requirements for nuclear criticality safety.

— An “alarm room officer” failed to implement the required fire patrol after disabling the alarm for a pressure switch on a fire suppression system.

— Chemical operators “inadvertently placed three metal cans containing fissile material” in a storage locations where they were not allowed. The report noted that a similar error had occurred in October 2014.

— Utilities operators at Y-12 were not able to complete an annual maintenance task on booster pumps that support the plant’s potable water towers due to multiple work planning and control issues.

In another report by staff of the safety board, for the week ending May 22, it was noted that the Feedback and Improvement Working Group had completed its quarterly analysis report on the performance of Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at Y-12 — and noted a number of items, good and bad, that involve conduct of operations at the plant.

The group noted that the contractor’s Production organization had implemented a leadership training course for supervisors and managers to improve the performance on conduct of operations at Y-12.

It was also noted that CNS had completed a “systems review of significant events to identify systemic issues and underlying causes that will be used to inform its performance improvements plans.”

The working group also noted, “Despite on-going corrective actions, conduct of operations performance did not show significant improvement.”

As had been noted earlier by CNS leadership, the rate of change in the transition of contractors at Y-12 was likely a contributing factor affecting operational performance in a negative way.

Another observation: “CONOPS metrics that measure success using statistics based on the number of hours of operation without an event can mask the overall health of the barriers that prevent events.”

The site representatives of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said the working group’s findings were consistent with their observations regarding the impact of contractor transition at Y-12 and other issues.

A feature on Atomic City Underground allows readers to sign up for email updates and receive a notice each time new information is posted on the news blog. Just put your email address in the box on the lower right of the blog’s front page and follow instructions. Thanks to all loyal readers.

This entry was posted in CNS, DNFSB, NNSA, nuclear, Y-12 on by .

About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.