Department of Energy:

Cleaning Up Inactive Facilities Will Be Difficult

RCED-93-149: Published: Jun 25, 1993. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Energy's (DOE) program for cleaning up inactive facilities, focusing on: (1) the program's potential scope and cost over the next 30 years; (2) major problems facing the program; and (3) the current DOE approach for managing the program.

GAO found that: (1) DOE could not accurately estimate how many inactive facilities it will close over the next 30 years, the extent of environmental danger the facilities pose, or the impact that deactivating, maintaining, and decontaminating these facilities could have on the program's total cost; (2) many inactive facilities are in poor condition, pose a threat to cleanup workers, and need considerable deactivation work and maintenance because of past maintenance inadequacies and DOE policies that emphasized production over environmental cleanup; (3) DOE program management problems include internal differences over the criteria for transferring facilities from program offices to the Office of Environmental Restoration and Waste Management (EM) and the lack of coordination between the offices responsible for closing inactive facilities; and (4) DOE needs to consolidate its inactive facility responsibilities under a single office to increase the organizational effectiveness and coordination of cleanup activities.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To increase DOE management's knowledge of the dangers presented by the Department's inactive facilities and to enable the Department to prepare for cleaning up an increasing number of facilities, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Department's Assistant Secretaries to: (1) identify inactive facilities that have not been transferred to EM or that may have been administratively abandoned; (2) determine the physical condition of these facilities and of those transferred to EM and the potential dangers that they pose for workers; and (3) prepare cost estimates and schedules for implementing adequate maintenance programs at these facilities until they can be decontaminated and decommissioned.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of the GAO recommendation, in June 1993 DOE's Facility Transition Office started a 12-month Surplus Facility Inventory and Assessment (SFIA) Project. DOE's SFIA staff evaluated the relative condition and potential health and safety risk posed by about 1,200 facilities not yet transferred to EM, and identified the high-risk buildings that should immediately be transferred. SFIA staff have also estimated FY 1995 and FY 1996 costs for maintaining these high-risk facilities.

    Recommendation: To improve the overall effectiveness of the EM program for cleaning up inactive facilities, the Secretary of Energy should resolve disagreements within DOE concerning the development of criteria for transferring facilities from program offices to EM.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As a result of GAO's recommendation, on November 4, 1994, DOE issued Order 4330.5. The order establishes formal criteria and requirements for transferring inactive facilities to EM.

    Recommendation: To improve the overall effectiveness of the EM program for cleaning up inactive facilities, the Secretary of Energy should consolidate into one office the responsibilities for deactivating, maintaining, characterizing, decontaminating, and decommissioning transferred facilities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE's Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management has decided to continue having two offices responsible for deactivating and maintaining surplus energy facilities.

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