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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on 
Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

GAO: 

For Release on Delivery Expected at 9:30 a.m. EDT: 

Friday, October 7, 2005: 

Securing U.S. Nuclear Materials: 

Poor Planning Has Complicated DOE's Plutonium Consolidation Efforts: 

Statement of Gene Aloise, Director: 
Natural Resources and Environment: 

GAO-06-164T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-06-164T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, House 
of Representatives: 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Plutonium is very hazardous to human health and the environment and 
requires extensive security because of its potential use in a nuclear 
weapon. The Department of Energy (DOE) stores about 50 metric tons of 
plutonium that is no longer needed by the United States for nuclear 
weapons. Some of this plutonium is in the form of contaminated metal, 
oxides, solutions, and residues remaining from the nuclear weapons 
production process. To improve security and reduce storage costs, DOE 
plans to establish enough storage capacity at its Savannah River Site 
(SRS) in the event it decides to consolidate its plutonium there until 
it can be permanently disposed of. GAO was asked to examine (1) the 
extent to which DOE can consolidate this plutonium at SRS and (2) SRSís 
capacity to monitor plutonium storage containers. 

What GAO Found: 

As GAO reported in July 2005, DOE cannot yet consolidate its surplus 
plutonium at SRS for several reasons. First, DOE has not completed a 
plan to process the plutonium into a form for permanent disposition, as 
required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 
2002. Without such a plan, DOE cannot ship additional plutonium to SRS. 
Second, SRS cannot receive all of the plutonium from DOEís Hanford Site 
because it is not in a form SRS planned to store. Specifically, about 
20 percent of Hanfordís plutonium is in the form of 12-foot-long 
nuclear fuel rods, which Hanford had planned to ship intact to SRS as 
part of its efforts to cleanup and demolish its closed nuclear 
facilities. However, SRSís storage plan assumed Hanford would package 
all of its plutonium in DOEís standard storage containers. Until a 
permanent disposition plan is developed, more plutonium cannot be 
shipped to SRS and DOE will not achieve the cost savings and security 
improvements that consolidation could offer. In particular, continued 
storage at Hanford will cost approximately $85 million more annually 
because of increasing security requirements and will threaten that 
siteís achievement of the milestones in its accelerated cleanup plan.
In addition, DOE lacks the necessary capability to fully monitor the 
condition of the plutonium to ensure continued safe storage. The 
facility at SRS that DOE plans to use to store plutonium lacks adequate 
safety systems to conduct monitoring of storage containers. Without a 
monitoring capability, DOE faces increased risks of an accidental 
plutonium release that could harm workers, the public, and the 
environment. DOE had planned to construct a monitoring capability in 
another building at SRS that already had safety systems needed to work 
with plutonium. However, this building would not have had sufficient 
security to conduct all of the required monitoring activities. In 
addition, this building also has other serious safety problems. Faced 
with these challenges, DOE announced in April 2005 that it would have 
SRSís storage facility upgraded to conduct plutonium monitoring. 

Proposed Consolidation and Permanent Disposition of DOEís Surplus 
Plutonium: 

[See PDF for image] 

[End of figure] 

What GAO Recommends: 

In its July 2005 report, GAO made two recommendations to ensure that 
DOE develops a comprehensive strategy for plutonium consolidation, 
storage, and disposition and that its cleanup plans are consistent with 
this strategy. DOE generally agreed with the recommendations and stated 
that its recently created Nuclear Materials Disposition and 
Consolidation Coordination Committee will develop a strategic plan for 
the consolidation and disposition of plutonium. 

www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-164T. 

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Gene Aloise at (202) 512-
3841 or aloisee@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss our work on the Department of 
Energy's (DOE) efforts to consolidate surplus plutonium. My testimony 
today is based on our report issued in July 2005, entitled Securing 
U.S. Nuclear Materials: DOE Needs to Take Action to Safely Consolidate 
Plutonium (GAO-05-665). 

DOE stores about 50 metric tons of plutonium that is no longer needed 
by the United States for nuclear weapons. Some of this plutonium is in 
the form of contaminated metal, oxides, solutions, and residues 
remaining from the nuclear weapons production process. When the United 
States stopped producing nuclear weapons in 1989, it had plutonium 
inventories located in numerous DOE facilities throughout the United 
States, including the Hanford Site in Washington, the Rocky Flats 
Environmental Technology Site in Colorado, the Los Alamos National 
Laboratory in New Mexico, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 
California, and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. DOE 
recognizes that consolidation could reduce costs and improve security 
for stored plutonium. Although DOE has not made a final decision to 
consolidate, it has proceeded with plans to establish enough storage 
capacity at SRS in the event it decides to consolidate its plutonium at 
SRS until it can be processed into a form for permanent disposition and 
disposed of in a geological repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. 

Plutonium is very hazardous to human health and the environment. 
Inhaling a few micrograms creates a long-term risk of lung, liver, and 
bone cancer and inhaling larger doses can cause immediate lung injuries 
and death. In certain forms, plutonium can spontaneously combust in the 
presence of oxygen at temperatures above room temperature. Because of 
these hazards, plutonium must be stabilized and packaged appropriately 
to minimize the risk of accidental release. In addition, facilities 
storing plutonium must be properly equipped with safety systems that 
prevent it from escaping into the surrounding air, land, or water in 
the event a storage container is breached. 

In 2003, DOE issued a technical standard for plutonium storage that it 
believes will allow it to safely store plutonium for a minimum of 50 
years. DOE is nearing completion of a multiyear effort to stabilize and 
package plutonium at its sites across the United States into 5-inch- 
wide, 10-inch-long storage containers. Under DOE's standard, once the 
plutonium is safely packaged, DOE must periodically monitor the storage 
containers for changes in the plutonium's condition, particularly any 
pressurization or corrosion of the containers. Such monitoring includes 
annually x-raying a sample of storage containers to evaluate potential 
pressurization. Storage containers may also be cut open to evaluate the 
plutonium inside and the container itself for potential corrosion. An 
effective monitoring program is intended to detect damaged storage 
containers or inadequately stabilized plutonium and will help ensure 
the continued safe storage of the material. 

In addition to plutonium's health and environmental hazards, DOE has 
long recognized that a successful terrorist attack on a site containing 
plutonium could have devastating consequences for the site and its 
surrounding communities. Therefore, plutonium requires extensive 
security because of its potential use in a nuclear weapon; to create an 
improvised nuclear device; and to create a so-called "dirty bomb," in 
which conventional explosives are used to disperse radioactive 
material. For many years, a key component of DOE security has been the 
development of the design basis threat, a classified document that 
identifies the potential size and capabilities of terrorist forces. 
Since September 11, 2001, the size of the potential threat has 
increased significantly and DOE is facing challenges in improving its 
security measures to respond to the increased threat.[Footnote 1] 

Our July 2005 report examined (1) the extent to which DOE can 
consolidate its plutonium at SRS and (2) SRS's capacity to monitor 
plutonium storage containers. We reviewed plutonium storage, 
monitoring, and security plans and reports prepared by DOE's Office of 
Environmental Management, DOE's Office of Security and Safety 
Performance Assurance, and National Nuclear Security Administration; 
DOE's operating contractor for SRS (Westinghouse Savannah River 
Company); and DOE's security contractor for SRS (Wackenhut Services, 
Inc.). In addition, we reviewed studies on plutonium storage at SRS and 
interviewed officials with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, 
an independent federal agency established by the Congress in 1988 to 
oversee the safety of DOE's nuclear weapons complex. The work on our 
report was conducted from June 2004 through June 2005 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

In summary, DOE cannot consolidate all of its plutonium at SRS. DOE has 
not yet completed a plan to process the plutonium into a form for 
permanent disposition, as required by the National Defense 
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002. Without such a plan, DOE cannot 
ship additional plutonium to SRS. In addition, DOE's plutonium 
consolidation efforts have been hindered because DOE relied upon its 
individual sites to independently develop plans to achieve their own 
goals instead of developing an integrated consolidation plan. 
Specifically, Hanford was preparing to ship plutonium to SRS as part of 
its efforts to accelerate the cleanup and demolition of its closed 
nuclear facilities. About one-fifth of Hanford's plutonium is in the 
form of 12-foot-long nuclear fuel rods. Because disassembling the fuel 
rods would delay cleanup activities, Hanford's accelerated cleanup plan 
calls for shipping these rods intact to SRS inside special shipping 
containers. However, SRS's storage plan assumed Hanford would 
disassemble the fuel rods and package the plutonium in DOE's standard 
storage containers. Despite these inconsistencies, DOE approved both 
Hanford's accelerated cleanup plan and SRS's plutonium storage plans. 
Although SRS's plutonium storage facility has sufficient space to store 
the fuel rods, several steps are necessary before DOE would be able to 
ship the fuel rods to SRS, including obtaining Department of 
Transportation certified shipping containers for the fuel rods. 
However, until DOE develops a plan to process the plutonium for 
permanent disposition, additional plutonium cannot be shipped to SRS 
and DOE will not achieve the cost savings and security improvements 
that plutonium consolidation could offer. In particular, continued 
plutonium storage at Hanford will cost approximately $85 million more 
annually because of increasing security requirements and will threaten 
that site's achievement of the milestones in its accelerated cleanup 
plan. 

In addition, DOE currently lacks the capability at SRS to fully monitor 
the plutonium storage containers as required by DOE's storage standard. 
According to the Safety Board, the facility at SRS that DOE plans to 
use to store the plutonium--Building 105-K--is not equipped to conduct 
the needed monitoring of storage containers. In fact, because Building 
105-K lacks adequate fire protection, ventilation, and filtration, 
DOE's standard storage containers cannot be removed from their outer 
packaging--35-gallon steel drums used to ship the containers to SRS. 
Without a monitoring capability that would detect whether the stored 
plutonium is becoming unstable and damaging the storage containers, DOE 
faces increased risks of an accidental plutonium release at SRS that 
could harm workers, the public, and the environment. Because Building 
105-K lacks the capability to monitor stored plutonium, DOE had planned 
to construct a monitoring capability in another building at SRS-- 
Building 235-F--that already had the ventilation and filtration systems 
needed to work with plutonium. However, following changes in 2004 to 
DOE's design basis threat, Building 235-F would not have had sufficient 
security to conduct all of the monitoring activities required by DOE's 
storage standard. In addition, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety 
Board has reported that, like Building 105-K storage facility, Building 
235-F lacks adequate fire protection as well as having other serious 
safety concerns. Given these challenges, DOE announced in April 2005 
that it would have Building 105-K upgraded to allow storage and 
monitoring activities to be centralized in one facility. 

In our report, we made two recommendations to ensure that DOE develops 
a comprehensive strategy for plutonium consolidation, storage, and 
disposition and that its facilities cleanup plans are consistent with 
this strategy. DOE generally agreed with our recommendations and stated 
that its recently created Nuclear Materials Disposition and 
Consolidation Coordination Committee will develop a strategic plan for 
the consolidation and disposition of plutonium and highly enriched 
uranium. Since our report was issued in July 2005, DOE's committee has 
been continuing with its work developing the strategic plan. 

Background: 

To address the problems associated with unstable forms of plutonium and 
inadequate packaging for long-term storage, DOE established a standard 
for the safe storage of plutonium for a minimum of 50 years that sets 
plutonium stabilization and packaging requirements. Stabilization is 
achieved by heating the material to remove moisture that could lead to 
a buildup of pressure, which would increase the risk of rupturing a 
container. Plutonium storage containers designed to meet the standard 
consist of an inner and outer container, each welded shut. The inner 
container is designed so that it can be monitored for a buildup of 
pressure using analytical techniques, such as radiography, that do not 
damage the container. Containers must also be resistant to fire, 
leakage, and corrosion. 

Plutonium stabilization and packaging are completed at Rocky Flats, 
Hanford, and SRS, and SRS has already received nearly 1,900 containers 
from Rocky Flats. Stabilization and packaging are still ongoing at 
Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories. Once 
stabilization and packaging are completed, DOE estimates that it will 
have nearly 5,700 plutonium storage containers stored at locations 
across the United States that could eventually be shipped to SRS. 

SRS's plutonium storage plans originally called for the construction of 
a state-of-the-art Actinide Packaging and Storage Facility that would 
have provided long-term storage and monitoring of standard plutonium 
containers in a secure environment. DOE changed its storage plans and 
cancelled the project in 2001 because it expected to store the 
plutonium for only a few years until a facility to process the 
plutonium for permanent disposition was available. Instead of building 
a new facility, DOE decided to use two existing buildings at SRS for 
plutonium storage and monitoring operations: Building 105-K and 
Building 235-F. Building 105-K was originally a nuclear reactor built 
in the early 1950s and produced plutonium and tritium until 1988. The 
reactor was then placed in a cold standby condition until its complete 
shutdown in 1996. The major reactor components were removed and the 
facility is now primarily used to store plutonium and highly enriched 
uranium. Building 235-F was also constructed in the 1950s and was used 
until the mid-1980s to produce plutonium heat sources that were used to 
power space probes for the National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration and the Department of Defense. The building is currently 
used to store plutonium. 

After the design basis threat was changed in October 2004, SRS was 
forced once again to reevaluate its storage plans. Because the new 
design basis threat substantially increased the potential threat that 
SRS must defend against, Building 105-K and Building 235-F would need 
extensive and expensive upgrades to comply with the new requirements. 
SRS estimated the total cost of this additional security at over $300 
million. SRS further estimated that it could save more than $120 
million by not using Building 235-F for storage and therefore decided 
in April 2005 to consolidate plutonium storage in Building 105-K. 

DOE Cannot Currently Consolidate Its Plutonium at SRS: 

DOE cannot consolidate its excess plutonium at SRS for several reasons. 
First, DOE has not completed a plan to process the plutonium into a 
form for permanent disposition, as required by the National Defense 
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002.[Footnote 2] DOE proposed two 
facilities at SRS to process its surplus plutonium into a form for 
permanent disposition: a mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility to 
convert plutonium into fuel rods for use in nuclear power plants and a 
plutonium immobilization plant where plutonium would be mixed with 
ceramics, the mixture placed in large canisters, and the canisters then 
filled with high-level radioactive waste. The canisters would then be 
permanently disposed of at Yucca Mountain. In 2002, citing budgetary 
constraints, DOE cancelled the plutonium immobilization plant, 
eliminating the pathway to process its most heavily contaminated 
plutonium into a form suitable for permanent disposition. Section 3155 
of the act provides that if DOE decides not to construct either of two 
proposed plutonium disposition facilities at SRS, DOE is prohibited 
from shipping plutonium to SRS until a plan to process the material for 
permanent disposition is developed and submitted to the Congress. To 
date, DOE has not developed a disposition plan for the plutonium that 
would have been processed in the immobilization plant. In its fiscal 
year 2006 budget, DOE requested $10 million to initiate conceptual 
design of a facility that would process this plutonium. However, it is 
uncertain when this design work would be completed and a plan prepared. 

Second, even if a plan to process this plutonium for permanent 
disposition had been developed and DOE were able to ship the plutonium, 
SRS would still be unable to accommodate some of Hanford's plutonium 
because Hanford's accelerated cleanup plans and SRS's storage plans are 
inconsistent with one another. DOE approved both plans even though 
Hanford's accelerated cleanup plan called for shipping some of its 
plutonium to SRS in a form that SRS had not planned on storing. 

Hanford stores nearly one-fifth of its plutonium in the form of 12- 
foot-long nuclear fuel rods, with the remainder in about 2,300 DOE 
standard 5-inch-wide, 10-inch-long storage containers. The fuel rods 
were to be used in Hanford's Fast Flux Test Facility reactor. The 
reactor has been closed, and the fuel rods were never used. Hanford's 
plutonium is currently being stored at the site's Plutonium Finishing 
Plant--the storage containers in vaults and the nuclear fuel rods in 
large casks inside a fenced area. Hanford was preparing to ship 
plutonium to SRS as part of its efforts to accelerate the cleanup and 
demolition of its closed nuclear facilities. Although Hanford's 
original cleanup plan called for demolishing the Plutonium Finishing 
Plant by 2038, the plan was modified in 2002 to accelerate the site's 
cleanup. Hanford's accelerated cleanup plan that was approved by DOE's 
Office of Environmental Management now calls for shipping the storage 
containers and nuclear fuel rods to SRS by the end of fiscal year 2006 
so that Hanford can demolish the Plutonium Finishing Plant by the end 
of fiscal year 2008. To meet the new deadline, Hanford planned to ship 
the fuel rods intact to SRS. 

Nevertheless, SRS's July 2004 plutonium storage plan stated that 
Hanford would cut the fuel rods and package the plutonium in 
approximately 1,000 DOE standard storage containers before shipping the 
material to SRS. Although Building 105-K has space to store the fuel 
rods intact, several steps would be necessary before DOE could ship the 
fuel rods from Hanford to SRS. First, there is currently no Department 
of Transportation-certified shipping container that could be used to 
package and ship the fuel rods. In addition, SRS would be required, 
among other things, to prepare the appropriate analyses and 
documentation under the National Environmental Policy Act and update 
Building 105-K's safety documentation to include storage of the fuel 
rods. Wherever the fuel rods are stored, they would have to be 
disassembled before processing the plutonium for permanent disposition. 
Hanford and SRS currently lack the capability to disassemble the fuel 
rods, but DOE plans to study establishing that capability at SRS as 
part of its conceptual design of a facility to process the plutonium 
for disposition. 

The challenges DOE faces storing its plutonium stem from the 
department's failure to adequately plan for plutonium consolidation. 
DOE has not developed a complexwide, comprehensive strategy for 
plutonium consolidation and disposition that accounts for each of its 
facilities' requirements and capabilities. Until DOE is able to develop 
a permanent disposition plan, additional plutonium cannot be shipped to 
SRS, and DOE will not achieve the cost savings and security 
improvements that plutonium consolidation could offer. According to DOE 
officials, the impact of continued storage at Los Alamos and Lawrence 
Livermore will be relatively minor because both laboratories had 
already planned to maintain plutonium storage facilities for other 
laboratory missions. However, according to Hanford officials, continued 
storage at Hanford could cost approximately $85 million more annually 
because of increasing security requirements and will threaten the 
achievement of the goals in the site's accelerated cleanup plan. 
Specifically, maintaining storage vaults at Hanford's Plutonium 
Finishing Plant will prevent the site from demolishing the plant as 
scheduled by September 2008. 

DOE Cannot Currently Fully Monitor the Condition of Stored Plutonium: 

Under DOE's plutonium storage standard, storage containers must be 
periodically monitored to ensure continued safe storage. Without a 
monitoring capability that can detect whether storage containers are at 
risk of rupturing, there is an increased risk of an accidental 
plutonium release that could harm workers, the public, and the 
environment. Monitoring activities must occur in a facility that, among 
other things, is equipped to confine accidentally released plutonium 
through effective ventilation and appropriate filters. In addition, the 
facility must have a fire protection system to protect storage 
containers and prevent their contents from being released in a major 
fire. 

According to the Safety Board, Building 105-K is not currently equipped 
with adequate ventilation or fire protection. Specifically, SRS removed 
the High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that were used in 
the building's ventilation system when it was a nuclear reactor. Such 
filters could prevent plutonium from escaping the building in the event 
of a release from the storage containers. In addition, Building 105-K 
lacks automatic fire detection or suppression systems. As a result, 
plutonium storage containers cannot safely be removed from inside the 
outer packaging used to ship the containers to SRS. The outer package-
-a 35-gallon steel drum--is used to ship a single storage container and 
is designed to resist damage during transportation and handling. The 
outer package confines the plutonium in the event the storage container 
inside is breached. In addition, the outer package provides an 
additional layer of protection from fire for the storage container 
inside. 

Because monitoring requires x-raying individual storage containers and, 
in some cases, puncturing and cutting storage containers to analyze the 
condition of the container and the plutonium within, the storage 
containers must be removed from their outer packaging. SRS plans to 
establish a capability to restabilize the plutonium by heating it in a 
specialized furnace in the event monitoring determines that the stored 
plutonium is becoming unstable (i.e., increasing the risk of rupturing 
a storage container). The restablized plutonium would then be packaged 
into new storage containers. The only facility at SRS currently capable 
of restabilizing and repackaging the plutonium has closed in 
preparation for decommissioning.[Footnote 3] 

Because Building 105-K does not have the capability to monitor storage 
containers, DOE had planned to install monitoring equipment in Building 
235-F at SRS. Building 235-F was chosen primarily because it was 
already equipped with filtered ventilation systems appropriate to 
handling plutonium--multiple and redundant air supply and exhaust fan 
systems that use HEPA filters. Exhaust from the ventilation system is 
further filtered through a sand filter before entering the outside 
atmosphere.[Footnote 4] 

Currently, Building 235-F is limited to removing storage containers 
from their outer packaging and x-raying the containers to evaluate 
potential pressurization. Although DOE has installed equipment in 
Building 235-F that can puncture the storage container to relieve 
pressure, Building 235-F currently lacks the capability to conduct 
destructive examinations. Destructive examinations consist of cutting 
containers open to take samples of and analyze the gases inside and 
examining the containers themselves for indications of corrosion. In 
addition, destructive examination allows plutonium inside the container 
to be analyzed to detect any changes in the plutonium's condition. 
Building 235-F also currently lacks the capability to restabilize and 
repackage plutonium. 

In addition, Building 235-F faced several other challenges that would 
have affected its ability to monitor plutonium. Because of changes in 
the design basis threat, Building 235-F would not have had sufficient 
security to store Category I quantities of plutonium.[Footnote 5] SRS 
officials estimate that 972 storage containers contain Category I 
quantities of plutonium metal. Although these storage containers are at 
relatively low risk for rupture, SRS would have been unable to remove 
those containers from Building 105-K to monitor their condition. 
According to SRS officials, security measures could have been 
established in Building 235-F if a safety issue had arisen that 
required opening a Category I container. 

Furthermore, the Safety Board identified a number of serious safety 
concerns with Building 235-F. Specifically, the Safety Board reported 
the following: 

* The building lacks fire suppression systems, and many areas of the 
building lack fire detection and alarm systems. 

* The building's nuclear criticality accident alarm system has been 
removed. A nuclear criticality accident occurs when enough fissile 
material, such as plutonium, is brought together to cause a sustained 
nuclear chain reaction. The immediate result of a nuclear criticality 
accident is the production of an uncontrolled and unpredictable 
radiation source that can be lethal to people who are nearby. 

* A number of the building's safety systems depend upon electrical 
cables that are approximately 50 years old and have exceeded their 
estimated life. When electrical cables age, they become brittle and may 
crack, increasing the potential for failure. 

* SRS has discovered two areas in the soil near the building that could 
present a hazard in the event of an earthquake. 

* The building's ventilation system still contains plutonium from its 
previous mission of producing plutonium heat sources to power space 
probes. This highly radioactive plutonium could be released, for 
example, during a fire or earthquake and could pose a hazard to workers 
in the building. 

Once again, DOE's monitoring challenges demonstrate its failure to 
adequately plan for plutonium consolidation. Instead of a comprehensive 
strategy that assessed the monitoring capabilities needed to meet its 
storage standard, DOE's plans went from constructing a state-of-the-art 
storage and monitoring facility to using a building that the Safety 
Board had significant concerns with. Moreover, DOE's plans have 
subsequently changed again. In April 2005, after spending over $15 
million to begin modifications to Building 235-F, DOE announced that it 
would only use the building to monitor plutonium temporarily. Now, DOE 
plans to install the necessary safety systems and monitoring equipment 
in Building 105-K, a 50-year-old building that was not designed for 
such functions. This decision underscores that DOE's lack of careful 
planning has forced SRS to focus on what can be done with existing 
facilities, eliminating options that could have been both more cost- 
effective and safer than current plans. 

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. I would be happy to 
respond to any questions that you or Members of the Subcommittee may 
have. 

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

For further information on this testimony, please contact Gene Aloise 
at (202) 512-3841 or aloisee@gao.gov. Contact points for our Office of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this statement. Sherry McDonald, Assistant Director; and Ryan 
T. Coles made key contributions to this testimony. 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] See GAO, Nuclear Security: DOE Needs to Resolve Significant Issues 
Before It Fully Meets the New Design Basis Threat, GAO-04-623 
(Washington, D.C.: Apr. 27, 2004) and GAO, Nuclear Security: DOE's 
Office of the Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment Needs 
to Take Prompt, Coordinated Action to Meet the New Design Basis Threat, 
GAO-05-611 (Washington, D.C.: July 15, 2005). 

[2] Pub. L. No. 107-107, ß 3155, 115 Stat. 1378 (2001). 

[3] This facility--FB Line--was constructed in the early 1960s to 
convert plutonium solutions into solid forms to be used in nuclear 
weapons components. In recent years, its primary mission has been to 
stabilize scrap plutonium from cleanup operations at SRS and package 
the stabilized plutonium into storage containers. FB Line ceased 
operations and transferred its remaining plutonium to Building 105-K in 
March 2005. 

[4] Sand filters are large, deep beds installed in underground concrete 
enclosures and filled with up to 10 feet of rock, gravel, and sand. As 
air flows upward through the bed, the rock, gravel, and sand filter out 
plutonium and other chemicals. The decontaminated air can then flow 
into the outside atmosphere. Sand filters have been used in U.S. 
nuclear facilities since 1948. Although initially expensive, sand 
filters can remove a large amount of radioactive material, require 
relatively little maintenance, and are fire resistant. 

[5] Category I material includes specified quantities of plutonium or 
highly enriched uranium in the following forms: (1) assembled nuclear 
weapons and test devices; (2) pure products containing higher 
concentrations of plutonium or highly enriched uranium; and (3) high- 
grade materials, such as carbides, oxides, solutions, and nitrates. The 
risks associated with Category I special nuclear material vary but 
include the nuclear detonation of a weapon or test device at or near 
design yield, the creation of improvised nuclear devices capable of 
producing a nuclear yield, theft for use in a nuclear weapon, and the 
potential for sabotage in the form of radioactive dispersal.