Nuclear Weapons Complex:

Major Safety, Environmental, and Reconfiguration Issues Facing DOE

T-RCED-92-31: Published: Feb 25, 1992. Publicly Released: Feb 25, 1992.

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GAO discussed the: (1) Department of Energy's (DOE) progress in developing and implementing a safety policy and culture; (2) major challenges facing DOE in cleaning up the nuclear weapons complex; and (3) key issues facing DOE in reconfiguring the complex in light of weapons reductions. GAO noted that: (1) although DOE has made strides in promoting safety issues by adopting a nuclear safety policy, it still needs to refine and implement its policy and develop a safety culture that permeates the entire complex; (2) progress in cleaning up the nuclear weapons complex has been slow due to technological, compliance, and management problems, and unresolved policy issues regarding which sites should be cleaned up, in what order, and to what standard; (3) issues affecting the DOE reconfiguration plan for developing a smaller, more consolidated nuclear weapons complex include what facilities or operations within the complex should be restarted and what facilities should be closed, what new tritium production capacity is needed, whether DOE has the capability to dismantle large numbers of nuclear weapons, and how DOE will dispose of, store, or use plutonium and other material from retired weapons; and (4) DOE is conducting a separate environmental assessment on consolidating its non-nuclear weapons facilities. GAO believes that before serious consideration of a modernized, reconfigured nuclear weapons complex can be undertaken, a consensus must be reached on what capability the complex must have to produce and maintain nuclear weapons.

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