Morning Briefing - May 07, 2019
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May 07, 2019

DNFSB Hearing Will Explore Accidents at WIPP, Idaho

By ExchangeMonitor

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) has set a public hearing for May 22 in Washington, D.C., to consider the Department of Energy’s efforts to prevent future accidents during nuclear waste operations.

The half-day meeting is broken into two sessions, according to the recently released agenda. In the first, the DNFSB will focus on improved safety by understanding the February 2014 underground radiological release at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, as well as the April 2018 radioactive-waste drum breach at the Idaho National Laboratory.This includes improving documents used for transuranic waste facilities and strengthening federal subject matter expertise.

In the second session the board wants to more broadly address vulnerabilities associated with handling and processing solid waste at defense nuclear sites. This includes preventing unwanted chemical reactions and making corrective actions.

The agenda identifies up to eight “suggested panelists” spread over two sessions – including DOE Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Anne Marie White; Carlsbad Field Office Manager Todd Shrader, and Idaho Cleanup Project Deputy Manager Jack Zimmerman.

An underground radiation release in February 2014, resulting from a drum of radioactive waste shipped from the DOE Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, resulted in WIPP going offline for about three years.

More recently, four drums of repackaged sludge waste at a fabric filter building within the INL Waste Management Facility overheated and blew off their lids, forcing a portion if the Accelerated Retrieval Project offline for more than a year. The sludge waste, produced at the old Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site in Colorado and buried for years on-site in Idaho, was repackaged by Fluor Idaho shortly before the drums blew off their lids. The new drums had not yet been certified for shipment to WIPP.

The meeting is set for noon to 4 p.m. ET on May 22 at DNFSB headquarters, 625 Indiana Ave. NW in Washington. Anyone interested in speaking during the public comment period should send a request in writing to