[Federal Register Volume 74, Number 154 (Wednesday, August 12, 2009)]
[Pages 40572-40573]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E9-19245]



[Recommendation 2009-1]

Risk Assessment Methodologies at Defense Nuclear Facilities

AGENCY: Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

ACTION: Notice, recommendation.


SUMMARY: The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has made a 
recommendation to the Secretary of Energy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 
2286a(a)(5) which identifies the need for adequate policies and 
associated standards and guidance on the use of quantitative risk 
assessment methodologies at the Department of Energy's (DOE) defense 
nuclear facilities.

DATES: Comments, data, views, or arguments concerning the 
recommendation are due on or before September 11, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Send comments, data, views, or arguments concerning this 
recommendation to: Defense Nuclear Faculties Safety Board, 625 Indiana 
Avenue, NW., Suite 700, Washington, DC 20004-2001.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Brian Grosner or Andrew L. Thibadeau 
at the address above or telephone number (202-694-7000).

    Dated: August 5, 2009.
Joseph F. Bader,
Acting Vice Chairman.


Risk Assessment Methodologies at Defense Nuclear Facilities 
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 2286(a)(5), Atomic Energy Act of 1954, As 

    Dated: July 30, 2009.


    Quantitative risk assessment techniques are widely used to 
improve the safety of complex engineering systems. Such techniques 
have been relied upon in the nuclear industry for decades. One of 
the seminal documents, known as WASH-1400, used an event-tree, 
fault-tree methodology to assess the risk of accidents at nuclear 
power reactors operating in the United States.\1\ Today, the U.S. 
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) employs a more sophisticated set 
of risk assessment tools and methodologies.\2\ Likewise, the 
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has developed 
and implemented a detailed policy on the use of quantitative risk 
assessment for its missions.\3\

    \1\ The Reactor Safety Study, October 1975 (sometimes known as 
the ``Rasmussen Report'').
    \2\ The NRC approach is summarized at http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/regulatory/risk-informed.html.
    \3\ NASA's policies and methods can be found at http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codeq/risk/index.htm.

    The Department of Energy (DOE) has historically endorsed a 
``bounding'' or deterministic approach to hazard and accident 
analysis, which continues to have important applications at defense 
nuclear facilities. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Defense 
Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) observed increasing use of 
quantitative risk assessment techniques by DOE. This increased use 
was not viewed by the Board as objectionable in itself; the Board's 
concern was that DOE was using quantitative risk assessment methods 
without having in place a clear policy and set of procedures to 
govern the application of these methods at facilities that perform 
work ranging from assembly and disassembly of nuclear weapons to 
nuclear waste processing and storage operations. For this reason, 
the Board wrote to the Secretary of Energy on April 5, 2004, and 
made the following observation:

    ``[T]he Board has reviewed the DOE's use of risk management 
tools at defense nuclear facilities. This review revealed that DOE 
and its contractors have employed risk assessment in a variety of 
activities, including the development of documented safety analyses 
and facility-level decision making. The level of formality of these 
assessments varies over a wide range. The Board's review also 
revealed that DOE does not have mechanisms (such as standards or 
guides) to control the use of risk management tools nor does it have 
an internal organization assigned to maintain cognizance and ensure 
the adequacy and consistency of risk assessments. Finally, the 
Board's review showed that other Federal agencies involved in 
similar high-risk activities (e.g., National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission) have, to varying 
degrees, formalized the use of quantitative risk assessment in their 
operations and decision-making activities. These agencies have 
relevant standards and defined organizational elements, procedures, 
and processes for the development and use of risk management 

    On this basis, the Board requested that the Secretary ``brief 
the Board within 60 days of receipt of this letter as to DOE's 
ongoing and planned programs and policies for assessing, 
prioritizing, and managing risk.''
    The Board's initial concerns on this issue have been reiterated 
in letters dated November 23, 2005, and May 16, 2007. In the Board's 
2006 Annual Report to Congress, the section on Risk Assessment 
Methodologies noted ``the slow pace of its development,'' and the 
2008 report noted that ``all progress [has come] to a halt.'' The 
Board's most recent annual report stated that at ``a time when 
governments, financial institutions and industries worldwide are 
expediting the implementation of enterprise-wide risk governance 
programs, DOE's slow pace for developing a policy is of serious 
    DOE's most recent correspondence on this issue, dated January 9, 
2007, outlined plans

[[Page 40573]]

and progress toward developing a policy and accompanying guidance 
document on the use of risk assessment at defense nuclear 
facilities. This DOE letter indicated that the draft policy and 
guidance document would be ready for submittal to the DOE directives 
system in March 2007. Despite periodic meetings with the Board's 
staff and briefings to the Board, as of July 2009, the draft policy 
and guidance document has not been entered into the DOE Directives 
system, and near-term resolution of the issue is not evident. 
Without such a policy, DOE has little basis to accept the validity 
of existing risk management tools that use quantitative risk 
assessment. This is particularly important since the managers of 
DOE's field elements are allowed to accept the safety risks that 
high-hazard operations pose toward workers and the public based on 
widely varying levels of assessments.
    Though Title 10, Part 830 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 
CFR 830, Nuclear Safety Management) and its associated quality 
assurance considerations govern nuclear safety evaluations at a 
fundamental level, these existing requirements are not of sufficient 
specificity to guide the use of complex quantitative risk 
assessments. The continued pursuit of ad hoc applications of risk 
assessment in the absence of adequate DOE policy and guidance is 
contrary to the standards-based approach to nuclear safety espoused 
by DOE and endorsed by the Board.\4\

    \4\ The Board's Recommendation 2008-1 is similarly directed at 
DOE's use of a safety methodology (in this case, classifying fire 
protection systems as safety-class or safety-significant) in advance 
of developing criteria and guidance.


    Therefore, the Board recommends that DOE:
    1. Establish a policy on the use of quantitative risk assessment 
for nuclear safety applications.
    2. Consistent with this policy, establish requirements and 
guidance in a DOE directive or directives that prescribe controls 
over the quality, use, implementation, and applicability of 
quantitative risk assessment in the design and operation of defense 
nuclear facilities.
    3. Evaluate current ongoing uses of quantitative risk assessment 
methodologies at defense nuclear facilities to determine if interim 
guidance or special oversight is warranted pending the development 
of formal policy and guidance.
    4. Establish a requirement to identify deficiencies and gaps in 
ongoing applications of quantitative risk assessment along with the 
additional research necessary to fill those gaps in support of the 
development and implementation of the final policy and guidance.

A. J. Eggenberger,
[FR Doc. E9-19245 Filed 8-11-09; 8:45 am]