Congress created the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board) as an independent agency within the Executive Branch (42 U.S.C. § 2286, et seq.) to identify the nature and consequences of potential threats to public health and safety at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) defense nuclear facilities, to elevate such issues to the highest levels of authority, and to inform the public. Since DOE is a self-regulating entity, the Board constitutes the only independent technical oversight of operations at the Nation’s defense nuclear facilities. Under its legislative mandate, the Board plays a key role in maintaining the future viability of the Nation’s nuclear deterrent capability by:
- Ensuring that the health and safety of the public and the workers at DOE’s defense nuclear facilities located throughout the United States are adequately protected, as DOE maintains the readiness of the nuclear arsenal, dismantles surplus weapons, disposes of excess radioactive materials, cleans up surplus defense nuclear facilities, and constructs new defense nuclear facilities;
- Enhancing the safety and security at our Nation’s most sensitive defense nuclear facilities when hazardous nuclear materials and components are placed in more secure and stable storage; and
- Providing for the early identification of health and safety vulnerabilities, allowing the Secretary of Energy to address issues before they become major problems.
The Board is composed of five respected experts in the field of nuclear safety with demonstrated competence and knowledge relevant to its independent investigative and oversight functions. The Congress established the Board in September 1988 in response to growing concerns about the level of health and safety protection that DOE was providing the public and workers at defense nuclear facilities. In so doing, Congress sought to provide the general public with added assurance that DOE’s defense nuclear facilities are being safely designed, constructed, operated, and decommissioned.