AEC Quality Assurance Programs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-10-26.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

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                                                               ~rmikms                        GENERAL ACCC?UNTING OFFICE
                                                                                   WASHING,TON.                            D.C.          20548

                 CIVIL            DIVISION                                                                                                           OCT 2 6 1971

                                     Dear Mr.      Hollingsworth:

                                             The General          Accounting        Office     has reviewed            the actions           taken    by
                                    the Atomic          Energy      Commission        (AEC) to provide           for the development                  and
                                    implementation             of adequate        quality      assurance       programs            in conducting          its
                                    various       activities,           Our review         was performed         at AEC Hea"dquarters,
                                    Germantown,           Maryland;        AEC's Chicago,         Idaho,     and Richland               Operations
                                    Offices;        and at contractor             locations       under the jurisdiction                      of these
                                     offices--      Argonne       National      Laboratory,         Argonne,       Illinois;            Atlantic
                                    Richfield         Hanford       Company,      Richland,       Washington;            Douglas        United      Nuclear,
                                    Inc.,      Richland,        Washington;         Idaho    Nuclear      Corporation,               Idaho     Falls,
                                    Idaho;      National         Accelerator        Laboratory,        Batavia,          Illinois;          and WADCO
                                     Corporation,           Richland,       Washington,

                                         With respect    to the licensing                               of production                                     and utilization               facilities,
                                    AEC has defined   quality  assurance                               as comprising:

                                             V **       all    those planned            and systematic           actions    necessary       to
                                             provi&         a&quate         .--F.-d,-. =fice tha; 0 str;rCtilre,
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                                             component         will    perform         satisfactorily          in service.          Quality
                                             assurance         includes        quality         control,     which comprises          those
                                             quality        assurance        actions         related      to the physical         charac-
                                             teristics         of a material,              structure,       component,      or system
                                             which provide           a means to control                 the quality      of the material,
                                             structure,          component,          or system to predetermined                 requirements."

                                           The programs         of the Divisions          of Space Nuclear        Systems,       Naval    Reactors,
                                    and Military       Application         have had formal        quality     assurance       procedures        for
                                    many years.        For the past several             years,    AEC officials         have emphasized           the
                                    need for increased           attention       to and more effective           application         of quality
                                    assurance     practices        in reactor       development      programs     to (1) help prevent
                                    costly    expenditures         due to deficiencies,           (2) conserve        materials       and
                                    manpower,     and (3) provide           greater     assurance       of the successful          achievement
                                    of program      objectives.

                                           In our report         to the Congress,        dated August      17, 1971, on the "Cost,
                                    Schedule;      and Design Aspects           of Selected     Atomic    Energy  Commission
                                    Construction       Projects"        (B-1641051,     we pointed     out that   a quality       assurance
                                    program      was instituted        and emphasized       by the Division      of Reactor       Develop-
                                    ment and Technology            (RDT) for the Loss of Fluid            Test Facility     project
                                    because      of problems       being    encountered     in the construction         of certain      other

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facilities.    The report pointed out also that                      a quality    assurance program
was required   as a result of disclosed  quality                     deficiencies     in the Power
Burst Facility   project.

       In June 1969 RDT established       formal quality    assurance program require-
ments for all reactor development and test facility             projects and associated
processes,    structures,     components, and systems,      In this regard, the
Assistant   Director      for Engineering   Standards,   RDT, in remarks to the
American Nuclear Society on September 1, 1970, stated that:

      "Our experience       had been that many important                objectives    of
      the Commission's reactor development programs were not
      being accomplished         as predicted.          This was attributable         to
      severe problems, failures             and delays due to insufficient
      engineering     attention,      much on essentially            conventional
      or non-developmental         materials,        processes,       components and
      systems.     The fact that many of these programs involved
      research and development             contributed      to the difficulty;        that
      is, 'there was a failure           to draw the important           distinction
      between uncertainties          in technology        together with the related
      risks of accomplishing           the associated         research and development
      programs, and the fundamental               engineering       elements of these
      same programs.        The R&D risks are an inherent                part of our
      business,    but the engineering            elements must be subject to
    . prcdlction     and control       throtugh proven englnezring             methods.
      In the field      of research and development an essential
      ingredient     of success is a systematic and ordered engineering
      approach utilfzing         exacting engineering            standards and quality
      assurance practices.           The same is true in the commercial
      application     of nuclear energy; massive evidence can be
      advanced in support of this approach; based on economic
      considerations      alone.

      "Accordingly,       within the Commission's reactor development
      programs, actions'were        taken to emphasize this approach and
      further     strengthening    actions are continuing.     These
      importantly      include requiring    that technical criteria,  codes
      and standards are defined and employed, and that recognized
      standard engineering       practices   are used."                                                                                             B

        Although quality       assurance has been recognized by AEC to provide
significant      benefits,     no specific     requirements     for the development    of
formal quality       assurance programs have been established              by AEC, with the
exception      of the four program divisions           mentioned above.      Several of the
AEC operating       contractors     included in our review,         however, have
established      formal quality       assurance procedures while others have relied


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                  on informal         procedures       for.controlling             the quality        of their     respective
                  programmatic         activities.          Formal'quality            assurance       procedures      have been
                  established         by Argonne       National        Laboratory,        Douglas       United   Nuclear,     Inc.,
                  Idaho     Nuclear      Corporation,         and.WADCO Corporation,                  The benefits        of such
                  procedures        identified        by the various           contractors        included:

                                    1.        Managementawas   made aware                      of potential      problem    areas
                                              in a more timely   manner.

                                    2.        Management                  was assisted    in    meeting    desired    project
                                              requirements,                  which helped       avoid   potential     losses.

                                    3.        Formal      procedures       helped    to identify      trends     inSoperation
                                              and maintenance           areas so that      additional       procedures
                                              could      be established         to improve     or augment      current
                            The National      Accelerator          Laboratory,        whose activities            come under the
                  Division       of Research,        and the Atlantic            Richfield       Hanford       Company,       whose
                  activities        come under the Division                of Production,          have,     for the most part,
                  adopted      .&formal     procedures         for assurance          of quality.          On the basis            of
                  our review,         it appeared       that     these     informal       procedures       largely       relied       on
                  the attitudes,         efforts,       and skills         of the individuals            involved-in           the
                  programs       to ensure      that    quality-related            practices       were being        followed.

                            Although         the Argonne       National         Laboratory       had a policy            requiring          the
                  impLemen+atidn               of formal      quality       assurance       procedures,          some of the
                  operating          groups      at the laboratory             whose activities             come under           the
                  direction          of Headquarters           divisions         that have not established                     quality
                  assurance          requirements          were not implementing               such procedures               in the
                  manner prescribed                 by Argonne.                       .:
                            In February           1969 Argonne         established         a policy       that     "to the fullest
                  practical          extent",formal          quality        assurance       programs        will     be utilized            by
                  all     laboratory           operating     groups       to supplement          existing        quality         practices.
                  Quality         assurance         programs     and plans         were to be prepared               by all        operating
                  groups        and were to emphasize                planned       procedures       to prevent           quality
                  problems.            Also,      the program        and plans        were to include            procedures            for
                  prompt        detection        and correction           of any conditions             adversely          affecting
                          We noted       that      as of January             1, 1971, Argonne            operating        groups       whose
                  work was generally               being     funded        by RDT were implementing                  formal       quality
                  assurance       procedures          while      five      out of eight       Argonne         operating         groups
                  whose work was being                funded       by.AEC Headquarters               divisions         not requiring
                  formal'quality           assurance         procedures         had not started             preparing         quality
                  assurance       plans.         Also,     the Argonne          Quality      Assurance         Manager        reported
                  in early       1971 that         several       operating       groups,       including         some funded           by
                  RDT, had not implemented,                    in some cases,           those      features        of their        quality
                  assurance       plans      which called            for (1) documenting               items     not meeting
                  required       specifications,             (2) effectively            controlling           changes       to engineering
                  documents,        and (3) performing                 internal     quality        assurance        audits.


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               We have commented          previously     on-the    need for a formal          quality       assurance
 a      program    at Argonne       in our report       dated February         18, 1970, to the Joint
        Committee      on Atomic      Energy    on the "Development           of the Janus Reactor           Complex
      . for Biological         Research     by the Argonne      Nati,onal      Laboratory"       (B-165117).
        In that    report      we pointed      out that    such a- program,        if properly        conceived
        and implemented,         should    assist    in preventing        delays,     cost increases,          and
     _ performance        problems      of the type encountered           in developing        the Janus complex.

                  We believe       that    appropriate           formal       quality      assurance        procedures        applied
          to such functions            as procurement,              construction,          and fabrication             of both
          nontechnical          and technical          items      (1) provide         management        with a systematic
          basis    for ensuring         quality        of products         and (2) draw together                 the necessary
          techniques        and practices          that     should      be used to achieve              the desired          goal.
                  The development          and implementation                 of quality        assurance        programs?
          however,       requires      a strong        commitment         on the part          of management           because
          of the (1) well-disciplined                    approach       necessary        to carry       out a successful
          program      and (2) cooperation               needed from the people                  responsible        for per-
          forming      the planned        actions,          Although        some AEC program            divisions         and
          their    contractors        have long recognized                 the merits          of formal       quality
          assurance,.other           program       divisions         have not required              formal     quality
          assurance'programs            for activities             under their         direction.

                  We believe        that AEC could         provide    an incentive        for greater      application
          of formal      quality        assurance    procedures       by establishing         an agency-wide         policy
          on the development              and implementation         of quality      assura(nce    programs       and by
          providing      direction          to the contractors        as to the extent          to which formal
          quality     assurance         procedures     should      be established       for their     various       AEC
          programmatic        activities.

                  We would     like    to express     our appreciation      for-the     courtesies      and
          cooperation      extended       to our representatives       during      the review.      We
          would appreciate          being   advised    -of any actions    taken      or planned    with
          respect     to the matters        discussed     herein,

                                                                                                                  Sincerely                         yours,

                                                                                                                  ;gg df /ff&.&&~
                                                                                                                  Philip    A. Bernstein
                                                                                                                  Assistant    Director

          Mr. R.‘E.   Hollingsworth,       General                                                     Manager
          U. S. Atomic      Energy   Commission
          Washington,     D. C. 20545

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