Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) and House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Cooper (D-TN) sent the attached letter to the acting chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB), warning against President Trump’s plan to impose extensive cuts to nuclear safety staff and gut nuclear safety oversight.

Select excerpts from the letter:

“We write to express our strong concern about your abrupt plans for major reforms … announced August 15, 2018, with limited notice and input, to reorganize the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, particularly the ill-advised plan to cut your agency’s headquarters staff level by one third. Hamstringing your agency and targeting your technical staff that represent the core and strength of your agency would likely jeopardize the mission and capability of the Board to fulfill its important mission of ensuring nuclear safety across the nuclear enterprise.

“We have seen problems in maintaining nuclear criticality safety experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and there have been several safety violations in recent years.  In addition, the DNFSB provides critical oversight and recommendations related to the Environmental Management Program that funds and manages nuclear clean-up activities at sites across the nuclear complex, including Hanford which continues to face safety culture and worker contamination challenges, as well as expensive and complex construction projects.  In addition, the 2014 incident, caused by rupture of a radioactive drum that had been incorrectly packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, resulted in a significant contamination release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and shut down repository operations for nearly three years. 

“Now is not the time to increase nuclear safety risk by making cuts to the experts whose primary mission is to provide independent nuclear safety oversight.  Coupled with changes in the Department of Energy’s recently proposed 140.1 order, your proposed change to cut DNFSB personnel would undermine the critical oversight on which an enduring, effective and safe nuclear enterprise depend.  

“We have yet to see any written analysis to explain the proposed cut to the Board’s staff by a third, and repeated requests by our committee staff for a detailed briefing on these proposed changes have gone unanswered. We strongly urge you and the Board to reconsider this change. In the meantime, we expect a more detailed explanation for this sweeping change that would have enduring implications and potential significant risk for ensuring nuclear safety.”

The full letter is attached and can be read here: (https://armedservices.house.gov/_cache/files/1/c/1c4d9082-2bda-49f5-92a5-1c7e5d753374/BA1C7CED973DDA1BAC8F5D71B1C1CF2B.letter-smith-cooper-dnfsb.pdf)

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