This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-07-297R entitled 'Yucca Mountain Project: Information on Estimated Costs to Respond to Employee E-mails That Raised Questions about Quality Assurance' which was released on January 31, 2007. This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this document to Webmaster@gao.gov. This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. January 19, 2007: The Honorable Jon C. Porter: House of Representatives: Subject: Yucca Mountain Project: Information on Estimated Costs to Respond to Employee E-mails That Raised Questions about Quality Assurance: Dear Mr. Porter: In March 2005, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported the discovery of a series of e-mail messages written in the late 1990s by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees working under a contract with DOE on the Yucca Mountain Project. These e-mails alerted DOE that USGS workers may have falsified records for scientific work on the project and may have been disdainful of the project's quality assurance program and its requirements. In March 2006, we reported that DOE was engaged in a detailed review of these and other project e-mails and was reworking technical documents to ensure the credibility of the USGS's scientific analyses, particularly its conclusions on water infiltration.[Footnote 1] At your request, we undertook follow-on work to determine the estimated costs incurred in DOE's response, which also included additional management and quality assurance training for project personnel. We briefed you and your staff on October 23, 2006, on the results of this work. As you requested, we also briefed you and your staff on the estimated cost of completing the Yucca Mountain Project, based on DOE's new schedule for receiving a license and opening the nuclear waste repository by 2017. Enclosure I provides slides that we used in our briefing to you and your staff. To respond to your request, we collected data provided by DOE; USGS; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the DOE and the Department of the Interior (DOI) offices of the Inspector General, both of whom have examined aspects of these matters; as well as other DOI offices, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, and various contractors working on the Yucca Mountain Project. We also conducted interviews with staff from these organizations. Given the time constraints, we did not independently verify the cost data provided to us. We conducted this work from September 2006 through October 2006 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. With respect to the review of project e-mail and other relevant documents to determine the extent and nature of problems similar to those suggested by the USGS e-mails, the agencies estimated that their efforts cost nearly $4.2 million. The scientific rework related to the USGS water infiltration analysis cost an estimated $16 million, while additional management and quality assurance training for project personnel cost about $340,000. All three estimates were for expenditures in fiscal years 2005 and 2006. In fiscal year 2007, DOE plans to spend another $5.1 million on scientific rework. DOE's preliminary cost estimate to complete and open the repository to begin receiving wastes by 2017 is about $23 billion (expressed in fiscal year 2006 dollars), $12.1 billion of which was spent from fiscal year 1983 through fiscal year 2005. DOE expects to revise its cost estimate for completing the project in 2007. We provided DOE with a draft of this report for review and comments. In its written response, DOE agreed with our overall cost numbers and stated that it expects to provide updated cost estimates for overall program costs in 2007. (See encl. II.) DOE also provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from the report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report to interested congressional committees and members, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of the Interior, and other interested parties. We will also make copies available to others on request. In addition, this report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at [Hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please contact me at (202) 512-3841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this report include Richard Cheston, Raymond Smith, Jon Ludwigson, Lee Carroll, and Kris Massey. Sincerely yours, Signed by: Jim Wells: Director, Natural Resources and Environment: Enclosures: Enclosure I: Yucca Mountain Project: Information on Project Costs: Briefing to the Chairman of the Federal Workforce and Agency Organization Subcommittee, the Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives: October 23, 2006: Background: DOE leads federal effort to assess and build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada: In 1982, the Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and determined that the United States should build a national nuclear waste repository: In 2002, the Congress approved Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the site for the repository: Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for assessing the safety and performance of the future repository: DOE has been conducting scientific studies of the Ion -term storage of nuclear waste, such as how water moves through the soil, rock, and other layers of the mountain: DOE work at Yucca Mountain uses contractors including: * Bechtel SAIC Company (BSC) and: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): DOE is required to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) before starting construction and operating the repository: DOE is developing the license application, including supporting scientific assessments of long-term repository safety: NRC is to evaluate the license application and DOE must meet NRC standards: Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) reviews scientific basis of repository: USGS scientists' e-mails raised concerns about compliance with quality assurance requirements: USGS scientists' e-mails indicated that they may not have adhered to quality assurance requirements: DOE's announcement in March 2005 of the discovery of e-mails from USGS personnel involved in scientific work developing the water infiltration model for the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) revealed that these employees may not have complied with quality assurance requirements, including the potential falsification of data: Agencies reviewed employee e-mails to determine extent and nature of the potential problems: E-mails raised questions about quality assurance associated with the USG water infiltration model: Infiltration model simulates the top layer of the mountain and how water moves through that layer: Infiltration model la s an important role in scientific analysis of how water moves to and through other layers of the mountain (which are simulated using other models), including waste storage tunnels: Water that reaches the storage areas may affect the integrity of waste packages: E-mails resulted in investigations and scientific rework: DOE initiated a projectwide review of e-mails to determine if the attitudes and behaviors seen in certain USGS employees were seen elsewhere in the project: DOE is overseeing the process of reperforming the technical work and preparing supporting scientific documentation associated with the infiltration rate estimates: DOE required staff associated with the YMP to complete training on proper use and handling of e-mails: DOE has delayed its application to the NRC for licensing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository and announced that the projected best available opening date is now expected to be 2017: Objectives: 1. Identify the estimated cost of various reviews resulting from the discovery of the USGS emails: 2. Identify the estimated cost of reworking scientific research, data, and associated technical documents to ensure that conclusions about water infiltration are correct and supportable: 3. Identify the cost of additional management and quality assurance training for project personnel resulting from the discovery of the e- mails: 4. Identify the estimated total cost to complete the Yucca Mountain repository based on DOE's new licensing schedule and revised 2017 opening date: Scope and Methodology: Relied on interviews, reports, agency cost estimates: Relied primarily on interviews and review of reports, testimonies, and other documents identified in interviews: Interviews included: Senior YMP officials: Senior NRC officials responsible for monitoring the license application process: Senior officials from DOE and Department of the Interior (DOI) Inspectors General: Private contractors that undertook substantial work including, Bechtel SAIC Corporation (BSC) and Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. (BAH): We relied on interviews, reports, agency cost estimates: Reviewed documents including: Reports from YMP: Reports from Inspectors General: Prior GAO reports: Reviewed cost estimates provided by: DOE (Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Office of the Inspector General): DOI (Office of the Inspector General, USGS, and other offices): NRC: Private contractors working on the YMP: Work completed September through October 2006 according to generally accepted government auditing standards: Limitations: Because of time constraints: We relied on DOE, DOI, USGS, NRC, and contractor estimates of cost and our review of documents they identified during interviews: We did not verify agencies' cost estimates: * In most cases, agencies estimated time and costs incurred: - Limited data on actual time and expense: - No specific accounting or budget codes for some work: * Estimates may reflect work that otherwise would have occurred: * We had limited opportunity to independently evaluate whether other activities should be included in the cost estimates: * We requested that the agencies provide estimates of fully burdened costs (e.g., including salaries, benefits, and overhead), but we did not evaluate or verify their methodologies: - Not certain whether agencies' estimates reflected department overhead (e.g., recruitment), imputed costs, or indirect costs (e.g., rent and utilities): * Not all agencies were willing or able to provide estimates for all activities: - Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation, and USGS: We did not evaluate methodology used for selecting and reviewing e- mails: We did not evaluate decisions, or basis for, scientific rework: Summary: Review of e-mail and other documents to determine extent and nature of problem cost nearly $4.2 million (fiscal years 2005-2006): Scientific rework related to USGS infiltration model cost about $16 million (fiscal years 2005-2006): Training and other activities to improve the focus on quality assurance cost about $340,000 (fiscal years 2005-2006): Preliminary DOE estimate to meet new licensing schedule and revised opening in 2017 is about $23 billion (fiscal year 2006 dollars): $12 billion spent from fiscal years 1983 to 2005: $11 billion estimated for fiscal years 2006 to 2017: DOE expects to provide updated estimates in fiscal year 2007: Review of E-mails: In total, reviews and investigations estimated to have cost about $4.2 million (FY 2005-2006): Figure: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, DOI, USGS, and NRC. [End of Figure] Agencies' review of e-mail and other documentation cost about $2.7 million: Criminal investigation and associated personnel actions cost about $820,000: Independent review of agencies' efforts cost about $530,000: Other efforts, such as responses to media inquiries, cost about $100,000: Three categories of actions spanned 2005 through 2007: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of information provided by DOE, DOI, USGS and NRC. *Issuance of report has been extended to February 2007: [End of figure] Agency review processes estimated to have cost about $2.7 million: Figure: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE and USGS. DOE: Preparation of formal Root Cause and Extent of Condition Report (CR) 5223 cost about $1.7 million: Review of e-mails cost about $870,000: Review of employee concern reports cost about $89,000: Review of other condition reports cost about $37,000: USGS: USGS is in the process of interviewing employees about workplace culture and attitudes toward quality assurance, which has a cost of about $26,000: DOE conducted three types of e-mail reviews: E-mail review included three broad types of reviews: Evaluated e-mails identified as "relevant" to license application process: Evaluated e-mails sent by persons in key positions not identified as relevant ("non relevant"): Evaluated all e-mails using statistical sampling: 959,102 relevant e-mails reviewed two ways: Randomly sampled and physically read and reviewed: Keyword search used to identify e-mail content critical of quality assurance and a random sample of those selected for review: About 13 million nonrelevant e-mails reviewed two ways: 32 of 237 key staff selected and all nonrelevant e-mails randomly sampled and reviewed: Random sample of all nonrelevant e-mails sent by all 237 key staff reviewed: Population of about 14 million e-mails randomly sampled and reviewed: Review of E-mails: DOE's three types of e-mail reviews examined database of 14 million e- mails and led to seven new issues: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE: [End of figure] Independent reviews estimated to have cost about $530,000: Figure: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE and NRC: [End of Figure] Congressional review: DOE and contractors prepared response to congressional request for documents at a cost of about $414,000: DOE-IG review: DOE-IG evaluated the adequacy of DOE's process for reviewing e-mails to identify conditions adverse to quality at a cost of about $83,000: NRC review: NRC evaluated the potential impact of e-mail reviews on NRC review activities at a cost of about $35,000: DOE-IG report on e-mail review (DOE/IG-0708) recommended broader e-mail review and need to address issues raised in e-mails: Effort: Interviewed YMP staff and contractors: Reviewed project documentation: Independently reviewed e-mails: Found: The Archival E-mail Review Team identified and entered no conditions adverse to quality into the project Corrective Action Program as required during the process of identifying e-mails as relevant for inclusion in the Licensing Support Network: DOE-IG review uncovered e-mails potentially adverse to quality that had not been identified by prior reviews: Recommended: Expand review of e-mails to include all e-mails: Ensure that current and future e-mails potentially adverse to quality are addressed: Ensure YMP personnel are instructed in the appropriate application of the Corrective Action Program: Cost: 5 field staff at 1,196 staff hours: $82,907 estimated cost: Criminal investigation and personnel actions estimated to have cost about $820,000: Figure: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, DOI, and USGS: [End of figure] Criminal Investigation: DOE and DOI conducted a joint criminal investigation (involving DOE-IG and DOI-IG) of allegations that USGS employees may have falsified data and quality assurance records at a cost of about $792,000. DOJ participated in the criminal investigation and evaluated the extent to which prosecutorial action should take place but did not provide costs. Personnel action: USGS evaluated extent to which personnel action should be taken at a cost of about $26,000. Scientific Rework: Scientific rework estimated to cost over $16 million (FY 2005-2006), with an additional $5.1 million planned (FY 2007): Figure: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, USGS, NRC, and NWTRB: [End of Figure] Replacing the USGS water infiltration model with a new model developed by Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) cost about $10.7 million: Independent review and oversight cost about $2.5 million: Idaho National Lab (INL): NWTRB Oversight: NRC Observation: Assessing and revising models that depend on the water infiltration model cost about $2.5 million: Initial effort to rework the USGS model cost about $420,000: At least $5.1 million in additional spending planned for fiscal year 2007: Four broad categories of scientific rework span fiscal years 2005-2006, additional work expected in fiscal year 2007: Figure: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, BSc, NWTRB, NRC, and USGS: [End of figure] Replacing original infiltration model estimated to cost about $10.7 million (FY 2005-2006) with another $2.2 million planned (FY 2007): Figure: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, BSC, and SNL: [End of figure] SNL is replacing the USGS model: BSC is reviewing and revising original USGS data for use in the new SNL model: DOE is overseeing the replacement: DOE expects to spend almost $2.2 million in fiscal year 2007 to complete new model: Scientific Rework: Assessing and revising other models estimated to cost about $2.5 million (FY 2005-2006), with at least $2.9 million planned (FY 2007) Assessing and revising unsaturated zone model cost about $1.7 million: Figure: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE: [End of figure] Initial sensitivity analysis of other models cost about $535,000: Developing technical report on the implications of changes in the infiltration model on other models cost about $280,000: DOE expects to spend about $2.9 million in fiscal year 2007 to finish assessing and revising models dependent on the new infiltration model: Independent review and oversight estimated to cost about $2.5 million (FY 2005-2006): Figure: [See PDF for image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by INL, NRC, and NWTRB: [End of figure] INL review of software cost about $2.2 million: NRC observation and monitoring cost about $236,400: NWTRB monitoring and evaluation cost about $15,000: NWTRB and the NRC expect to spend additional money in fiscal year 2007 (no estimate): Rework of original USGS infiltration model cost about $420,000 (FY 2005- 2006): Figure: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by BSC and USGS: [End of Figure] BSC investigation of model and underlying data cost about $300,000: USGS effort to verify original infiltration model and supporting data cost about $81,000: USGS validation of the original model for its own use cost about $44,000: Additional Training Costs: DOE and USGS spent about $340,000 (FY 2005-2006): Figure: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE and USGS: [End of Figure] USGS: One-day seminar on quality assurance cost about $54,000: DOE: Communication with all YMP employees regarding proper handling of e- mails cost about $76,000: Development of e-mail template and training on how to use it cost about $210,000: Total Estimated Cost of Project: DOE's best current estimate to complete Yucca Mountain with a 2017 opening date is about $23 billion (FY 2006 dollars) Figure: [See PDF for Image] Source: GAO analysis of data and estimates provided by DOE: [End of Figure] Historical cost, FY 1983-2005: $12.1 billion (in FY Annual Cumulative 2006 dollars) Estimated future cost, FY 2006-2017: $11.2 billion (in FY 2006 dollars): DOE plans to release updated estimates in 2007: Cash flow analysis expected mid-to-late November 2006: Integrated project plan expected early 2007: Life-cycle cost analysis expected early to mid-2007: [End of Section] Enclosure II: Comments from the Department of Energy: Department of Energy: Washington, DC 20585: Jan N 112007: Mr. Raymond Smith: Assistant Director: National Resources and Environment: Government Accountability Office: Washington, DC 20548: Dear Mr. Smith: The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) has received and reviewed the presentation materials, entitled Yucca Mountain Project. Information on Estimated Costs to Respond to Employee Emails that Raised Questions about Quality Assurance (GAO-07-297R), which you prepared for Representative Porter and subsequently forwarded to DOE on December 18, 2006. We have verified that the overall cost numbers you have reported are consistent with the data DOE previously provided when members of our staffs worked together in October 2006. DOE expects to provide updated cost estimates for the overall program costs in 2007. I appreciate the opportunity to review these presentation materials and provide comments which we believe will clarify or correct points of information for your final report. Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments. Sincerely, Signed by: Edward F. Sproat, III, Director: Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management: Enclosure: [End of Section] FOOTNOTES  GAO, Yucca Mountain: Quality Assurance at DOE's Planned Nuclear Waste Repository Needs Increased Management Attention, GAO-06-313, (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 17, 2006).