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Pantex Enforcement Letter

The Office of Health, Safety and Security's Office of Enforcement and Oversight has evaluated the facts and circumstances surrounding the conduct of nuclear explosive operations at Pantex Plant, during the period August 2011 - January 2012, that exceeded the boundaries approved in the current nuclear explosive safety study (NESS).  This issue was documented in Noncompliance Tracking System (NTS) report NTS--PXSO-B&W -2012-0002.

In August 2011 , B&W Pantex encountered a difficult-to-remove component.  To aid in removal of the component, the nuclear explosive operating procedures (NEOP) were modified to allow for the removal of additional high explosive (HE).  However, even after removal of additional HE, the component could not be removed and was declared stuck. On September 8, 2011, a nuclear explosive safety change evaluation (NCE) session was convened to address the stuck component. During the NCE session, some of the nuclear explosive safety study group (NESSG) members, from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), expressed concem that the B&W Pantex technicians had gouged and removed HE material from the unit beyond what was allowed in the NESS.  The opinion expressed by the LANL NESSG members was known by most managers within the B& W Pantex Engineering Division. Numerous meetings held between September 8, 2011, and January 26, 2012, led to a formal position memorandum from the B&W Pantex Nuclear and Explosive Surety Department (NESD) to the Engineering Division, but B&W Pantex did not resolve the issue.  During this four-month period, two additional units were processed, with the intentional removal of HE in accordance with the modified NEOPs, and still outside the boundaries established in the NESS.  On January 26, 2012, the NEOP's were retumed to their original wording, eliminating the practice of removing additional HE to facilitate removal of stuck components.