Report faults Energy Dept., contractor on nuke waste plant safety

“Our review revealed significant shortcomings in the Department’s process for managing the design and fabrication changes of waste processing equipment procured for the [Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant],” the report states.

It notes that “Bechtel could not demonstrate that it had verified suppliers' actions to address deviations from design.”

“Bechtel approved design changes to equipment without obtaining the required safety review to determine the impact of changes on the safety of the facility. Additionally, Bechtel did not properly verify that deviations from designs made by suppliers conformed to design requirements,” the report states.

The report includes several recommendations to improve design control and notes that absent improvements, “confidence that procured equipment meets requirements for the safe operation of the [plant] will erode.”

“[The DOE] concurred with our recommendations and provided corrective actions taken and planned to address specific weaknesses identified in our report. We consider management's comments and planned corrective actions responsive to our findings and recommendations,” the report states.

The IG’s review had been lengthy and has previously led to the IG bringing problems to Bechtel’s attention and steps to address them.

Here’s a blurb from the report, which delves into inadequate Bechtel review of changes to equipment design:

As part of our review, we sampled Supplier Deviation Disposition Requests, and identified 15 instances in which it appeared that supplier deviations were approved without the required review of Bechtel's Nuclear Safety. In September 2012, we brought these instances to the attention of the Department and Bechtel. Bechtel's Engineering group reviewed the 15 Supplier Deviation Disposition Requests and agreed that 9 required a Nuclear Safety review. These requests had been submitted by suppliers requesting to deviate from a design specification for pressure vessels that were designed to confine dangerous processing fluids, gasses and vapors during plant operations. Because of the issues we identified, Bechtel launched a review of supplier design documents submitted in the last 3 years. In a population of 4,028 supplier design documents, 1,425 (approximately 35 percent) had not received the required Nuclear Safety review. Based on our referral and the subsequent review, Bechtel determined that there was a systemic problem and a breakdown in controls over the review of design changes. In response, Bechtel took compensatory steps by suspending all approvals of supplier generated design changes and suspending all shipments of quality level parts from suppliers to the WTP construction site for 12 days to allow for corrective actions.