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The Department of Energy's Magnetohydrodynamics Development Program

RCED-93-174: Published: Jul 29, 1993. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed on the Department of Energy's (DOE) progress in completing its magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) proof-of-concept (POC) program, focusing on: (1) the program's financial history; (2) DOE progress in meeting the program schedule; (3) potential problem areas; (4) DOE program management; and (5) future program plans.

GAO found that: (1) by September 1993, the government will have spent $800 million for research and development of coal-fired MHD power generation technology and $223 million in appropriated funds for the POC program; (2) the POC program was designed so that private-sector investors could decide whether to pursue development of MHD technology at new or existing power generation plants; (3) the program might not be able to provide statistically reliable data because the program's testing period has been shortened by more than 1,000 hours; (4) DOE believes that POC program tests have demonstrated the feasibility of its major subsystems, but questions remain concerning its high cost, unresolved problems, uncertainties in system integration, and the type of additional new technology that will be needed to reach the high-efficiency potential expected; (5) DOE has worked closely with the scientific community to disseminate POC program information; (6) DOE is considering a number of private-sector offers for the development of an MHD demonstration project; and (7) the total POC program shutdown costs could vary between $8 million to $16 million depending on the extent of site and environmental restoration costs and related contingencies at DOE testing facilities.

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