Morning Briefing - June 17, 2020
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June 17, 2020

Energy Dept. Changes to Main Nuke Safety Management Reg in ‘Draft Final’ Form

By ExchangeMonitor

The Department of Energy is close to finalizing revisions to the federal regulation governing nuclear safety management, according to a letter the agency recently sent to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB).

The federal government’s independent nuclear health-and-safety watchdog received the draft final document on June 9, DOE said two days afterward in a letter rejecting DNFSB safety recommendation about the proposed changes to Title 10, Part 830 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The Energy Department rejected eight of the 11 elements of the DNFSB’s Recommendation 2020-1, which among other things urged DOE to preserve current definitions for nuclear facility hazard categories: qualitative ratings of the danger a given facility might pose to the public. Hazard Category 1 is the most potentially dangerous, Hazard Category 3 the least. The potential danger deals in part with the amount of fissile material present in a facility.

The Energy Department disagreed with the DNFSB’s concern that deleting the existing definitions might motivate contractors to unsafely increase the radiological hazards present in older buildings, saying both the current and proposed rule would still require private firms to comply with an agency standard that includes instructions for applying hazard categories to existing facilities.

The agency had not published the final regulation at deadline Wednesday for Weapons Complex Morning Briefing.

Some elements of the DNFSB recommendation were rejected not because DOE disagreed with them, but because they applied to a rulemaking that is still technically ongoing, according to the June 11 letter from Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to DNFSB Chairman Bruce Hamilton. 

Besides Recommendation 2020-1, the DNFSB also filed public comments on DOE’s rulemaking, so the final rule could incorporate some of the board’s concerns.