History and Management of the DOE/Air Force Small Reactor Project

T-RCED-88-51: Published: Jun 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 1988.

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GAO discussed the history and management of the joint Department of Energy (DOE) and Air Force Small Reactor Project, a 4-year project that cost about $3.75 billion but was unsuccessful in reaching its intended goal of providing a source of secure power for the Air Force. GAO noted that: (1) a DOE laboratory initiated the project in 1983, using its internal discretionary funds to conduct a feasibility study and develop a management plan for the development of a prototype nuclear reactor; (2) DOE and the Air Force continued the project, although the study failed to establish the project's feasibility; (3) DOE transferred project management responsibility to another laboratory in 1984, citing conflicts between the initial laboratory and the Air Force and the new laboratory's extensive experience in reactor development; (4) in 1986, the Air Force transferred project management responsibility to another base, which immediately recommended project termination, citing project delays and costs and unclear requirements; and (5) the Air Force officially terminated the program in 1987, citing congressional denial of its request to spend military construction funds for the project. GAO believes that the project was ill-conceived and poorly managed and demonstrated the importance of: (1) establishing the need for and feasibility of a project; (2) formal agreements between agencies involved in projects; and (3) continuity in project management.

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