Nuclear Health and Safety:

Need for Improved Responsiveness to Problems at DOE Sites

RCED-90-101: Published: Mar 28, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about the Department of Energy's (DOE) and its contractors' responsiveness to DOE technical safety appraisals and environmental surveys of contractor-operated facilities and sites.

GAO found that: (1) DOE has conducted 48 technical safety appraisals of facilities and operations at DOE sites between 1986 and the present; (2) DOE has conducted environmental surveys at 37 sites between 1985 and the present; (3) the appraisals and surveys identified over 1,700 safety and health problems and almost 1,300 environmental problems at the sites; (4) DOE and its contractors resolved 591, or 34 percent, of identified health and safety problems, including 46 of the 113 highest-priority problems; (5) DOE has not completely resolved any of the identified environmental problems, many of which it characterized as very serious and complex; and (6) the DOE computer-assisted tracking system did not include all of the important information necessary to provide a comprehensive picture of identified environmental, safety, and health (ES&H) problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: By secretarial decision, development of a departmentwide ES&H information management network has been halted, and efforts shifted to the improvement of tracking systems within individual program offices. This decision effectively halted actions considered responsive to the recommendation.

    Recommendation: To reaffirm DOE commitment to ES&H problem identification and correction, the Secretary of Energy should require that an overall management plan be developed with clear goals and time frames for: (1) resolving DOE sites' ES&H problems identified in technical safety appraisals and environmental surveys; and (2) following up to verify that corrective actions are adequate, in order to help hold line management and oversight officials at headquarters and in the field more accountable for accomplishing those tasks.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: While the Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health is continuing to work closely with the Office of the Under Secretary in its efforts to implement a tracking system to report all immediate concerns to the Secretary on a monthly basis, a secretarial decision halted efforts to implement a DOE-wide ES&H information management network.

    Recommendation: To reaffirm DOE commitment to ES&H problem identification and correction, the Secretary of Energy should require that the computer-assisted tracking system be systematically expanded, by establishing an overall management plan and milestones, to include more comprehensive data for the use of DOE line management and oversight officials in monitoring sites' ES&H problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The secretarial decision mentioned earlier cannot be construed as promotion of ES&H automation DOE-wide.

    Recommendation: As the capabilities of the computer tracking system are enhanced, the Secretary of Energy should promote the system's use at various management levels throughout DOE to help ensure timely correction of ES&H problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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