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NIOSH Updates on Cybersecurity Modernization Initiative

December 16, 2021

December 16, 2021

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The Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health held a two-day virtual meeting December 8-9, 2021.

NIOSH informed the Board that they are now able to provide dose reconstructions to DOL. It is still a slow process since they need to do them manually. They explained that the manual process is more tedious since the NOCTS database no longer exists. This database apparently had all folders and subfolders for each case. Now the dose reconstructors must search for the folders to find the information they need.

The Board members asked when the program to replace the Site Research Database (SRDB) will be available. The lack of the SRDB is hampering the Board members work and the current process to access documents is burdensome.  It can take hours to find a document. NIOSH said that they have weekly meetings about the progress but, unfortunately, the replacement database isn’t expected for six months or more. NIOSH suggested that any member who knows the SRDB number to reach out to NIOSH to get a copy. NIOSH also noted that their contractor, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) does have the SRDB.

The Department of Labor (DOL) provided an update. 34% of claims with dose reconstruction are approved for benefits. The approval rates jump for total Part B claims with 53% of the claims being approved. One reason for the high rate of approval for all Part B claims is due to claimants who fall under a Special Exposure Cohort.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) presentation included informing the Board that the Former Worker Medical Screening Program is now accepting appointments for the program. There will also be a notice placed in the Federal Register in the future concerning the covered facility list.

NIOSH presented the Evaluation Report for the Pinellas Plant which concluded that NIOSH can reconstruct dose for those workers. Dr. Anderson, the Board’s Chair, graciously allotted the petitioners about twenty minutes to present their position that NIOSH cannot reconstruct dose with sufficient accuracy.

The petitioners described the burdensome process to the Board. They explained that it is extremely difficult to obtain DOE documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The petitioner gave the example that one request was a couple of years old. She had received no acknowledgement until DOE asked if she was still interested in receiving the documents. Greg Lewis, from DOE, asked that she send the specifics on the open FOIA requests to see if he can help getting them released.

The other co-petitioner is a former worker at the site. He gave a brief description of his work at Pinellas. One Board member asked if he was interviewed by NIOSH.  He responded that he was not.

The Board discussed tasking their contractor, Sanford Cohen and Associates (SC&A), to review NIOSH’s Evaluation Report. This is a normal procedure but has been hampered by the Cybersecurity Modernization Initiative. SC&A and the Board members have limited access to documents since the SRDB and NOCTS databases no longer function. The Board asked that SC&A to start the review process and keep the Board updated on whether SC&A runs into problems that will delay their report. The Board also recommended that SC&A review the Evaluation Report Addendum for Y-12. That tasking has been delayed since August because of the Initiative.

Two Subcommittees reported to the Board. The Subcommittee for Procedure Reviews advised the Board that they have closed outstanding issues for five procedures.  The Board voted to accept the Subcommittee’s recommendations. The Subcommittee for Dose Reconstruction Reviews reported on their blind review of 44 dose reconstructions. The Chair of the Subcommittee, Dr. Kottelchuck, informed the Board that of the 44 dose reconstructions they reviewed, only three (6.8%) had any discrepancies between NIOSH’s dose reconstruction and SC&A’s dose reconstruction. NIOSH offered the explanation that SC&A does not have access to the to the tools used by NIOSH’s dose reconstructors.

The Board finalized the 2022 meeting dates:

  • February 16, 2022 – teleconference
  • April 27-28, 2022 – possibly near the Savannah River Site if travel restrictions are lifted.
  • June 15, 2022 – teleconference
  • August 8-9, 2022 – possibly in person. Location to be determined.
  • October 20, 2022 – teleconference
  • December 7-8, 2022 – possibly in person. Location to be determined.