Department of Energy's Initial Efforts To Implement the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982

RCED-85-27: Published: Jan 10, 1985. Publicly Released: Jan 10, 1985.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) efforts to implement the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in the areas of: (1) identifying waste disposal sites; (2) financing the waste disposal program through user fees; and (3) establishing an organization to carry out the program.

GAO found that DOE met its statutory milestones for notifying the affected states that it identified repository locations for further evaluation. In addition, it completed the final rulemaking action to incorporate siting guidelines into the Code of Federal Regulations. However, DOE does not expect to meet the statutory deadline dates for key decisions in the siting of the first repository because of complexities encountered in preparing required environmental evaluations and testing delays. DOE estimates that the total program costs over the next 50 years will be more than $20 billion; however, DOE plans for users of the sites to pay the costs. DOE established payment procedures for collecting ongoing and one-time fees from the users of the repositories, and had entered into 70 user contracts by June 1983. Ongoing user fees are expected to be the major long-term source of program revenue. However, DOE has not yet established fees for the reprocessed high-level wastes produced by defense programs and a demonstration program maintained by New York. GAO found that DOE may be able to accelerate millions of dollars in payments from anticipated users of its waste disposal services by accelerating payment periods and raising interest rates. Finally, GAO found that DOE activated the headquarters office for the program, but the new office lacked direct authority to control the field staffs executing the program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Of five categories of waste owners or generators, DOE stated that, at this time, because it is not now feasible to make contract amendments, it will not evaluate ways to more promptly collect fees for commercial entities making ongoing and one-time payments into the Fund. In view of the fact that DOE has now established a charge for defense waste, the recommendation should be closed out.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy, in exercising his discretionary authority as custodian of the Nuclear Waste Fund, should fully evaluate ways to more promptly collect fees from all generators and owners of highly radioactive materials in the United States. This evaluation should, at a minimum, consider the possible ways to more promptly collect fees discussed in this report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 1987, DOE announced a fee methodology for charging for the disposal of defense waste. DOE also stated that it will use a similar methodology to establish a fee for New York for the disposal of commercial high-level waste. As of October 1988, DOE still had not established this fee. In view of the elapsed time and small quantity of waste, the recommendation should not remain open.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should decide what is an appropriate fee to charge the federal government and New York for the disposal of high-level wastes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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