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entitled 'Yucca Mountain Project: Information on Estimated Costs to 
Respond to Employee E-mails That Raised Questions about Quality 
Assurance' which was released on January 31, 2007. 

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January 19, 2007: 

The Honorable Jon C. Porter: 
House of Representatives: 

Subject: Yucca Mountain Project: Information on Estimated Costs to 
Respond to Employee E-mails That Raised Questions about Quality 

Dear Mr. Porter: 

In March 2005, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported the discovery of 
a series of e-mail messages written in the late 1990s by U.S. 
Geological Survey (USGS) employees working under a contract with DOE on 
the Yucca Mountain Project. These e-mails alerted DOE that USGS workers 
may have falsified records for scientific work on the project and may 
have been disdainful of the project's quality assurance program and its 
requirements. In March 2006, we reported that DOE was engaged in a 
detailed review of these and other project e-mails and was reworking 
technical documents to ensure the credibility of the USGS's scientific 
analyses, particularly its conclusions on water infiltration.[Footnote 
1] At your request, we undertook follow-on work to determine the 
estimated costs incurred in DOE's response, which also included 
additional management and quality assurance training for project 
personnel. We briefed you and your staff on October 23, 2006, on the 
results of this work. As you requested, we also briefed you and your 
staff on the estimated cost of completing the Yucca Mountain Project, 
based on DOE's new schedule for receiving a license and opening the 
nuclear waste repository by 2017. Enclosure I provides slides that we 
used in our briefing to you and your staff. 

To respond to your request, we collected data provided by DOE; USGS; 
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the DOE and the Department of the 
Interior (DOI) offices of the Inspector General, both of whom have 
examined aspects of these matters; as well as other DOI offices, the 
Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, and various contractors working 
on the Yucca Mountain Project. We also conducted interviews with staff 
from these organizations. Given the time constraints, we did not 
independently verify the cost data provided to us. We conducted this 
work from September 2006 through October 2006 in accordance with 
generally accepted government auditing standards. 

With respect to the review of project e-mail and other relevant 
documents to determine the extent and nature of problems similar to 
those suggested by the USGS e-mails, the agencies estimated that their 
efforts cost nearly $4.2 million. The scientific rework related to the 
USGS water infiltration analysis cost an estimated $16 million, while 
additional management and quality assurance training for project 
personnel cost about $340,000. All three estimates were for 
expenditures in fiscal years 2005 and 2006. In fiscal year 2007, DOE 
plans to spend another $5.1 million on scientific rework. DOE's 
preliminary cost estimate to complete and open the repository to begin 
receiving wastes by 2017 is about $23 billion (expressed in fiscal year 
2006 dollars), $12.1 billion of which was spent from fiscal year 1983 
through fiscal year 2005. DOE expects to revise its cost estimate for 
completing the project in 2007. 

We provided DOE with a draft of this report for review and comments. In 
its written response, DOE agreed with our overall cost numbers and 
stated that it expects to provide updated cost estimates for overall 
program costs in 2007. (See encl. II.) DOE also provided technical 
comments, which we incorporated as appropriate. 

As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents 
earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days 
from the report date. At that time, we will send copies of this report 
to interested congressional committees and members, the Secretary of 
Energy, the Secretary of the Interior, and other interested parties. We 
will also make copies available to others on request. In addition, this 
report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at 

If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-3841 or by e-mail at Contact 
points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs 
may be found on the last page of this report. Key contributors to this 
report include Richard Cheston, Raymond Smith, Jon Ludwigson, Lee 
Carroll, and Kris Massey. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

Jim Wells: 
Director, Natural Resources and Environment: 


Enclosure I: 

Yucca Mountain Project: Information on Project Costs: 

Briefing to the Chairman of the Federal Workforce and Agency 
Organization Subcommittee, the Committee on Government Reform, U.S. 
House of Representatives: 
October 23, 2006: 


DOE leads federal effort to assess and build a nuclear waste repository 
at Yucca Mountain in Nevada: 

In 1982, the Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and 
determined that the United States should build a national nuclear waste 

In 2002, the Congress approved Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the site for 
the repository: 

Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for assessing the safety and 
performance of the future repository: 

DOE has been conducting scientific studies of the Ion -term storage of 
nuclear waste, such as how water moves through the soil, rock, and 
other layers of the mountain: 

DOE work at Yucca Mountain uses contractors including: 

* Bechtel SAIC Company (BSC) and: 

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): 

DOE is required to obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC) before starting construction and operating the 

DOE is developing the license application, including supporting 
scientific assessments of long-term repository safety: 

NRC is to evaluate the license application and DOE must meet NRC 

Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB) reviews scientific basis 
of repository: 

USGS scientists' e-mails raised concerns about compliance with quality 
assurance requirements: 

USGS scientists' e-mails indicated that they may not have adhered to 
quality assurance requirements: 

DOE's announcement in March 2005 of the discovery of e-mails from USGS 
personnel involved in scientific work developing the water infiltration 
model for the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP) revealed that these 
employees may not have complied with quality assurance requirements, 
including the potential falsification of data: 

Agencies reviewed employee e-mails to determine extent and nature of 
the potential problems: 

E-mails raised questions about quality assurance associated with the 
USG water infiltration model: 

Infiltration model simulates the top layer of the mountain and how 
water moves through that layer: 

Infiltration model la s an important role in scientific analysis of how 
water moves to and through other layers of the mountain (which are 
simulated using other models), including waste storage tunnels: 

Water that reaches the storage areas may affect the integrity of waste 

E-mails resulted in investigations and scientific rework: 

DOE initiated a projectwide review of e-mails to determine if the 
attitudes and behaviors seen in certain USGS employees were seen 
elsewhere in the project: 

DOE is overseeing the process of reperforming the technical work and 
preparing supporting scientific documentation associated with the 
infiltration rate estimates: 

DOE required staff associated with the YMP to complete training on 
proper use and handling of e-mails: 

DOE has delayed its application to the NRC for licensing the Yucca 
Mountain nuclear waste repository and announced that the projected best 
available opening date is now expected to be 2017: 


1. Identify the estimated cost of various reviews resulting from the 
discovery of the USGS emails: 

2. Identify the estimated cost of reworking scientific research, data, 
and associated technical documents to ensure that conclusions about 
water infiltration are correct and supportable: 

3. Identify the cost of additional management and quality assurance 
training for project personnel resulting from the discovery of the e- 

4. Identify the estimated total cost to complete the Yucca Mountain 
repository based on DOE's new licensing schedule and revised 2017 
opening date: 

Scope and Methodology: 

Relied on interviews, reports, agency cost estimates: 

Relied primarily on interviews and review of reports, testimonies, and 
other documents identified in interviews: 

Interviews included: 

Senior YMP officials: 

Senior NRC officials responsible for monitoring the license application 

Senior officials from DOE and Department of the Interior (DOI) 
Inspectors General: 

Private contractors that undertook substantial work including, Bechtel 
SAIC Corporation (BSC) and Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. (BAH): 

We relied on interviews, reports, agency cost estimates: 

Reviewed documents including: 

Reports from YMP: 

Reports from Inspectors General: 

Prior GAO reports: 

Reviewed cost estimates provided by: 

DOE (Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Office of the 
Inspector General): 

DOI (Office of the Inspector General, USGS, and other offices): 


Private contractors working on the YMP: 

Work completed September through October 2006 according to generally 
accepted government auditing standards: 


Because of time constraints: 

We relied on DOE, DOI, USGS, NRC, and contractor estimates of cost and 
our review of documents they identified during interviews: 

We did not verify agencies' cost estimates: 

* In most cases, agencies estimated time and costs incurred: 

- Limited data on actual time and expense: 

- No specific accounting or budget codes for some work: 

* Estimates may reflect work that otherwise would have occurred: 

* We had limited opportunity to independently evaluate whether other 
activities should be included in the cost estimates: 

* We requested that the agencies provide estimates of fully burdened 
costs (e.g., including salaries, benefits, and overhead), but we did 
not evaluate or verify their methodologies: 

- Not certain whether agencies' estimates reflected department overhead 
(e.g., recruitment), imputed costs, or indirect costs (e.g., rent and 

* Not all agencies were willing or able to provide estimates for all 

- Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation, and 

We did not evaluate methodology used for selecting and reviewing e- 

We did not evaluate decisions, or basis for, scientific rework: 


Review of e-mail and other documents to determine extent and nature of 
problem cost nearly $4.2 million (fiscal years 2005-2006): 

Scientific rework related to USGS infiltration model cost about $16 
million (fiscal years 2005-2006): 

Training and other activities to improve the focus on quality assurance 
cost about $340,000 (fiscal years 2005-2006): 

Preliminary DOE estimate to meet new licensing schedule and revised 
opening in 2017 is about $23 billion (fiscal year 2006 dollars): 

$12 billion spent from fiscal years 1983 to 2005: 

$11 billion estimated for fiscal years 2006 to 2017: 

DOE expects to provide updated estimates in fiscal year 2007: 

Review of E-mails: 

In total, reviews and investigations estimated to have cost about $4.2 
million (FY 2005-2006): 


[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, DOI, USGS, and NRC. 

[End of Figure] 

Agencies' review of e-mail and other documentation cost about $2.7 

Criminal investigation and associated personnel actions cost about 

Independent review of agencies' efforts cost about $530,000: 

Other efforts, such as responses to media inquiries, cost about 

Three categories of actions spanned 2005 through 2007: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of information provided by DOE, DOI, USGS and NRC. 
*Issuance of report has been extended to February 2007: 

[End of figure] 

Agency review processes estimated to have cost about $2.7 million: 


[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE and USGS. 


Preparation of formal Root Cause and Extent of Condition Report (CR) 
5223 cost about $1.7 million: 

Review of e-mails cost about $870,000: 

Review of employee concern reports cost about $89,000: 

Review of other condition reports cost about $37,000: 


USGS is in the process of interviewing employees about workplace 
culture and attitudes toward quality assurance, which has a cost of 
about $26,000: 

DOE conducted three types of e-mail reviews: 

E-mail review included three broad types of reviews: 

Evaluated e-mails identified as "relevant" to license application 

Evaluated e-mails sent by persons in key positions not identified as 
relevant ("non relevant"): 

Evaluated all e-mails using statistical sampling: 

959,102 relevant e-mails reviewed two ways: 

Randomly sampled and physically read and reviewed: 

Keyword search used to identify e-mail content critical of quality 
assurance and a random sample of those selected for review: 

About 13 million nonrelevant e-mails reviewed two ways: 

32 of 237 key staff selected and all nonrelevant e-mails randomly 
sampled and reviewed: 

Random sample of all nonrelevant e-mails sent by all 237 key staff 

Population of about 14 million e-mails randomly sampled and reviewed: 

Review of E-mails: 

DOE's three types of e-mail reviews examined database of 14 million e- 
mails and led to seven new issues: 

[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE: 

[End of figure] 

Independent reviews estimated to have cost about $530,000: 


[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE and NRC: 

[End of Figure] 

Congressional review: 

DOE and contractors prepared response to congressional request for 
documents at a cost of about $414,000: 

DOE-IG review: 

DOE-IG evaluated the adequacy of DOE's process for reviewing e-mails to 
identify conditions adverse to quality at a cost of about $83,000: 

NRC review: 

NRC evaluated the potential impact of e-mail reviews on NRC review 
activities at a cost of about $35,000: 

DOE-IG report on e-mail review (DOE/IG-0708) recommended broader e-mail 
review and need to address issues raised in e-mails: 


Interviewed YMP staff and contractors: 

Reviewed project documentation: 

Independently reviewed e-mails: 


The Archival E-mail Review Team identified and entered no conditions 
adverse to quality into the project Corrective Action Program as 
required during the process of identifying e-mails as relevant for 
inclusion in the Licensing Support Network: 

DOE-IG review uncovered e-mails potentially adverse to quality that had 
not been identified by prior reviews: 


Expand review of e-mails to include all e-mails: 

Ensure that current and future e-mails potentially adverse to quality 
are addressed: 

Ensure YMP personnel are instructed in the appropriate application of 
the Corrective Action Program: 


5 field staff at 1,196 staff hours: 

$82,907 estimated cost: 

Criminal investigation and personnel actions estimated to have cost 
about $820,000: 


[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, DOI, and USGS: 

[End of figure] 

Criminal Investigation: 

DOE and DOI conducted a joint criminal investigation (involving DOE-IG 
and DOI-IG) of allegations that USGS employees may have falsified data 
and quality assurance records at a cost of about $792,000. 

DOJ participated in the criminal investigation and evaluated the extent 
to which prosecutorial action should take place but did not provide 

Personnel action: 

USGS evaluated extent to which personnel action should be taken at a 
cost of about $26,000. 

Scientific Rework: 

Scientific rework estimated to cost over $16 million (FY 2005-2006), 
with an additional $5.1 million planned (FY 2007): 


[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, USGS, NRC, and 

[End of Figure] 

Replacing the USGS water infiltration model with a new model developed 
by Sandia National Laboratory (SNL) cost about $10.7 million: 

Independent review and oversight cost about $2.5 million: 

Idaho National Lab (INL): 

NWTRB Oversight: 

NRC Observation: 

Assessing and revising models that depend on the water infiltration 
model cost about $2.5 million: 

Initial effort to rework the USGS model cost about $420,000: 

At least $5.1 million in additional spending planned for fiscal year 

Four broad categories of scientific rework span fiscal years 2005-2006, 
additional work expected in fiscal year 2007: 


[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, BSc, NWTRB, NRC, and 

[End of figure] 

Replacing original infiltration model estimated to cost about $10.7 
million (FY 2005-2006) with another $2.2 million planned (FY 2007): 


[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE, BSC, and SNL: 

[End of figure] 

SNL is replacing the USGS model: 

BSC is reviewing and revising original USGS data for use in the new SNL 

DOE is overseeing the replacement: 

DOE expects to spend almost $2.2 million in fiscal year 2007 to 
complete new model: 

Scientific Rework: 

Assessing and revising other models estimated to cost about $2.5 
million (FY 2005-2006), with at least $2.9 million planned (FY 2007) 

Assessing and revising unsaturated zone model cost about $1.7 million: 


[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE: 

[End of figure] 

Initial sensitivity analysis of other models cost about $535,000: 

Developing technical report on the implications of changes in the 
infiltration model on other models cost about $280,000: 

DOE expects to spend about $2.9 million in fiscal year 2007 to finish 
assessing and revising models dependent on the new infiltration model: 

Independent review and oversight estimated to cost about $2.5 million 
(FY 2005-2006): 


[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by INL, NRC, and NWTRB: 

[End of figure] 

INL review of software cost about $2.2 million: 

NRC observation and monitoring cost about $236,400: 

NWTRB monitoring and evaluation cost about $15,000: 

NWTRB and the NRC expect to spend additional money in fiscal year 2007 
(no estimate): 

Rework of original USGS infiltration model cost about $420,000 (FY 2005-


[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by BSC and USGS: 

[End of Figure] 

BSC investigation of model and underlying data cost about $300,000: 

USGS effort to verify original infiltration model and supporting data 
cost about $81,000: 

USGS validation of the original model for its own use cost about 

Additional Training Costs: 

DOE and USGS spent about $340,000 (FY 2005-2006): 


[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of estimates provided by DOE and USGS: 

[End of Figure] 


One-day seminar on quality assurance cost about $54,000: 


Communication with all YMP employees regarding proper handling of e- 
mails cost about $76,000: 

Development of e-mail template and training on how to use it cost about 

Total Estimated Cost of Project: 

DOE's best current estimate to complete Yucca Mountain with a 2017 
opening date is about $23 billion (FY 2006 dollars) 


[See PDF for Image] 

Source: GAO analysis of data and estimates provided by DOE: 

[End of Figure] 

Historical cost, FY 1983-2005: $12.1 billion (in FY Annual Cumulative 
2006 dollars) 

Estimated future cost, FY 2006-2017: $11.2 billion (in FY 2006 

DOE plans to release updated estimates in 2007: 

Cash flow analysis expected mid-to-late November 2006: 

Integrated project plan expected early 2007: 

Life-cycle cost analysis expected early to mid-2007:  

[End of Section] 

Enclosure II: Comments from the Department of Energy: 

Department of Energy: 
Washington, DC 20585: 

Jan N 112007: 

Mr. Raymond Smith: 
Assistant Director: 
National Resources and Environment: 
Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Mr. Smith: 

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste 
Management (OCRWM) has received and reviewed the presentation 
materials, entitled Yucca Mountain Project. Information on Estimated 
Costs to Respond to Employee Emails that Raised Questions about Quality 
Assurance (GAO-07-297R), which you prepared for Representative Porter 
and subsequently forwarded to DOE on December 18, 2006. We have 
verified that the overall cost numbers you have reported are consistent 
with the data DOE previously provided when members of our staffs worked 
together in October 2006. 

DOE expects to provide updated cost estimates for the overall program 
costs in 2007. 

I appreciate the opportunity to review these presentation materials and 
provide comments which we believe will clarify or correct points of 
information for your final report. 

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments. 


Signed by: 

Edward F. Sproat, III, Director: 
Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management: 


[End of Section] 


[1] GAO, Yucca Mountain: Quality Assurance at DOE's Planned Nuclear 
Waste Repository Needs Increased Management Attention, GAO-06-313, 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 17, 2006).