Natural Resources and Environment:
Environmental, Safety, and Health Aspects of the Department of Energy's Nuclear Defense Complex
T-RCED-87-4: Published: Mar 12, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1987.
GAO discussed environmental, safety, and health aspects of the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear defense complex. GAO found that DOE has: (1) operated reactors beyond their expected lifetimes; (2) processed plutonium in old facilities; and (3) depended too heavily on visual inspections to detect cracks in reactor vessels. GAO noted that: (1) DOE inattention to environmental problems caused by facility operations has created an undefined backlog of needed cleanup actions; and (2) DOE will spend billions of dollars remodelling or building new facilities so that they comply with environmental laws. GAO stressed the need for DOE to allow outside independent reviews of its defense production activities to ensure that they are safe and environmentally acceptable. GAO concluded that DOE needs an overall strategic plan that includes: (1) projected facility requirements for continued nuclear weapons production; (2) the extent of the environmental and safety issues it faces; and (3) actions it needs to take to ensure safe operation of its facilities.