Nuclear Waste:

Yucca Mountain Project Behind Schedule and Facing Major Scientific Uncertainties

RCED-93-124: Published: May 21, 1993. Publicly Released: May 27, 1993.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Victor S. Rezendes
(202) 512-6082
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether: (1) funding levels for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository were adequate to support investigations; and (2) the Department of Energy's (DOE) streamlining initiatives could affect the scientific quality of investigations.

GAO found that: (1) DOE investigations into the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain will be delayed by up to 13 years and cost more than DOE projected because DOE has not given the project a high priority or requested the necessary funding needed to maintain the project's schedule; (2) competition between DOE programs has decreased the amount of funds available; (3) DOE has used most of the funds allotted to the project to maintain a large project infrastructure; (4) although DOE is considering two programs to reduce project costs and maintain its investigation schedule by establishing a revolving fund to increase the use of revenues and reducing investigation time and costs by limiting scientific studies and the project's scope, these programs could hinder efforts to control the deficit, reduce congressional program control, adversely affect the Nuclear Waste Fund's financial stability, and affect the quality of investigative data; (5) the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board has raised concerns that the DOE program schedule does not allow sufficient time to collect and analyze data, resolve unanticipated technical problems, or evaluate the repository's design and consider alternatives; and (6) DOE needs to develop a management approach that balances the program's schedule with the program's scientific and technical aspects.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In conjunction with the Administration's budget request for fiscal year 1995, DOE asked for authority to establish a revolving fund within the Nuclear Waste Fund that would have permitted it to obtain increasing amounts of funds for the disposal program each year without the need for specific annual appropriations by Congress. Congress, however, did not act on this request for legislation.

    Matter: In view of the current status of the disposal program, Congress should defer consideration of legislation that would change how funds are provided to DOE from the Nuclear Waste Fund for use on the disposal program until: (1) the Secretary of Energy has completed the review of the program; (2) an independent review of the program, such as that recommended by the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, has been completed; and (3) appropriate legislative, policy, and programmatic changes to the program have been implemented.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 1994 and in May 1996, DOE published initial and revised program plans for the disposal program, including the Yucca Mountain Repository Project. The plans, according to DOE, align repository project goals and objectives with realistic funding expectations. Moreover, DOE said, the initial and revised program plans have enhanced the efficiency of the project by concentrating future work on the most important issues to be resolved in determining if Yucca Mountain is suitable for use as a disposal facility for highly-radioactive nuclear waste.

    Recommendation: Because of concerns over the slow pace and fragmented direction of the nuclear waste disposal program, the Secretary of Energy should review the program's goals and objectives in the context of the present program's low funding priority. Such a review should address the sufficiency of the program's emphasis on the scientific investigation of Yucca Mountain and how that project can be conducted more efficiently without sacrificing the technical quality of the investigation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In December 1994 and in May 1996, DOE published initial and revised program plans for the disposal program, including the Yucca Mountain Repository Project. The plans, according to DOE, align repository project goals and objectives with realistic funding expectations. Moreover, DOE said, the initial and revised program plans have enhanced the efficiency of the project by concentrating future work on the most important issues to be resolved in determining if Yucca Mountain is suitable for use as a disposal facility for highly-radioactive nuclear waste.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should review the project's technical, schedule, and cost baselines each year and adjust them as appropriate in view of actual allotments of funds to the project, realistic assessments of future funding for the project, and progress in resolving technical issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 20, 2014

Oct 1, 2014

Sep 22, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Aug 11, 2014

Jul 17, 2014

Jul 11, 2014

Jun 23, 2014

Jun 9, 2014

Jun 5, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here