Morning Briefing - April 24, 2019
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April 24, 2019

DNFSB Staff Locked Out of Meetings at Nuke Sites Due to DOE Order

By Staff Reports

WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy locked Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) staff out of meetings at at least one defense nuclear site, a member of the independent federal nuclear health-and-safety watchdog said here Tuesday.

At a public meeting, board member Joyce Connery said DNFSB staff at a site she did not identify were denied access “two times in a row” to “certain meetings” involving DOE personnel. 

Connery characterized the denial of access as a “140 roadblock,” referencing the controversial DOE Order 140.1, which the agency issued in May 2018. The Energy Department framed Order 140.1 as a way of simplifying its interactions with the DNFSB. The board, to a member, sees it differently, arguing the order unlawfully shuts out independent oversight of DOE contractor personnel and of some departmental nuclear facilities.

Connery, the former DNFSB chair, did not identify any of the personnel involved with the repeated “140 roadblock.” A board spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday.

Connery suggested DNFSB members collect information about other such roadblocks from senior board staff at an internal town-hall meeting scheduled for the week of April 29. In addition, board member Jessie Hill Roberson suggested the DNFSB itself write a letter to DOE explaining exactly “what kinds of access and what … kinds of information we require to do our mission.:

“What happened with 140 is it wiped out all the standing practices that allowed the board access to what it needed,” Roberson said.

Congress created the DNFSB in 1988. The board does not regulate DOE or its semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), but it is allowed to make safety recommendations at active and former nuclear weapon sites, with which the agency must publicly agree or disagree.