Nuclear Waste:

Uncertainties About Opening Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

RCED-96-146: Published: Jul 16, 1996. Publicly Released: Jul 22, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the proposed opening of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in 1998, focusing on how well DOE is positioned to begin filling the repository in its first few years of operation as well as over the long term.

GAO found that: (1) it is uncertain whether DOE can accomplish all of the work needed to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations for disposing of transuranic waste at WIPP by April 1998; (2) before DOE can submit an application for a certificate of compliance to EPA, it must resolve various scientific issues; (3) due to the lack of available transportation containers and equipment at the storage sites for preparing waste for shipment and disposal, DOE will have limited disposal capability for the first several years of WIPP operations; (4) DOE does not expect to start disposing of remote-handled waste until 2002; and (5) it will cost DOE an estimated $11 billion over the next several decades to increase the rate at which it emplaces transuranic waste in WIPP.

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