Operations and Administration

Lynn Kennedy (left) and a Metler Company employee assist with the loading of lead bricks onto a truck for transport to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia. Photograph by Jim Mottern.

Recycling Excess Lead
Cleaned Hoods Reinstalled
Declining Work Force
New Focus on Performance
Presentations to DNFSB Staff
Radiation Protection Office Award
Closing in on Compliance
ES&H Oversight
Other Highlights

The day-to-day operation of ORNL is generally the responsibility of the Operations, Environment, Safety, and Health Directorate. We perform the necessary maintenance of infrastructure; provide health services, including physical examinations; assist line organizations in complying with federal and state regulations in such areas as radiological protection, environmental protection, and industrial safety; and provide emergency planning and response. In addition, we provide financial and budget services for all operational and research areas at ORNL and assist divisions with personnel recruitment.

In 1995, as in other years, we found several opportunities for cost savings, added efficiencies, and more innovative ways of doing business. Here are some examples.

ORNL Recycles Excess Load

To keep worker exposures to radiation as low as reasonably achievable in ORNL reactor and accelerator experiments, lead is used as shielding. Since June 1989, because ORNL's Lead Shop had suspended operations and lead has been procured from external sources, the Laboratory has accumulated 3.9 million pounds of excess contaminated and uncontaminated lead.

In one example of better resource management, ORNL sent
some excess lead to a DOE accelerator
in Virginia for shielding.

A team was established in January 1995 to address health, safety, and environmental concerns in managing our lead inventories. The task team accomplished the following:

This transfer of lead between two DOE facilities, the first of its kind in DOE history, was a sensible act. Because lead is both a toxic metal and a valuable shielding material, it is more economic to reuse it as shielding where needed than to dispose of it as waste. Through the transfer, ORNL saved about $660,000 in one year in potential disposal costs. It also prevented the possibility that employees might be exposed to unmonitored and improperly stored lead. In minimizing waste disposal while making effective use of waste lead, ORNL has led the way.

The lead recycle work was supported by TJNAF.

Hoods Cleaned and Reinstalled

In 1990, an ORNL industrial hygienist discovered that hot perchloric acid had been used in a laboratory hood, a protective enclosure that ventilates noxious fumes, dust, and gases so that biological, chemical, and radioactive materials can be safely handled. She reported the problem. When additional investigation found that the chemical had been used in other hoods also not approved for hot perchloric acid, Laboratory management recognized a safety problem and responded swiftly.

We dismantled and cleaned 24 chemical fume hood ventilation systems contaminated with perchlorate salt.

Barry Gaskins (left) and Howard Sneed prepare a hood fan for a bath to remove its perchlorate salts.

In 1995, ORNL's Office of Safety and Health Protection successfully completed the project to dismantle and decontaminate 24 chemical fume hood ventilation systems contaminated with perchlorate salt. The clean hoods were then reinstalled. The threat of fires and explosions in these systems was eliminated, and all hoods met environmental, health, safety, and radiation limits.

The project finished three months ahead of schedule, saving ORNL $6 million in costs avoided in putting hoods in compliance when returned to operation in the labs. By following procedures and reusing two-thirds of the decontaminated ductwork and system materials, we significantly reduced the discharge of liquid and solid waste from the cleanup effort.

The work was sponsored by DOE, Office of Energy Research.

Declining Work Force Heightens Emphasis on Human Resources

Following the 1994 Special Retirement Incentive Program when 429 ORNL employees elected to retire, the Laboratory work force has continued to decline. Although about 30% of those employees were replaced in 1995, changing budgets in specific programmatic areas have further reduced staff levels. This decline should not be construed, however, as a diminished commitment—at corporate, customer, or Laboratory level—to the development and management of human resources. If anything, it has prompted ORNL to reaffirm its goal to recruit and retain the staff needed to achieve programmatic goals. Consequently, activities in staff recruiting, retention, and diversity have been refocused or intensified.

ORNL's recruiting activity during 1995, though limited, focused on filling openings created by retirements.

ORNL's recruiting activity during 1995, though limited, focused on filling openings created by retirements. Of these openings, 131 were filled— 88 through internal transfers and 43 by outside hires. Both transfers and hires were conducted in keeping with the Laboratory's equal employment opportunity (EEO) and affirmative action (AA) goals. Complementing these endeavors were efforts to increase the cultural diversity of ORNL's work force. Participation in the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Sciences, Inc., for example, resulted in the hiring of three staff members. During the summer of 1995, a partnership with the Southeastern Consortium for Minorities in Engineering produced positions for seven interns.

In an effort to retain staff essential to ORNL missions, the Employee Development Task Team was chartered to take a critical look at employee development opportunities at ORNL and to suggest enhancements. The team reviewed and considered issues identified from two employee surveys and an assessment by the human resources consulting firm Watson Wyatt. Issues identified include developmental assignments, mentoring, and job rotation. In addition, the task team designed a survey for identifying best practices and is currently conducting the survey with five companies. Adapting those best practices to the Laboratory culture, analyzing and applying lessons learned from the internal surveys and assessments, and meeting EEO/AA and diversity challenges—all will receive special emphasis in ORNL's strategic planning for human resources.

New Focus on Performance, not Compliance

Interested in establishing a reenergized and progressive relationship with your customer? If so, take note of the Business Management Oversight Pilot (BMOP) recently implemented at the Laboratory for ORNL and its then contract manager Lockheed Martin Energy Systems (LMES). Described in Deputy Secretary of Energy Charles Curtis's memorandum of March 30, 1995, BMOP makes possible a type of partnership between DOE and the contractor that encourages and rewards performance and continuous improvement. It does so by facilitating a paradigm shift from compliance-based to performance-based oversight.

The initial step in implementing BMOP here was to schedule a two-week DOE-ORO review, which will be part of a cyclical process. This year's review was set for February 12­23, 1995. The next step was to develop a set of performance objectives and measures mutually agreed to by LMES and ORNL managers and their DOE counterparts. From this cooperative effort emerged 23 objectives and 66 measures against which LMES-ORNL later assessed its own performance.

Using both the self-assessment and evidence of operational awareness gleaned from routine communications and interactions, DOE-ORO determined the scope of the on-site review. Protocol for the review called for an entrance conference, regular meetings with LMES-ORNL management during the review, and an exit conference. The review findings formed the basis for a report to the Deputy Secretary of Energy. Eventually the findings will result in corrective actions and improved performance objectives and measures. Then the cycle will begin anew.

The annual process of determining and agreeing
on performance objectives should improve
communications among managers
and facilitate self-assessment.

The expected benefits of this new partnership with DOE are many. The annual process of determining and agreeing on performance objectives and measures should not only improve communications among LMES, ORNL, and DOE managers but also facilitate the self-assessment process. Replacing several on-site reviews and assessments with one annual review should reduce the level of staff support required and result in significant cost savings. Moreover, further cost reductions and avoidances should be realized as operations incorporate best management practices. Most important, by establishing and maintaining their own management systems for monitoring and achieving expectations, LMES and ORNL can ensure that performance and process improvements are continuous. This process should also ensure that the paradigm shift does not reverse itself.

Presentations to DNFSB Staff Successful

Four staff members of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) visited the Laboratory March 13­15, 1995, to receive a general overview of ORNL's nuclear facilities and inventories. Arrangements for the visit were coordinated through the Office of Operational Readiness and Facility Safety. Presentations made by managers of various ORNL facilities focused on the operational and programmatic history and the current nuclear material inventory for 14 operational and 12 shutdown facilities. Following the presentations, the DNFSB staff members participated in brief tours of 19 facilities.

Prior to their visit, the DNFSB staff had requested that presentations address plans for the disposition of nuclear fuels and radioactive materials, configuration and form for stored nuclear materials, and DOE programmatic ownership of nuclear materials inventory. They had also expressed interest in radiation and contamination levels within facilities and in plans for the decontamination and decommissioning of shutdown facilities.

At the end of their visit, the DNFSB staff expressed satisfaction that ORNL had paid close attention to their desired agenda and had provided the kinds of information requested. Their comments were complimentary of the professionalism, confidence, knowledge, and capability of the Laboratory staff. The best indicators of success, however, may be that all DNFSB-initiated issues were resolved during the visit and that follow-up was not anticipated.

Radiation Protection Office Award

The ORNL Award of Excellence in Operations and Support in 1995 went to the Office of Radiation Protection (ORP). The award recognized the office's demonstrated excellence in providing effective, efficient radiation protection support to the Laboratory and improvements in the overall radiation protection program.

One outstanding achievement for which ORP was cited was the complete revision of the ORNL Health Physics Manual, to comply with federal standards, and DOE's RadCon Manual. The award also honored ORP for performing a detailed Malcolm Baldrige assessment and customer surveys to provide more customer focus, implementing positive changes, and developing performance measures to monitor effectiveness of those changes. Moreover, ORP was commended for the downward trend in overall radiation dose received by the Laboratory population.

Closing in on Compliance

During 1995 ORNL's environmental compliance personnel focused on two major undertakings, making significant progress in both. One effort involved federal and state regulations governing underground storage tanks (USTs) and the other involved negotiations to renew DOE-ORO's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

To respond to UST regulations, we facilitated the closing of nine petroleum tanks at ORNL and received approval letters for final closure of an additional six. This achievement represents a significant step toward closing or upgrading all petroleum tanks by the end of 1998, the deadline set by state and federal regulations. By then all existing USTs must comply with operating standards for new tanks. In addition, investigations of soil and groundwater must be conducted during all tank closures and when a petroleum release is suspected or confirmed.

The program, involving staff from several ORNL divisions, was created to ensure that the deadline is met and to facilitate the inevitable soil and groundwater investigations. The Laboratory chose the team approach to avoid burdening individual research divisions with undue liability for "legacy" tanks and to enable application of lessons learned to successive tank closures, replacements, and site investigations. With 42 of ORNL's 55 tanks now closed and 3 relatively new ones already meeting regulatory standards, the team is confident that the remaining tanks can be closed and full compliance achieved by the deadline.

Our compliance people also facilitated negotiations to renew DOE-ORO's NPDES permit. Discussions are still under way with staff from the DOE Site Office and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Having qualified for all prerequisites, ORNL has been operating under the conditions of the previous permit, which expired in 1991. We are negotiating a permit that is more relevant to 1996 ORNL operations, enables implementation within restricted budgets, and ensures the best possible chance for full compliance. Where stricter requirements may be imposed, the team is proposing feasible alternatives. Where alternatives are not available, achievable schedules for compliance with new requirements are being suggested.

ES&H Oversight: Will Less Mean More?

To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of DOE's oversight of our environmental, safety, and health (ES&H) activities, the Department decided to explore alternatives to its current way of doing business. The ES&H Oversight Reduction Pilot at ORNL, one of three pilots accepted by DOE, was an outcome of DOE's decision to change its approach. Initiated in an August 31, 1995, memorandum from Deputy Secretary of Energy Charles Curtis, the pilot is meant to demonstrate that oversight based on performance, rather than compliance, can significantly improve contractor performance while actually reducing the number of DOE reviews.

The pilot is based on a set of performance measures mutually agreed upon by DOE and ORNL. Negotiation of these measures, which are in addition to ES&H measures already built into LMER's new performance-based contract, was the first phase of the pilot oversight process. The second phase involved continuous baselining of ORNL's performance against performance data from prior years, assessing performance against the negotiated measures, and providing monthly progress reports to DOE. The monthly reports were followed by quarterly discussions of progress and then a yearly comprehensive self-assessment by the Laboratory. Finally, during a two-week period in August 1996, an ES&H appraisal of ORNL by all DOE programs, coordinated by DOE-ORO, will be conducted on-site. The scope of the review will be affected by monthly performance indicators, ORNL's self-assessment, and any external reviews.

One benefit may be that less DOE oversight,
made possible by ORNL's self-monitoring,
will result in continuous improvement
in overall ES&H performance.

Besides the August appraisal, no other ES&H oversight of ORNL activities should be conducted by DOE programs throughout FY1996. Possible exceptions might be independent reviews conducted by Environmental Health or reviews prompted by serious deficiencies in meeting performance measures. The success of the pilot oversight, made possible by ORNL's self-monitoring, will result in continuous improvement in overall ES&H performance.

Crafts Workers Aid Success of Army Project

Some assignments involving our skilled crafts workers are both challenging and exciting and contribute to important initiatives originating outside the Laboratory. One recent project for the U.S. Army, for example, required fabrication and assembly of components for the Advanced Integrated Robotics Rearm System (AIRRS), designed by ORNL researchers. As a proof-of-principle activity, AIRRS demonstrated the feasibility of automated processing of artillery rounds on board the Army's Future Armored Resupply Vehicle.

Working alongside the engineers and technicians,
our crafts personnel provided valuable insights and
recommendations that enhanced the reliability of
the Advanced Integrated Robotics Rearm System.

Jim Duncan (left), Kent Francis, and O. C. Duck assemble a projectile fuse conveyor for the Advanced Integrated Robotics Rearm System.

Crafts workers were initially involved in AIRRS for the fabrication of system components. These included computers, servo motors, pneumatic actuators, and a wide variety of sensors working in unison to move, process, and store artillery projectiles and fuses. Once fabricated, they had to be mounted and integrated into the system. These tasks were expertly handled by our electricians, millwrights, pipefitters, and welders. Working alongside the engineers and technicians, our crafts personnel provided valuable insights and recommendations that enhanced the reliability of the system. When AIRRS was successfully demonstrated in September 1995, the crafts workers were justifiably proud of their significant contributions to this national security project.

Other Highlights of Laboratory Operations