Natural Resources and Environment:

Quarterly Report on DOE's Nuclear Waste Program as of December 31, 1985

RCED-86-86: Published: Jan 31, 1986. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided its annual report on the status of the Nuclear Waste Fund and the Department of Energy's (DOE) implementation of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Under the act, the DOE Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) is responsible for: (1) conducting detailed site characterization studies at potential nuclear waste repository sites; (2) designing and constructing the first repository; and (3) consulting and cooperating with states and Indian tribes in implementing the program.

GAO found that: (1) OCRWM has made progress toward meeting the act's requirements, but continues to lag behind legislative and DOE-imposed deadlines for activities relating to the selection of the first repository; (2) OCRWM expects to complete environmental assessments of the first candidate sites in April 1986; (3) DOE issued a draft proposal for a monitored retrievable storage (MRS) facility; and (4) in January 1986, DOE issued a draft Area Recommendation Report, which narrowed the number of rock formations under consideration for the second repository site. GAO also found that: (1) in April 1985, the President advised DOE that, as a cost-saving measure, it should deposit defense high-level radioactive waste in the repositories that it is designing for commercial waste; (2) during the final quarter of 1985, Tennessee sued DOE, contending that it violated the act by not consulting with the state before preparing the draft MRS proposal; (3) during the final quarter of 1985, two decisions on previously filed suits were handed down against DOE, but DOE had not yet assessed how the decisions would affect the waste program; (4) DOE issued a Program Management System Manual to better enable managers to plan and direct the waste program; and (5) DOE continued its efforts to inform states, Indian tribes, and other concerned parties about its waste program activities. In addition, GAO found that the Nuclear Waste Fund balance as of December 31, 1985, was about $1.6 billion.

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