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March 26, 2013
Safety agency concerned about Texas Pantex site

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) says it is concerned about the fire protection program at Pantex, a nuclear weapons plant in the Texas panhandle. The problems were outlined in a letter and report from the NNSA to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

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NNSA chairman Peter S. Winokur noted that if failures are not addressed they pose a risk to workers and the public.

The report identified problems with fire suppression systems; inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire protection systems; and a “lack of urgency” in addressing problems with the plant’s high-pressure fire loop.

The safety board wants the NNSA to prepare a response to the issues raised in the report within 90 days.

The high-pressure fire loop is designed to provide a continuous water supply to facilities where nuclear explosive operations and other activities are conducted.

According to the report, site contractor Babcock & Wilcox Pantex Technical Services, LLC (B&W) has experienced an increasing number of failures of the loop and related systems. The safety board concluded, “B&W may not be treating the operation and maintenance of safety-class fire protection systems with an appropriate level of priority.”

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