Nuclear Science:

DOE Richland Role in the Proposal to Convert Washington Nuclear Plant No. 1

RCED-89-134BR: Published: Jun 6, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 6, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) possible acquisition and conversion of a partially completed commercial nuclear power plant to a defense production reactor that would produce material for use in nuclear weapons, focusing on the: (1) DOE Richland Office's authority to commission a study of plant conversion; and (2) study's validity.

GAO found that: (1) the Richland manager acted within his broad management and procurement authority and followed DOE procurement procedures in commissioning the study; (2) inclusion of draft legislation in the study required no specific authorization beyond the Richland manager; (3) the Richland manager was not required to seek approval or notify the Secretary of Energy before initiating the study; and (4) because the Richland manager, the study contractors, and a local business consortium distributed copies of the draft results outside DOE before the Secretary was aware of the study, the Secretary ordered an investigation of the circumstances of the study and its distribution. GAO also found that the study concluded that: (1) DOE could acquire the plant by condemnation, which would not constitute an event of default affecting the bonds used to finance plant construction; (2) plant acquisition would take about 2 years and cost about $150 million; and (3) the acquisition was based on the assumption that Congress would pass the draft legislation included in the study.

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