Environmental Problems in the Nuclear Weapons Complex

T-RCED-89-18: Published: Apr 7, 1989. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1989.


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GAO discussed the environmental problems facing the Department of Energy (DOE) in cleaning up its nuclear weapons complex. GAO found that: (1) DOE faced two overall systematic environmental problems, including cleaning up existing soil and groundwater contamination, and bringing its facilities into full compliance with environmental laws; (2) although DOE was studying the extent of the contamination to better characterize its environmental problems, it had not developed detailed plans for resolving those problems; (3) cleanup cost estimates ranged from $35 billion to $65 billion, and DOE would need an additional $3 billion to $9 billion to bring its operations into compliance; (4) DOE earmarked $1.1 billion of its $9.4-billion 1990 budget request for correcting its environmental problems, which represented a 57-percent increase over previous levels; (5) about 60 percent of the requested funds were for studies to assess the problems and develop long-term plans; and (6) DOE estimated that establishing standards pursuant to environmental laws would take 5 to 7 years and would require new and unique cleanup technologies. GAO believes that Congress should not appropriate large increases over the DOE 1990 request.

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