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THE NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMPLEX Management for Health, Safety. and the Environment Committee to Provide interim Oversight of the DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources National Research Council National Academy Press Washington, D.C. 1989
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NOTICE: lye project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Govem~ng Board of the National Research Council, whose members arc drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of En~ncering, and the Institute of Mcdicinc. ~hc members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. Ibis report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpen~ating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and lo their use for the general welfan:. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. File National Academy of Engineering was established In 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal govemment. 'Ike National Academy of Engineenog also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engincenng. Me Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given lo the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon itS own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. hillier is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technolog r with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of bow the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineenng in providing services to the govemment, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Library of Congress Catalog Grd No. 89~3691 International Standard Book Number 0-309 04179-1 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20418 S068 Printed in the United States of America. First Printing, December 1989 Second Printing, January 1990 Third Printing, May 1990 Fourth Printing, December 1990
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Committee to Provide Interim Oversight of the DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C., Chairman RONALD L. ATKINS, Naval Weapons Center ALBERT CARNESALE, John F. Kennedy School of Government JESS M. CLEVELAND, U.S. Geological Survey DAVID G. HOEL, National Institute of Environmental Health Services GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, University of Virginia PAUL KOTIN, Denver, Colorado DENNIS J. KUBICKI, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission J. CARSON MARK, Los Alamos, New Mexico MICHAEL R. OVERCASH, North Carolina State University WOLFGANG K.H. PANOFSKY, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center RICHARD L. SAGER, JR., Lithium Corporation of America RICHARD B. SETLOW, Broold~aven National Laboratory DAVID R. SMITH, Santa Fe, New Mexico STEWART W. SMITH, Kirkland, Washington JOHN E. TILL, Radiological Assessments Corporation VICI ORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers, Parsons, tic Uhlfelder, Tallahassee, Florida F. WARD WHICKER, Colorado State University WILLIAM L. WHI11AKER, Camegie-Mellon University GEROLD YONAS, Titan Technologies (resigned May 1989) Staff STEVEN M. BLUSH, Project Director (until February 1989) MYRON F. UMAN, Project Director (beginning February 1989) SARAH CONNICK, Program Staff Officer PATRICK D. RAPP, Program Staff Officer JAROSLAVA P. KUSHNIR, Adminis~hve Specialist ALFREDA B. McELWAINE, Administrative Secretary CAROLYN M. BATTLE, Senior Secretary . . .
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Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources NORMAN HACKERMAN, Robert A. Welch Foundadon, Chairman ROBERT C. BEARDSLEY, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution B. CLARK BURCHFIEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology GEORGE F. CARRIER, Harvard University RALPH J. CIC1?RONE, University of California at Ovine HERBERT D. DOAN, The Dow Chemical Company (retired) PETER S. EAGLESON, Massachusetts Institute of Technology DEAN E. EASTMAN, IBM T. J. Watson Research Center MARYE ANNE FOX, University of Texas GERHART FREDLANDER, Brookhaven National Laboratory LAWRENCE W. FUNKHOUSER, Chevron Corporation (retired) PHILLIP A. GRlFElTHS, Duke University NEAL F. LANE, Rice University CHRISTOPHER F. McKEE, University of California at Berkeley RICHARD S. NICHOLSON, American Association for the Advancement of Science JACK E. OLIVER, Cornell University JEREMIAH P. OSTRIKER, Princeton University Observatory PHILIP A. PALMER, E.I. du Pont de glamours & Company FRANK L. PARKER, Vanderbilt University DENIS J. PRAGER, MacArthur Foundation DAVID M. RAUP, University of Chicago ROY F. SCHWIl-lERS, Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory LARRY L. SMARR, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign KARL K. TUREKIAN, Yale University MYRON F. UMAN, Acting Executive Director ROBERT M. SIMON, Acting Associate Executive Director IV
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Preface In the aftermath of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, the Deparunent of Energy (DOE) asked the National Research Council to examine possible implications of the accident for the large reactors operated by the Detent. The reactors included those then operating at the Savannah River site in South Carolina and at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the state of Washington that were used in the production of special materials for nuclear weapons, as well as those used in testing and research. In response, the National Research Council issued reports (1987 and 1988b, respectively) that focused on a variety of safety, management, and technical issues. In the meantime, concerns developed with regard to the other, nonreactor facilities in the nuclear weapons complex. These facilities include 17 installations throughout the United States that are engaged in the range of activities required to produce nuclear weapons: designing them; processing materials for uranium enrichment; preparing materials for irradiation in the production reactors; processing materials from the reactors; producing components for weapons; assembling the components into a completed device; and testing components and devices. As a result of the concerns, Congress directed the Secretary of Energy to request that the National Research Council report its conclusions and recommendations concerning health, safety, and environmental issues arising throughout the complex and steps that would enhance the safety of operations at the facilities (see Appendix F). This report fulfills the Secretary request. It was prepared by a committee, appointed for the purpose by the National Research Council, whose members v
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v! PREFACE brought to their task expertise across a spectrum of pertinent disciplines in health, safety, and environmental matters (see Appendix A). In conducting its study, which began in August 1988 and extended through September 1989, the committee reviewed extensive documentation provided by the Department and its contractors and engaged in briefings and discussions with a variety of others who are knowledgeable about the complex, including personnel from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies. The committee also made site visits to several of the facilities, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington; the Y-12 Pant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado; the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico; the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California; the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory; the Savannah River Site in South Carolina; and the Pantex Plant in Texas. Dunng the course of the study, a number of developments affected our work. First, the operation of the weapons complex came under increasingly intense public scrutiny and criticism. News articles concerning the complex appeared almost daily, several congressional hearings were held, and a wealth of detailed commentary about the complex was offered by a variety of individuals and organizations, such as the General Accounting Office and the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Facility Safety. These reports not only served as an important source of information, but also reinforced the need for the committee to step back and view the complex in broad overview. Second, the national administration and the upper management of DOE changed in early 1989. The Secretary of Energy, James D. Watkins, publicly expressed his dismay at the past performance of the Deparanent in managing the weapons complex and stated his intention to make substantial, if not radical, changes. He has already introduced some changes and has indicated that further change will be forthcoming. He has also acknowledged the extent of local, state, and federal jurisdiction in matters related to health, safety, and the environment. We welcome the dynamic new leadership of the Department, of course, but the fact that the complex was changing as we studied it served to complicate our task. We have sought to prepare a timely report that accurately reflects current circumstances, but we recognize the possibility that in some cases events may have overtaken us even as we were completing our work, and we cannot yet fully assess the significance of those changes of which we were aware. In spite of the wealth of experience we brought to our task, we faced a number of limitations. We could not and did not examine the entirety of the nuclear weapons complex. Some elements of the complex the production reactors, the Nevada test site, the gaseous diffusion plants, the assembly areas at Pantex, and nuclear waste facilities- were excluded Tom our purview by the Department, as was transportation of materials between sites. In light of our schedule, we agreed that our exa.-ninaiion would be more useful if we were to focus attention on the principal remaining facilities. Although we believe the report provides an
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PREFACE . . YZ! appropriate and useful overview of the complex, it is not a complete study of the complex, of any individual facility, or even of any specific building within a facility. Such studies would be immense undertakings, and no committee serving pro bono on a part-time basis could hope to accomplish them. Although the scope of our examination of the complex was necessarily limited, we nevertheless believe that our findings are broadly applicable. In no way, however, does our report pretend to provide a complete inventory of the health, safety, and environmental issues facing the DOE nuclear weapons complex. It remains for the Department and others to build on our work in what must be · ~ · HA viewer ~ as a contmumg ellort. Our report is also framed by the expertise and knowledge of the committee members. The diversity of the facilities under study required a committee comprising individuals with disparate technical backgrounds. For the study to be kept manageable, however, there was a practical limit on the areas of expertise that could be represented. In addition, we relied strongly on data provided by the Department and its contractors. They were responsive to our requests for information, but our firsthand data gathering had to be limited to what could be gleaned from our brief site visits and our meetings with contractor and DOE staffs. For these reasons the term "oversight" committee is perhaps a misnomer for our role. We were not asked for, nor did we give, continuing advice, let alone direction, to the Department, its contractors, or any of their personnel. This report is our only output. We have not examined the financial costs that would be incurred in remedying existing deficiencies in health and safety measures, in bringing environmental protection up to applicable standards, or in redressing environmental problems created by past activities. Many estimates of this son have been disseminated by the media. We do no' believe, however, that such estimates are meaningful without the formulation of specific plans and policies, and we neither endorse nor contradict any published figures. Nevertheless, it is clear that substantial funds will have to be spent to accomplish the objectives. We have not attempted to reach any bottom-line conclusion as to whether the operations are "adequately safe." Such a judgment would require a level of scrutiny of operations beyond the capacities of a committee like ours. Moreover, acceptable risk must ultimately be measured by balancing the benefits of the activities against their costs. Here the "benefit', is the supply of special nuclear materials and nuclear weapons; the ``cost" is measured in both financial terms and in less quantifiable health and environmental teens. Evaluation of Be balance requires societal judgments of a sort we were not asked to make and for which, even if asked, we could not have claimed ally special expertise. The committee also did not examine the basis of national security requirements that translate ink the demand for the materials produced by the facilities. There was much public discussion during the period of our deliberations about the need
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. . ~ vial PREFACE for continued production of plutonium and the immediacy of the need for facilities to produce tritium. These matters are important and require prompt resolution, but examination of the demand for materials raises matters of national security policy that, again, extend beyond our charge. We are aware of the disclaimers that flavor this preface, but they are caveats that must be understood in an undertaking like this. The immensity of our task caused us to approach it with trepidation, but we end it with a sense of satisfaction and with the hope that our efforts will prove helpful to the Department and the Congress. It only remains to be said that we could scarcely have completed the work without help from many sources. The National Research Council staff assigned to the project gave of their tune and talents with energy and enthusiasm, and we are in their debt. We are also grateful to the Department of Energy and its contractors and to the many others too numerous to name here who assisted us in our work. Richard A. Meserve, Chairman October 1989
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Contents EXECI1IVE SUMMARY 1 INlllODUCrION..... The Nuclear Weapons Complex, 8 The Current Situation, 10 The Challenges, 11 2 MANAGEMENT....... The Management Stnucture, 14 Changes, 19 Areas for Improvement, 20 3 EliVnROblIEbrr............................................. Introduction, 34 Environmental Contamination, 37 SeHing Standards and Priorities Across the Complex, 38 Waste Management, 43 Environmental Research, 48 DOE's Environmental Responsibility, 50 S. ~ ~ ........... Introduction, 54 Industrial Safety, 55 Fire Safety, 61 - 1 8 34 IX . . . .. 54
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x Criticality Safety, 64 Seismic Safety, 66 5 ~AL1~H ~ e ~ ~ e ~ e e ~ e ~ ~ ~ e Occupational Health, 72 Assessing Risks to Heals, 74 CON7kN~ 6 MODERNIZATION OF THE COMPLEX The DOE Modernization Report, 81 Opportunities for Advanced Technology, 86 APPENDIXES A Biographical Sketches of Committee Members, 95 B The DOE Nuclear Weapons Complex: A Descriptive Overview, 102 C Nuclear Cnbc~'r, 113 D Plutonium, 118 E Physics of Nuclear Weapons Design, 123 F Charge to the Committee, 129 REFERENCES ABBREVIATIONS . . . 81 ... 141 ... 145