May 21, 2020

Quality Assurance Management at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit

The Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU) is a facility at the Idaho National Laboratory Site designed to treat 900,000 gallons of liquid radioactive sodium-bearing waste, package the treated waste into stainless steel canisters, and store it in above-ground vaults.  The IWTU is a Hazard Category 2 nuclear facility, which has the potential for significant onsite radiological consequences.  The IWTU contains safety-significant systems, structures, and components designed to protect against these consequences.  Since June 2016, Fluor Idaho, LLC (Fluor Idaho) has managed the cleanup work at the Idaho National Laboratory Site.  This includes a requirement to make the IWTU fully operational for processing specified waste through the facility and storing the end product in onsite canisters and vaults.  Prior to June 2016, CH2M-WG Idaho, LLC (CWI) managed the cleanup work at the Idaho National Laboratory Site, including design, construction, and operations of the IWTU.  Upon initial startup in June 2012, IWTU experienced a system pressure event leading to the shutdown of the facility.  Subsequent to the event, numerous design changes and modifications were made to prepare for eventual operations.  Currently, the IWTU is still not operational.

The Department of Energy’s contracts with Fluor Idaho and CWI required compliance with Department Order 414.1D, Quality Assurance, which requires the development and use of an approved quality assurance program.  Both contractors adopted the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Quality Assurance Requirements for Nuclear Facility Applications, 2008 edition and addenda through 2009 (NQA-1) as the standard.  NQA-1 outlines requirements for the establishment and execution of quality assurance programs for nuclear facilities.  The Idaho Operations Office provides oversight to ensure proper implementation of quality assurance at IWTU.  Due to past quality assurance issues during construction of the IWTU, resulting in cost increases and project delays, and challenges with operating the facility, we initiated this audit to determine whether the Department managed quality assurance requirements for procurements at the IWTU in accordance with NQA-1.

We found that the Department did not always manage quality assurance requirements for procurements at the IWTU in accordance with NQA-1.  We concluded that the Idaho Operations Office’s oversight contributed to the issues identified.  Ineffective implementation of quality assurance requirements limits the Department’s ability to provide reasonable assurance that it has maintained safe operations at the IWTU.  Inadequate supplier evaluations and not imposing applicable quality assurance requirements may increase the risk of awarding procurements to suppliers that cannot meet contract requirements and could result in safety-significant systems, structures, and components not meeting the intended safety functions.  We made three recommendations to improve controls and oversight over IWTU’s quality assurance activities.  Management concurred with the report’s recommendations and identified corrective actions that were completed, initiated, and planned to address the issues identified in the report.

Topic: Environmental Cleanup