Following the Feb. 3, 2021, incident in which a fuel element in NIST’s research reactor was damaged, NIST retained external, independent subject matter experts to provide their individual assessments of 1) the conditions that allowed the Feb. 3, 2021, incident to occur; 2) the NCNR’s emergency response to the incident; 3) NIST’s organizational response to the incident; and 4) the efficacy and completeness of the proposed corrective actions. Each expert provided a report that included recommendations to help avoid future incidents and to improve safety performance and incident response.
The subject matter experts were:
NIST provided a series of briefings to the subject matter experts covering the incident timeline and event response, a review of the incident investigation, the reports to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the NIST communication and public engagement actions, and an overview of the NIST Incident Response Team charter and actions. The experts also participated in an on-site visit where they observed NCNR facilities and operations firsthand and interviewed NIST staff directly.
NIST received a report from each expert assessing the elements identified above. NIST leadership, including the acting director, the acting associate director for laboratory programs, and the NCNR director, reviewed the reports carefully and identified a number of key findings and recommendations.
NIST leadership concurs with the findings and recommendations from the subject matter experts and is working to implement both short-term corrective actions and long-term operational changes. NIST is committed to ensuring that a fuel damage incident like the one that occurred on Feb. 3, 2021, never happens again, and that improvements to our safety culture are embraced and guide us into the future.