DOE's Safety and Health Oversight Program at Nuclear Facilities Could Be Strengthened

RCED-84-50: Published: Nov 30, 1983. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1983.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reexamined the Department of Energy's (DOE) oversight of nuclear facilities. Specifically, GAO discussed: (1) the extent to which findings in a DOE task force report corresponded or conflicted with findings in a previous GAO report; (2) whether recommendations in a DOE action plan will rectify problems outlined in the GAO report; (3) the extent to which the action plan is being implemented; and (4) the extent to which recommendations in the prior GAO report have been implemented by DOE.

GAO found that DOE has implemented many specific improvements in its nuclear health and safety program since the prior report. However, deficiencies still exist, and the organizational placement of the DOE nuclear health and safety function has not been addressed. GAO found that its report and the DOE task force report had similar findings on issues that were included in both reviews, and no conflicts were apparent. GAO found that the DOE action plan: (1) did not address the problems identified by GAO with respect to worker protection, nuclear facility safety analyses, and environmental monitoring; (2) recommended some changes similar to GAO recommendations, including developing new radiological emergency preparedness requirements; and (3) concluded that the nuclear safety and health function should be placed high enough in the DOE organization to ensure adequate management attention. While the plan agreed in concept with elevating the safety and health function in the DOE organization, GAO believes that, in effect, the reorganization was not responsive to either the DOE task force or GAO recommendations in that regard. GAO found that, while DOE has made some improvements in almost all the areas previously reported on, it has not fully implemented the GAO recommendations, particularly the recommendation that the nuclear safety and health function be elevated within the DOE organization to either a staff function reporting to the Under Secretary or the sole responsibility of an Assistant Secretary.

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