Federal Research:

Super Collider Estimates and Germany's Industrially Produced Magnets

RCED-91-94FS: Published: Feb 12, 1991. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided: (1) a chronological history of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Superconducting Super Collider's (SSC) cost estimates; (2) information on Germany's experience with industrially produced superconducting magnets for its Hadron Electron Ring Accelerator (HERA); and (3) information on the SSC approach to developing and producing superconducting magnets.

GAO found that: (1) DOE presented many cost estimates for the SSC project which were not necessarily comparable since some estimates failed to include all project costs or did not have the same time frame; (2) the cost estimate grew from $4 billion in 1984 to $5.1 billion in 1989 and was reconciled at $8.2 billion in 1990 based on estimates by various DOE groups; (3) HERA officials showed that superconducting magnets could be industrially produced, despite the presence of numerous but expected minor problems during development and production; (4) HERA officials attributed their success to centralized authority for all magnet decisions, clear identification of magnet specifications, leverage over contractors, and full measurement and testing of each magnet; and (5) the SSC laboratory relied primarily on other DOE laboratories' technical expertise, solicited bids before building or testing a current prototype magnet, allowed one contractor to lead design and development, and relied on the contractor for measurement and testing of the magnets.

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