The Paducah Sun

October 21, 1999

DOE: 14 issues need immediate attention

The U.S. Department of Energy investigative team found 14 issues that it said need immediate attention at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. The following is a list of those issues, and a response from Bechtel Jacobs, the company hired to handle cleanup and waste management:

Issue 1. Progress in identifying and removing environmental contamination, low-level waste and stored hazardous materials has been limited. A lack of money jeopardizes major cleanup goals and schedules included in an agreement with the Kentucky Natural Resources Cabinet.

Response: Without more funding, cleanup activities will not meet goals identified in the agreement with the state. Work is being accelerated to clean up "drum mountain" after Congress approved increased funding.

2. Weaknesses continue in the radiation protection management of known environmental contamination areas by both Bechtel Jacobs and DOE.

Response: Improvements are being made, including additional posting of contaminated areas. Temporary signs have been installed, and permanent signs are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

3. The movement of radioactive exposure throughout the plant and to off-site locations has not been fully assessed or documented.

Response: An evaluation of air monitoring is under way. Also, Bechtel Jacobs will meet Nov. 30 with state and federal environmental protection officials and others to discuss monitoring. A revised management plan will be submitted to the state Jan. 15.

4. Groundwater contamination has not been adequately identified in some areas.

Response: A study is under way to update the movement of groundwater contamination that is moving toward the Ohio River. A feasibility study for removing contamination from the groundwater is to be completed in June.

5. Environmental conditions at the plant are not fully understood because officials have not properly analyzed all of the environmental information that has been gathered.

Response: Improvements are being made in an environmental monitoring plan that will help coordinate findings from different monitoring activities. A revised plan is expected by the end of the month.

6. Delays in the release of information to the public and a lack of clarity when it is released contribute to a general perception that DOE and Bechtel Jacobs are withholding information.

Response: Bechtel Jacobs officials have been working with the DOE public affairs office to improve communication with the public. A new communications plan for Paducah is expected to be issued by Nov. 9.

7. All of the radioactive contamination has not been identified, which hampers the ability to identify hazards and institute radiation safety procedures.

Response: Bechtel Jacobs has launched an independent review of its radiation protection program. A final report is expected by Nov. 30.

8. Rigor, formality and discipline are lacking in the development, maintenance and implementation of the Bechtel Jacobs radiation protection program.

Response: The independent review will include these issues.

9. Deficiencies and problems in the material storage areas create a remote possibility for an uncontrolled nuclear reaction, called a criticality.

Response: Work is under way to fully identify radioactive materials in the material storage areas. Workers also have been given special training to prevent an accident.

10. Safety and health procedures are not consistently applied and followed, and, in some cases, procedures do not adequately address the problem of hazards.

Response: Monthly performance assessments will be revised to include health and safety procedures.

11. There is no assurance that worker medical programs are effective because Bechtel Jacobs has not involved its medical personnel in the identification, evaluation and integration of workplace hazards.

Response: Procedures will be changed to document the effectiveness of the programs.

12. Bechtel Jacobs training programs are not adequate to ensure that all workers are knowledgeable of hazards and protection requirements, including those associated with transuranic contamination.

Response: All training programs have been improved to include information about transuranics.

13. DOE does not oversee environmental, safety and health programs well enough to ensure that Bechtel Jacobs and its subcontractors effectively implement all DOE and regulatory requirements.

Response: DOE has assigned two more workers to oversee programs.

14. Bechtel Jacobs does not oversee environmental, safety and health performance well enough to ensure that its subcontractors effectively implement all DOE and regulatory requirements and are held accountable.

Response: The company has implemented programs that are documented in reports filed with DOE.