Inspection Report: DOE-OIG-19-32

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May 20, 2019

Mitigation of Risks from Natural Disasters at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Laboratory) is charged with conducting unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines.  Located on a 202-acre site in the hills adjacent to the University of California Berkeley campus and within yards of the Hayward Fault, Berkeley Laboratory is at risk for a variety of natural disasters, including earthquakes and wildland fires.  In August 2017, an arsonist caused a wildland fire in the hills near Berkeley Laboratory, and in January 2018, a magnitude 4.4 earthquake occurred near Berkeley Laboratory and the surrounding area.  A natural disaster occurrence could considerably impact Berkeley Laboratory and the surrounding communities.  Because of the potential impact a natural disaster could have on the site, Berkeley Laboratory must have an Emergency Management System ready to respond promptly, efficiently, and effectively to any emergency involving Department facilities, activities, or operations.  We initiated this inspection to determine if Berkeley Laboratory implemented required planning and coordination activities for responding to and recovering from operational emergencies.

We found that Berkeley Laboratory generally implemented the planning and coordination activities that were required by Department and site policy.  However, we identified issues with the hazardous material screening process, protective action drills, and building emergency plans that needed improvement.  The issues that we identified occurred, in part, because Berkeley Laboratory did not maintain an accurate and timely method for tracking changes in operations and processes involving hazardous materials.  Additionally, Berkeley Laboratory did not consistently implement its policy of notifying the Emergency Management Program of specific hazardous materials when procured.  Finally, there was a lack of prioritization by line management.  Therefore, we recommended developing and implementing a corrective action plan to enhance Berkeley Laboratory’s ability to protect workers, the public, and the environment.

Topic: National Security & Safety