Nuclear Research and Development:

Shippingport Decommissioning--How Applicable Are the Lessons Learned?

RCED-90-208: Published: Sep 4, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 4, 1990.


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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) decommissioning of a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant, focusing on: (1) whether DOE had met congressional goals described in a 1986 hearing; and (2) additional information that could assist the commercial power plant industry.

GAO found that: (1) DOE generally met congressional goals established for the power plant by timely completing decommissioning activities at $7 million under the estimated cost of $98.3 million; (2) DOE used eight contractors to optimize involvement, and developed extensive data to help future decommissioning projects; (3) although the power plant increased knowledge regarding the decommissioning of nuclear power plants, the benefits of the lessons learned will vary depending upon the timing and the decommissioning approaches various utilities select; (4) utilities operating commercial plants will probably have to disassemble their reactor pressure vessels when decommissioning because of their large size; (5) DOE decommissioning activities disposed of all the low-level radioactive waste at one facility; (6) utilities will have to dispose of commercial sites' waste at costs higher than those incurred by noncommercial plants, due to their larger size, higher contamination levels, undetermined disposal sites, and inadequate management structures; and (7) DOE was exchanging decommissioning information with two foreign countries and was assessing the need to use robotics.

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