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SECRETARY OF ENERGY AUTHORIZES ROCKY FLATS BUILDING 559 RESUMPTION

SECRETARY OF ENERGY AUTHORIZES ROCKY FLATS BUILDING 559 RESUMPTION
 WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins announced today that he has authorized resumption of operations in Building 559, an analytical laboratory at the Rocky Flats Plant. Regardless of the plant's mission, Building 559 is necessary for cleanup.
 The primary mission of the laboratory will be to provide timely support to chemically analyze samples containing plutonium in support of other site activities. There is no manufacturing of plutonium components in the laboratory and only small quantities of plutonium are handled in the facility. Building 559 operations were curtailed in November 1989 as part of an overall curtailment of plutonium operations at Rocky Flats.
 Watkins made the announcement in Washington following two years of extensive improvements made to enhance safe operations. In fact, the safety of the laboratory has been subjected to extensive oversight, including numerous reviews and public meetings by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB). An Operational Readiness Review (ORR) was recently completed on the facility. Watkins also noted that the Defense Board determined, as required by law, that the department's response to several specific board recommendations adequately protects public health and safety with regard to operation of Building 559.
 "These reviews," according to Watkins, "have led me to conclude that operations in Building 559 can be resumed in a manner which protects the safety of the workforce, the public and the environment. As a result, I am today authorizing the laboratory to proceed with resumption of its analytical operations in accordance with provisions of the Department of Energy-approved start-up plan."
 At the DNFSB's Feb. 3 public meeting, Board Chairman John Conway stated that "resumption of operations in Building 559 actually will enhance public health and safety by having an on-site laboratory for analysis rather than having to ship samples to Los Alamos."
 The laboratory's capabilities will be used to perform characterization of waste material destined for off-site shipment, to analyze samples taken as part of the plant's environmental cleanup efforts and to analyze material removed from glovebox exhaust systems.
 Resumption of operations will involve a careful and deliberate start-up program which may take several weeks to complete. "It will be a slow, methodical evaluation which may experience several stops and starts as necessary," Watkins said. "We will be operating in a much different fashion that we did in the past."
 Watkins added that he was pleased with the commitment and dedication displayed by Rocky Flats employees to instill a new safety culture in Building 559, as well as in other operations throughout the plantsite.
 -0- 2/4/92
 /CONTACT: Deborah Smith, 202-586-4940, or Beth Brainard, 303-966-5993, both of the U.S. Department of Energy/ CO: U.S. Department of Energy ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


MH-MK -- DC044 -- 6947 02/04/92 18:24 EST
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Date:Feb 4, 1992
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