National Defense:

Modernization and Cleanup Problems Are Enormous in the Nuclear Weapons Complex

T-RCED-89-17: Published: Mar 15, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 15, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Department of Energy's (DOE) modernization and cleanup plans for its nuclear weapons complex. GAO noted that: (1) the weapons complex posed serious threats to public health and safety, due to DOE handling of hazardous materials, aging and obsolete facilities, inactive waste sites, and groundwater and soil contamination; (2) estimates of the cost to modernize and clean up the weapons complex ranged as high as $155 billion; (3) the DOE closing of several key nuclear operations, due to significant safety and health problems, seriously affected the nation's ability to produce nuclear weapons; and (4) DOE did not adequately address priorities for cleanup and modernization efforts covered in its fiscal year 1990 budget request. GAO also noted that, although the DOE 2010 Modernization Plan represented an important first step toward facility upgrade and cleanup, the plan: (1) did not adequately address the cleanup and decontamination of existing facilities; and (2) placed modernization on a faster track than environmental cleanup. GAO believes that DOE can assist Congress in its future deliberations by periodically updating the modernization plan.

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